I’ve been doing an Advent study written by Adam Hamilton called, “The Journey”. We’ve been studying the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and what it means to be “Blessed”. My entire life, I’ve wanted to be used by God – to make a difference in this world – but I’ve had a warped idea of what that means. As an American, I think it’s common to see success in big terms: Money, Power or Wealth. We see pastors of mega churches and think they are the role model for what we need to accomplish. But Mary sets a different example. Her life has been studied and some interesting ideas have arisen. Mary was likely very young, in her early teens, when she conceived. She was engaged to Joseph but not yet married. She lived in a time where a woman, pregnant out of wedlock, could be stoned. But God sent an angel to her, Luke 1:28 “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’” and she believed.
Highly favored. A young woman, a child in today’s world, favored. Her reputation sullied, her life at risk, favored. God intervened on her behalf. He sent an angel to Joseph, who was within his right to end the engagement and convinced him to marry Mary. I wonder what it was like for them. Whispers behind their backs. Mary seen as a whore, Joseph a fool. But despite what others were saying about them, they weren’t alone. Luke tells us Elizabeth, her cousin, was on her side. Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, leapt in her womb at Mary's arrival. Luke 1:41-42 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’”.
So, as I’m thinking about Mary’s journey, I see that it was hard, risky, but she was never alone, God was with her, her husband was with her. Her cousin was with her. Her calling was confirmed by those who followed God. The shepherds came. The wisemen came. Mary gave birth to our Lord and Savior – wow! Looking back, we can see she was instrumental in the saving of the WORLD but she was just a child, facing a dangerous world, with her faith to comfort her.
I love this description: “Being blessed is to be a part of God’s plan”. Being blessed doesn’t mean your life is easy, it means your life is devoted to God, to be used as He sees fit. It doesn’t mean “today” it means “in the future”. We may not ever see the results of our service. Mary seemed to live a normal life, raising her children, and yet she changed the world. She wasn’t out making speeches and book deals. She watched her son die on the cross. While she knew He was the Messiah, did she know that her story would span the world and last two thousand years? She lived in the moment, trusting God to lead her.
We can learn from Mary, the greatest follower ever. We can learn what it means to be blessed, not with the trappings of success but instead, with an intimate relationship with God. I was asked, “what does it mean to have God with me?” I answered, “it changes the lens through which we see the world. It changes our perspective.” We don’t look at our own goals but instead align them with God’s. We don’t define our success in limited ways but instead open ourselves to be used in ways we can never imagine. We have success beyond what we see and experience and instead understand God’s success is forever and spans the world!