Christmas Words of Grace: Wednesday

Christmas Words of Grace: Wednesday

Originally posted on December 22, 2010 

Mary’s Submission

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

“The first and most indisputable fact about the birth of Jesus,” wrote Bishop John A. T. Robinson, “is that it occurred out of wedlock. The one option for which there is no evidence is that Jesus was the lawful son of Joseph and Mary. The only choice open to us is between a virgin birth and an illegitimate birth.”

Rumors of Jesus’s possible illegitimacy were being spread during his public ministry in at attempt to discredit him. For example, when he declared that certain unbelieving Jews had not Abraham but the devil as their father, they retorted, “We are not illegitimate children,” which sounds like an innuendo that he was (John 8:41). These rumors persisted long after his death. In the Jewish Talmud they became explicit. How on earth could these hints and slanders have arisen unless it was known that Mary was already pregnant when Joseph married her? Distasteful as this gossip is, it is corroborative evidence of the virgin birth.

Mary’s response to the angelic announcement wins our immediate admiration, “I am the Lord’s servant . . . May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). Once God’s purpose and method had been explained to her, she did not demur. She was entirely at God’s disposal. She expressed her total willingness to be the virgin mother of the Son of God. Of course, it was an enormous privilege for her: “The Mighty One has done great things for me,” she said (v. 49). Yet it was also an awesome and costly responsibility. It involved a readiness to become pregnant before she was married, and so expose herself to the shame and suffering of being thought an immoral woman.

To me the humility and courage of Mary in submitting to the virgin birth stand out in contrast to the attitudes of the critics who deny it. She surrendered her reputation to God’s will. For us too what matters is that we allow God to be God and to do things his way, even if with Mary we thereby risk losing our good name.

For further reading: Luke 1:34-38

John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 141-148.