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Advent | Childbirth at Christmas: Mary and the Promised One

But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:30-33, 38

Luke opens his gospel with two women and two pregnancies. The stories of Mary and Elizabeth are tied together as their relationship blossoms and their bodies share the bearing of children. Hagar’s annunciation back in Genesis 16 was the first birth announcement in the Bible. Mary’s here in Luke 1 is the last. It is the climax of a series of similar announcements and is the peak of the trajectory towards which all the others were heading.

As Luke places these two stories side-by-side, their similarities are more evident and differences more significant. Luke identifies Elizabeth as a righteous, but childless, old woman, and Mary as a young woman, who is eligible to be married. It is Mary’s own words that explicitly confirm her status as a virgin as she questions the logistics of the angel’s announcement. These women have physical hurdles to childbearing which God transforms, subsequently altering the course of both women’s lives and their status in society.

Mary’s acceptance and obedience to God’s will is astonishing. This young woman not only believes but submits herself, her plans, her future life to God’s purposes. In Mary’s opening line, she questions the practicalities – though not the truth – of God’s plan given she’s a virgin. Then, she shifts to identify herself as ‘the servant of the Lord’, willingly accepting the dangerous task before her. She not only risks her life through the course of pregnancy and childbirth but also the social implications of being an unmarried mother.

The announcement of Mary’s pregnancy is also the promise of Christ’s birth. The angel’s words confirm that this child will be the Son of God, Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Mary accepts the task set before her obediently, as God takes on flesh in her womb. This transformational moment sits at the heart of God’s plan to save humanity.

Transformational moments (albeit, less cosmically significant ones) also happen on our frontlines. In the potential monotony of work, family life, or retirement there are moments where God steps in to transform how we see ourselves, the tasks he has set before us, and our part in his salvation story. Like Mary, we are called to humble ourselves and obediently submit to God’s plans for our lives, even if they are dangerous, scary, or seemingly impossible. As this year draws to a close, where might God be transforming you and your frontlines as you continue serving him into 2022?

Imogen Ball
Imogen is a curate in Trull and Angersleigh, and the winner of Theology Slam 2021

Where is God working on your frontline this Christmas? How is God preparing you for 2022? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Comments

  1. He is preparing me to go out and preach the gospel. Even though I have made excuses like Moses (I am shy, I am not eloquent) He has shown me through the word (I am actually reading the book of Luke at the moment and was stuck at the Mary, Elizabeth story) that He will fill my mouth with His word and make my tonque the pen of a ready writer! How brave both Mary and Elizabeth were! Mary it is written ‘arose and went with haste….’ obedience, Elizabeth blessed Mary – prophetic utterances! So prayers ad-infinitum as I go out to spread His word , His love and for joy to the world! I am starting with my dry cleaner! I have to go about my Father’s business!

    By Adetayo Adedoyin  -  20 Dec 2021
  2. Thank you Imogen, for speaking God’s Truth and setting out a message that seems particularly directed to me today. I am in the process of considering writing and submitting an application for a role as an assistant chaplain. I am no longer ‘young’ but also not ready to retire, completely. God seems to be prompting me to consider a new opportunity for service and ministry in my later years of life. It is now a matter of my obedience and trust in an amazing God who works through us all, when we let Him.

    By Meg  -  20 Dec 2021
  3. I believe God is preparing me to work for Him in the year 2022. Even though I have not applied for the job He has instructed me to ‘feed His sheep’ He has given me His word ( the bible – Joshua 1:8) and strength and power through the Holy Spirit. I believe this stands me in good stead for the job He has sent me out to do – evangelise! (Matthew 28:18-20) ????

    By Adetayo Adedoyin  -  20 Dec 2021
  4. Thank you for these Advent relections, Imogen. I have found them very helpful.

    Just one query. You say: “Hagar’s annunciation back in Genesis 16 was the first birth announcement in the Bible. Mary’s here in Luke 1 is the last.” How abour Revelation 12.1-6?

    God bless

    By Don Archer  -  26 Dec 2021

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