Submission to God in Place of Fear
For many in our culture Christmas is pressure time. There is pressure to buy the right presents for the right people. In addition, many experience a rush to complete their preparations for the season. The birth narrative of Luke 1–2 highlights the language and imagery of worship. Maybe believers need to change the question we ask from “What did you get for Christmas?” to “How was your worship experience this Christmas?”
Don’t fear the unknown. (26–29)
Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus began in Luke 1 with Gabriel’s announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Fear occurs four times in Luke 1.
Mary likely experienced fear and shock when an angel spoke to her, “Greetings, favored (or literally graced) woman. The Lord is with you.” The message of Christmas is one of grace that enables believers to overcome fear. Like Mary, 21st century believers have the Lord’s presence with us. In our culture, the celebration of Christmas coincides with a coming new year and its own uncertainties and fears. If we can trust God based on His sending the Savior as a baby, can we not trust Him to meet all our needs?
Don’t fear God’s plan for you. (30–33)
Most biblical scholars are of the opinion Mary was most likely a young teenager when the angel came to her with the news of God’s plan for her life.
The angel commanded Mary to stop what she was doing. The angel’s command, “Do not be afraid,” communicates the message, “Mary, stop doing what you are doing, namely being afraid.” After the command, the angel gave Mary a reason to fear no longer.
The wording “you have found favor with God” may be translated “you have found grace with God.” God did not choose Mary for her role because she was more religious, more holy or more dedicated than other Jewish girls. God choose Mary for her role based on His undeserved grace.
God revealed to this Jewish peasant girl the significance of His plan. Mary was to name her Son Jesus, a name meaning “God saves.” Moreover, God revealed the title for Mary’s Son — Son of the Most High — as well as His royal status. Mary’s Son would reign as Messiah over a kingdom that would be unending.
Don’t fear the seemingly impossible. (34–38)
Many people today question the virginal conception of Jesus. The first person to question was Mary, “How can this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” The Spirit of God that hovered over God’s creation and brought form to the formless and filled the emptiness would give Mary a Son. As a result, Mary’s Son would be holy and would be called the Son of God. Although Mary did not ask for a sign, God provided a sign of His power to encourage Mary.
The aged Elizabeth conceived although she had been unable to conceive because of her age. Luke described Mary’s response as progressing from troubled to questioning to submission, “I am the Lord’s servant.” The highest form of worship is humble submission.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida