Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Sentimental Saint

These are my notes for tomorrow's Bible class:

What moments in raising your children do you treasure? I asked Janet that question, and she said that Christopher's first steps would be her answer.

I also have some special moments with Christopher that I treasure. I remember one day when I was parking my car in the garage after a long day of work. Janet opened the door to the garage with Christopher in her arms. For the first time in his young life, he broke into a huge smile as he saw me get out of the car. I also remember one evening in our living room. Christopher was not walking or talking yet. I must have done something hilarious because he just sat on the floor laughing and shaking uncontrollably as he looked at me. Finally, I treasure the evening I was holding Christopher in my lap when he looked up at me and said, "Daddy, if you were a baby, I would adopt you." I can't imagine a better way for my little boy to tell me, "I love you."

If you have treasured memories of raising your children, you have some insight into the character of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Mary treasured her memories of Jesus' childhood, too (Luke 2:51).

This week, we will continue to look at the character of some of the people involved in the Christmas accounts. Last week, we examined Joseph. Today, we will look at Mary.

First, we will look at Mary's unusually strong faith. Let's read Luke 1:5-38. As we read it, please pay attention to the subtle--but significant--differences in the ways Zechariah and Mary reacted to the angel's messages from God.

When Zechariah was told that he and Elizabeth would become the parents of John the Baptist, he asked, "How can I be sure of this?" He doubted God's word.

When Mary was told that she would become the mother of Jesus, she asked, "How will this be?" She did not doubt the message from God. She simply wanted to know how it would happen.

The contrast shows us that God is displeased when we do not believe his word, but he is pleased when we trust him despite our lack of understanding.

I have many questions about God's word. For example, I do not really understand how the biblical doctrines of predestination and free will fit together. Just when I think I have it figured out, I come across a verse that does not fit into my understanding. Then I have to start over in trying to fit the pieces together again.

The truth is: It's okay when we don't know everything, but it's unacceptable to distrust the word of God. Like Mary, we can seek answers without dishonoring God. We can follow her example of believing God even when we don't completely understand how he will do what he has promised.

The next admirable characteristic of Mary was her humility. Let's read Luke 1:39-55. Notice how she sees herself in a humble position. At the same time, she recognizes the awesome qualities of God. She sees herself at the mercy of an incredibly powerful God who (thankfully) helps those who are humble and in need. He pays attention to people who take him seriously. When Jesus blessed the poor in spirit (Matthew 5), could he have had his mother in mind as he said those words?

Humility doesn't come easily, does it? When everything is going our way--when we are getting along with our families and friends, when we do not feel any aches or pains, when we are able to pay our bills--it's easy to think that we deserve our good circumstances. "I work hard. I'm a decent guy. I go to church. I'm just getting what I deserve." When I think like that, I'm not even close to the humility seen in Mary.

What about when everything is going wrong? When I'm in an ongoing conflict with a co-worker? When my car breaks down and I can't afford to fix it? When I need surgery? "I can't believe this is happening to me. I don't deserve this. This is not right. This should not be happening to me." Again, I'm being arrogant. I'm not imitating Mary's humility.

Like Mary, I need to recognize that it's not about me. She did not whine about the problems associated with being Jesus' mother. She did not complain about gaining a bad reputation for being pregnant before marriage. Mary didn't even brag about being the only woman chosen to be the mother of God's Son. Her focus was on God instead of herself. That's the secret of humility: not thinking about myself--thinking about God. Mary is a great example of a humble woman.

Finally, Mary was a servant. When the angel told her about her future as the mother of God's Son, she responded, "I am the Lord's servant." She was willing to serve God in any way needed.

A few weeks ago, Sarah Logsdon ( honored the teachers of our young children's classes with public recognition and gifts from the church. She mentioned that Katie and Janet (my wife) stood out because of their willingness to do anything she asked them to do for the children. They were always willing to teach a class and serve the children of the church. Katie and Janet stood out because of their servant hearts. (Actually, the same could be said about Sarah, but since she was presenting the honors, nobody had the opportunity to say it about her.)

God is looking for people like Mary. He wants all of us to become like Mary in our faith, our humility, and our service. Mary was a special saint, but her character was never intended to be unique. We need to imitate it in our lives.

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