Interruptions are not my finest moments. Whether a flat tire or a sick child, I get frustrated when I can’t walk through the day as it’s set on my calendar.
Imagine how Mary felt. According to Luke 1, Mary was minding her own business when Gabriel knocked on the door. There she was, flipping through a stack of wedding magazines when an angel gave her a backwards baby announcement. Instead of a pregnant mother announcing that she’s expecting, Mary was told to expect a baby.
This was more than a flat tire kind of interruption. Not only did Gabriel’s announcement change the trajectory of her life, this pregnancy threw a serious kink in her plans to settle down with Joseph. Gabriel’s words made any white picket fence dreams go up in smoke.
And besides the obvious shock of an angel dropping by, his words did not make sense. Mary knew enough about the birds and the bees to ask how? If she were a virgin, how could she become a mother? Gabriel explained a bit more, but I wonder if that just made Mary more confused (after all, what does “overshadow” even look like?).
How did Mary respond to getting her world turned upside down?
Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
First, she believed.
Mary did not understand all the nuts and bolts of how she would get pregnant, but she accepted the extraordinary explanation that God would be the Father of this holy child even as she, a sinful woman, carried Him. While the old priest Zacharias (read the previous passage) pushed back on Gabriel during that angelic interruption, Mary, a mere teen, accepted the mystery of immaculate conception.
Mary accepted more than a set of confusing facts, though. She also bowed. Mary realized the right God had to interrupt her life—because He is God. Her body was His body. Her plans gave way to His, and her dreams took a back seat to His purposes. It was a mercy she couldn’t know the details of what was coming – birthing a baby among animals, escaping in the night from Herod’s mass murder of little boys, watching her innocent son die on a cross. Just as suffering would mark her Son’s path, Mary’s heart would break, too (Luke 2:35). Mercifully, Gabriel’s message included two truths, two handles for her to hold onto, even as she believed and bowed:
Don’t be scared
Just because Gabriel said she was “most favored,” he was not guaranteeing this girl a glass slipper story. This backward baby announcement meant an uncomfortable— sometimes downright scary— future. But God will keep His word. Nothing and no one, even a despot Herod or Satan himself, will stop God.
Maybe God has interrupted your plans, too, with scary things. As the Hallmark Christmas movies taunt us with shiny celebrations of “happily ever after,” we grow weary of waiting on God’s promises to come true. Whether our bodies are dying or our hearts are aching, we may ask, how long? Will God’s comfort be enough? Is He strong enough to make even my wimpy heart courageous? Gabriel’s next statement beats back our fear.
With God all things are possible.
How can a mere girl, one without worldly connections, wealth, or reputation, take care of the Messiah? Frankly speaking, Joseph and Mary were over their heads in the face of all that came at them. But Gabriel gave her the key: God can do anything. He actually delights in showing off what all He can do with our weakness as the backdrop.
This truth extends beyond Mary’s living room interruption. For us, we are not asked to carry the Messiah, but we may be asked to carry impossible things: heavy hearts, a struggling friend, or a hard providence. Is God actually loving me when I’m barely holding on during the holidays— missing loved ones, struggling with circumstances outside my control, sitting in the weariness of ongoing disappointments? We find it impossible that blessing and grief coexist.
But Mary wasn’t the only one to suffer in her story. Just as God sent her a friend in Elizabeth (read ahead) to share her burden and blessing, God Himself shares our struggles, too. This pregnancy meant that God Himself would suffer to bring about the impossible redemption of a broken world. Jesus left heaven and moved into Mary’s uterus, a much more staggering fact to grasp than even a virgin birth. That same God offers to move into our hearts even as He gives us hard paths to walk.
Do I believe and bow as Mary did when interrupted by the impossible? That kind of faith is the miracle I need today. As I drive and listen to my Christmas radio station and a sadness tugs at my spirit this Christmas, I need God to overshadow my heart, allowing me to walk in the light of His countenance (Ps. 89:15), to remember His character of strength and mercy (Ps.62:11), and to watch how He spins the straw of suffering into the gold of blessing (Ps. 30:11). And, just as Mary was called most favored (1:28) and blessed (1:46) while her life was turned upside down, Jesus calls me blessed, too (11:28), as I believe and bow to God’s words—even though they interrupt my life, my holidays, or even today’s calendar.
About the Author:
Susan Tyner serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas. She is author of What’s SHE Doing Here? and a regular contributor for the EnCourage blog and podcast, as well as one of the contributing authors of the Hinged Bible study. Susan enjoys speaking at conferences and retreats, but also enjoys a lazy Saturday cooking a big pot a gumbo. Susan and her husband, Lee, have five children, and an almost empty nest.