Mary: Believing the Impossible

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard
2016 24 Dec

"Nativity" by Gari Melchers

“How will this be” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

This is a perfectly natural question.

Mary is betrothed but not formally married. She has never had sexual relations with any man. How then can she become pregnant and bear a son?

Mary does not doubt the angel’s word, even though it must have sounded incredible. She believed what the angel said. Her only question had to do with how it would happen.

In essence, she says to Gabriel, “All right. I’m willing to do my part, but you need to explain how we’ll handle this one little problem.” That’s real faith. That’s believing the impossible. That’s trusting God when the “facts” argue against it.

Let's not underestimate what it cost Mary to say Yes to God. From that moment on, she faced the incredulity of her friends ("Oh Mary, how could you expect us to believe such a bizarre story?"), the scurrilous gossip of the neighborhood, and the whispers of promiscuity that have lasted 2,000 years.

Mary knew–or would soon realize–that saying Yes to God meant misunderstanding and public shame. Gone was her pure reputation and with it her dreams of a quiet, happy life in Nazareth.

Mary didn't know the full cost of saying “Yes.” But having made her decision, she never looked back. Those two aspects of her life may be the greatest things we can say about her:

*She believed God when it seemed to be impossible.
*She never looked back.

The painting "Nativity" by Gari Melchers invites us to look at this familiar scene in a new way. Jesus is born in what appears to be an alley, and Mary looks exhausted while Joseph seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. The glow surrounding the baby's face reminds us Jesus came to bring light into the darkness of this world.

Some things we understand and therefore believe. Christmas is a miracle of another order. We can think of a thousand other ways God could have done it. But God chose the unusual (a virgin birth) and the unlikely (a baby born in a stable) as his means of visiting our planet. As we ponder the meaning of it all, our theology leads us to mystery and mystery leads to wonder. At Christmastime, like the Wise Men of old, we are invited to bring our gifts to Bethlehem and welcome God to our world.

Gracious Lord, we thank you for hard challenges and scary moments because without them, we would never learn to trust you. Amen.

Musical bonus: Here’s a performance of Mary, Did You Know? with scenes from the TV miniseries The Bible.

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