As we open in our Bibles to the Gospel by Luke, chapter 1, we are looking at the theme God’s Word calls us to especially ponder this season: Have we given to God our greatest and dearest treasures this Christmas?
Giving is the theme of this season, and even the stores around us have picked up that theme. But this Christmas season we are going to look at five lives that were focused upon Christ at His birth. Each is a beautiful portrait of giving to Him what they had. Each of them have been immortalized by God for what they did. But as we open to the Book of Luke, rather than a season of gift-giving, we are going to study an even greater type of giving:
A Life Focused on Giving to God
Think of that. Five individuals did something that only God really saw, and what only a few others barely witnessed as they watched. But what those five did has become a part of what will last forever and ever.
This morning each of us are also offered the opportunity each day to do things only God really sees, and what few if any others get to witness, but when we give ourselves in acts of obedient offerings to God, we become a part of something that will last forever and ever.
One of the elements of Heaven is that, God never forgets what individuals offered to Him. God collects our gifts and never loses them, gets rid of them, or forgets them. What we offer to God, like these small events in these lives that surrounded Christ’s birth, lasts for ever and for ever.
This Christmas season is a time we remember one of the clearest portraits of what a life given, or consecrated to God, looks like. Mentioned only 20x in the Bible, Mary’s life is such a portrait of godliness, humility and yielded-ness.
Mary stands in Scriptures as an example to all of us of devotion and faithfulness. Her strengths and struggles are all laid out in the Bible, which contains:
This Biography of How Mary Gave Herself to God
Let’s briefly meet this incredible woman. As we read through Mary’s life, starting in Luke 1:26, we will find out how Mary loved the Lord and gave herself to Him from early in her life. Please stand with me and follow along as we see first that she gave her attention to God because:
Mary Listened to God’s Word
Luke 1:26-28 (NKJV) Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
Every day we all have something in common with Mary, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Job, David, and Paul: we can chose to listen, and hear God speak. Each of the great cast of God’s servants heard and responded to God.
Some heard God directly hearing His audible voice (like Adam, Enoch, and Moses). Others heard God’s voice relayed through the audible voice of a prophet (like Nathan confronting David); and others just like you and me today: listened to God speak through His Word, the Holy Scriptures called the Bible (like Daniel studying the prophet Jeremiah).
Really Listening to God
The common element of every servant of God’s life is that all listened to God speak, and then responded in obedience. The real question of Christmas is are you giving God the gift of listening to His voice, and responding to Him? Jesus told us that hearing and doing His will was the clearest way we can show Him our love:
John 14.21 (NKJV) He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Do we love the Lord enough this Christmas to give Him the time it takes to listen to Him speak? Do we love the Lord enough this Christmas to stop and listen until we hear what He wants? Do we love the Lord enough this Christmas to stop, listen, hear, and DO what he wants us to do? That is the real challenge of giving our attention to God this Christmas.
Really Listening to God Means Loving God
We all need to examine whether we are giving to God what those who truly love Him give.
Either we hear God’s Word as just the word of men or as it truly is, the Word of God that effectually works in us who receive it by faith.
Mary joined so many others that the Scriptures describe as responding to God: Adam and Eve in the Garden, Noah in the Pre-Flood world, Abram in Ur, Saul on the road to Damascus. Always remember that God is in the people seeking business. Salvation is of the Lord and it is God who seeks us, He initiates salvation for, Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Next we see another gift she gave her yes to God:
Mary Bowed to God’s Grace
Luke 1:29-30 (NKJV) But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Mary partook of God’s grace, and was saved by God (Luke 1:30 literally says you have been ‘discovered by the grace of God‘). Her hearing and believing God’s Word led her to the open arms of: “God my Savior” as Mary says, down a few verses in v. 47, see it there?
Mary needed a Savior, and God the Savior found her with His grace v.30, and she confessed from then on that God had saved her, and He was her Savior.
Mary joined the countless multitudes that will surround the Throne of God in Heaven singing that they are heirs of life eternal by God’s grace.
As the hymn writer has said, and so many of us have written in our hearts: “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord grace that exceeds our sin and our shame, yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured there where the blood of the Lamb was shed”. A third gift she gave was giving her independence to God:
Mary Surrendered to God’s Will
Luke 1:31-33 (NKJV) And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
To produce within her body tiny hands that would someday touch lepers with a healing touch, to form a mouth within her womb that would speak the very Word of God, to feel the kick of feet that would walk the roads of Israel and spread the Gospel. What an incredible ministry opportunity.
But wait, not to lessen her calling, but isn’t that the opportunity all moms have?
To teach those tiny little ones that the greatest joy in all the world is to be touched by Jesus and be healed from the dreaded leprosy of sin? And to use their mouth share the power of the gospel with any who will listen. Can’t we all do that and share in Mary’s great opportunity?
And as a mother we can start their feet toward serving the Lord in many ways? Yes, what an opportunity we share. That is why Paul said in I Timothy 2 that women equal (are saved from second rate ministry) the men in church teaching and leading ministry – mothers bear and raise the teachers and leaders! Next we see Mary giving her body to God:
Mary Experienced God’s Presence
Luke 1:34-37 (NKJV) Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Notice Mary’s response. Even after being sought out and given such an amazing message, humble Mary has airs, no pride, just a humbly troubled heart, that anyone would even say such a thing. Mary knew her own heart, she was nothing and was not worthy to be so greatly blessed by God.
When the power of the Highest overshadowed her, Mary was surrounded by the Shekinah Glory, as God the Son entered her womb.
Mary experienced God within. She let her body become God’s Temple.
Wow, was Mary then the very first New Testament believer indwelt by Christ? That is what all of us believers now have the joy of being: the dwelling place of Christ. Though Christ was physically within her, He was also spiritually within her just as He “dwells in our hearts by faith” as Paul tells us (Ephesians 3:17).
God doing the impossible is what our life for Him is all about. That is what Mary experienced, and that is what we also can experience as we give ourselves to Him. Next we see her giving her future to God:
Mary Served God’s Plans
Luke 1:38-45 (NKJV) Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Mary declared that she was a Slave of God. When you read Luke 1:38 you see the self-description Mary gives: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (NIV)
Wow, what a submissive and godly attitude. I’ll say yes Lord yes, to your will and to your way! All I am all I have all I’ll ever be, I give it all to You. And off she goes to be a blessing, starting with her cousin Elizabeth, who hadn’t told her the big news yet! Finally we see her giving her schedule to God:
Mary Fed Her Soul God’s Word
Luke 1:46-55 (NKJV) And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”
In these ten verses that flow from Mary’s heart, we see a Mary who was immersed in the Scriptures and who was focused upon God. She points to the Lord 19x, mentions herself 4x, and quotes over twenty different Scripture portions! Mary gave her attention to God by:
A Life Focused on Seeking God
Mary sought God in His Word, and so should we. Have you paused to ask yourself how she did it? For starters, think how hard it would have been to have Bible study in Mary’s day. In the world where Mary lived:
- Every drop of water used in cooking and drinking was carried home by women, from springs or wells, in clay pots.
- Every ounce of flour was ground by hand with a stone mill.
- Every loaf of bread hand-made, and then was baked in an oven heated with a wood fire that had to be kept burning.
- Every one of the dishes that were used were washed with even more water carried from a spring or well.
So time was at a premium. What’s new, right? So her knowledge of the Scriptures must have come from either her dad who Luke tells us was named Heli. Maybe Heli encouraged his daughter by exposing her deeply to the Scriptures. What a wonderful pursuit for any dad. Whatever the means Mary immersed herself in God’s Word!
Mary Gave Her Life to God
Always remember the lessons about giving to God from this humble servant’s life:
Mary Listened to God’s Word (Luke 1:26-28)
Mary Bowed to God’s Grace (Luke 1:29-30)
Mary Surrendered to God’s Will (Luke 1:31-33)
Mary Experienced God’s Presence (Luke 1:34-37)
Mary Served God’s Plans (Luke 1:38-45)
Mary Fed Her Soul God’s Word. (Luke 1:46-55)
Have you given you attention to God? How about your YES to Him? How about your independence, have you given that to Him? And your body, your future, and your schedule?
If we will listen to God’s Word we will find those are the gifts He really wants from us today!
Just as Mary gave, so can we by God’s grace!
Appendix: Mary’s Family Details
There is an old Christian tradition, dating at least to Byzantine times that Mary was born in Zippori. Israeli guide, Yossi Ashkenazi, stated that evidence from Talmudic sources confirms this, and that Mary’s father was the headmaster of Zippori’s Jewish school (Yeshiva). The Gospel accounts indicate that the Lord Jesus was often called “Rabbi” by His disciples and other people. The term Rabbi was not used loosely in Israel; it was only attributed to someone who had received the rigorous training in the Law of Moses provided by a Yeshiva.
The small town of Nazareth was large enough to have its own synagogue, but it was certainly not large enough to have a rabbinic Yeshiva. So it is reasonable to speculate that Jesus studied at the Yeshiva in Zippori where His own maternal grandfather was the headmaster. This conclusion helps us to fill in some of the gaps in the silent years of our Lord’s life.
- There are very few New Testament verses about Mary. It is likely that she was a native of Nazareth and that she came from a relatively poor family.
- Her actual name was Miryam. In English this Hebrew name is usually rendered by the spelling “Miriam” in the Old Testament and “Mary” in the New Testament.
- From Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, and John 19:25 we learn she had a sister named Salome, the mother of James and John (who therefore were Jesus’ cousins).
- From Luke 3 we receive her Davidic lineage. If, as many believe, the Eli (or Heli) of Luke 3:23 was Joseph’s father-in-law (Matthew gives Joseph’s father as Jacob, 1:16), then Eli was Mary’s father.
- We know that Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was Mary’s “relative” (Luke 1:36), probably her cousin. Those are the only relatives, besides her husband and children, of whom the New Testament speaks.
 (Luke 3:23 traces Mary back to Adam to show Jesus was Savior of the world. Matthew 1 traces Joseph back to Abraham to show Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews.)
 Tom McCall with Zola Levitt, The Stones Cry Out. Dallas, Texas: ZOLA, no date, pgs 59-63.