Summary: Discover the impact Mary’s faith had on her and how it is a model for us in unexpected times.
“Footprints of Faith”
[Come in from “Life of Mary” video clip]
INTRO: When I think about Mary, one word blankets my mind: F-A-I-T-H! Every step of the way was a step of faith. Think about it – from…
• The angel’s announcement
• The public’s response
• Joseph’s surprise
• Joseph’s plan
• The “taxing” trip to Bethlehem (pun intended!)
• The last-minute accommodations
• The death threat by Herod
• The return trip home
WOW! This was no doubt a 12-16 month journey where faith was necessary luggage. It was something she didn’t want to leave home without.
We begin to see a glimpse into her faith in the very beginning of the nativity story. Would you turn to Luke 1 and let’s look this morning at the footprints Mary left for us and what we can learn about faith from the very first Christmas.
When you read the first few verses of this portion of Scripture, Luke 1:26-33, you get the distinct picture that fear was her initial reaction. Admittedly, verse 29 says she was “greatly troubled.” And what teen girl wouldn’t have been, eh? But as we work our way through these initial verses, we sense a shift in her emotions, beginning with the angel’s instruction, “Do not be afraid.” She seems to settle for a moment; by listening, remembering, reviewing, she finds peace and calm in the words of the angel, which are actually Old Testament prophecies – the words of God! She heard God’s words, and trusted in them as promises that would come true. No doubt she had heard them before as she was taught the law and read the prophets. But this time her faith in these promises of old brought her personal peace; they seemed to leap into her heart and reassure her that everything was going to okay.
Let’s learn something from this: When I only feel fear, biblical faith calms my heart. This is possible because of God’s promises. Nothing helps my emotions more than the trusted Word of God and the promises it contains!
The specific reason for Mary’s fear in these verses probably relates to what Mary knew would happen to her if she was found to be pregnant – divorce was the best scenario, death was the worst option. In fact, let me show you what it might have been like between her and her parents as this fear gripped her.
[SHOW NATIVITY VIDEO CLIP “I HAVE BROKEN NO VOW”]
No doubt it was tense in their home. And rightly so. According to Jewish law, betrothal established a legal relationship between a man and a woman, binding upon both parties (Deuteronomy 20:7; 22:23-27). It took place after the conclusion of the marriage-contract between the parents, and was performed by the exchange of something of a certain value between the parties. The interval between betrothal and marriage was usually one year, during which time the woman and her property judicially already belonged to her future husband, and unfaithfulness on her part was considered adultery.
According to Old Testament Law the penalty for adultery was death by stoning! However, because Israel was at this time under Roman domination, the Jews did not have the authority to carry out capital punishment. So Mary probably did not face death but she faced divorce, for that is what it took to terminate an engagement to be married. She also faced the social shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
How did Mary find peace and calm? In God’s promises of old! In fact, in her song of praise later (Luke 1:46-55), she quotes a lot of the Old Testament. This is proof positive she was leaning on God’s promises even when perhaps she didn’t feel like everything was working out that well.
Do you respond to difficult and fearful times as Mary did – in faith? It is what God says, not what we feel, that gives us grounds for believing and trusting. His words, not my feelings, are the backbone of my faith. Remember – faith does have an object: Jesus Christ! And faith does have a record: fulfilled prophecy. It is not some kind of free-floating phenomenon. Faith is a response to a declaration by God or about God. And it is upon that bedrock of fulfilled prophecy – God’s promises come true – that I can stand and not be afraid in times of uncertainty and difficulty.
You see, for the Christian, faith is never a blind leap! It is always an informed step of trust. Faith always has an objective basis – it is always based upon the Word of God and the Son of God! In other words, it always based on what God has said and on what God has shown.
Read carefully the description of faith given in Hebrews 11:1-3 – “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”