Summary: Mary was willing to be scandalized so that God would be glorified.
Isn’t it amazing how we have sanitized Christmas? Over the centuries we’ve cleaned up the story significantly. Christmas cards bear evidence of this. Most of them depict tinsel, holly, Christmas trees, bells, female angels, and Santa Claus. If they do get around to an image of the real Christmas, the picture is usually of a clean, happy family gathered around a cute little baby. The stable has a warm, yellow orange glow. It’s so nice. It gives us a feeling of serenity.
The real Christmas story plays out somewhat like a tabloid scandal story that you’d pick up in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. A pregnant teenager with a wild story about maintaining her virginity and the power of God? Sure. Give me a break. But the scandal goes even deeper than most Christians realize. Mary’s words and actions would have been considered outrageous to the people of her day – and most certainly to the good religious people of our time.
As far as the story from Luke is concerned, Mary was a revolutionary. She was a radical who, in our age, you might expect to see wearing a beret, fatigues, and combat boots. Mary went against the grain of society in numerous ways.
I suspect that maybe this is the reason God chose her. As far as we can tell she wasn’t holier than anyone else. There’s no indication that Mary had a moral advantage on any of the other Jewish girls of her day. But she did possess this difference: Mary was willing to be scandalized so that God would be glorified. It was through this willingness that God birthed the greatest gift history has ever known. If you desire God to be honored in your life, you’ve got to be willing to be scandalized in Jesus’ name. This morning I want to encourage you to …
Create Some Christmas Outrage
Roman Catholics uphold Mary as an extraordinary figure, but in a totally unbiblical way. Most adhere to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It’s the belief that Mary was born without the stain of original sin. Catholics teach that Mary had human parents, but that she was miraculously prevented from inheriting a sin nature. The teaching also says that Mary never sinned. Please understand that the Bible never makes this claim; just the opposite, in fact.
From beginning to end, in this story we see that Mary was a woman in need of God’s grace. She acknowledged her need throughout the narrative. From this we’ll take our first lesson because it’s key to creating some Christmas outrage:
1. Declare fanatical dependence on God’s favor
Whenever bad things happen to good people what do they often ask? “What did I do to deserve this?” Have you ever noticed that when something good happens we never ask, “What did I do to deserve this”? Mary did. Notice her response to he angel’s greeting:
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Luke 1:28-29
Unlike Zechariah who we studied last week, Mary showed no fear at the angel’s presence. His words troubled her. Why was she highly favored? Who was she to receive a special call from God? Mary could see nothing in her life deserving of this greeting. She was an ordinary sinner in need of grace like everyone else. She even said so much in her song a while later:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” Luke 1:46-47
Who needs a savior? A person who needs to be saved and such was Mary. I’m convinced that this was the key to her willingness to be scandalized for God’s glory. Mary knew that she deserved nothing but God’s judgment and wrath. Imagine how shocked she must have been to receive the unmerited favor of forgiveness and the unmerited favor of a divine call. It is this kind of deep humility that makes us useful to God.
Remember King David, the adulterous, murdering king, who was called a man after God’s own heart? He was confounded as to why God would bring him to the throne and use him for any good purpose. Listen to his words:
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: "Who am I, O Lord GOD? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?” 2 Samuel 7:18
Just like Mary, David’s awareness of his unworthiness before a holy God led him to a reckless disregard for his reputation. He didn’t care what people thought of him in his worship and service unto such a gracious God. Once, when confronted with his lavish display of unrestrained love for God, David said this: