Summary: There are I believe three important character traits that we as Christians would do well to adopt for ourselves in the character of Mary the Mother of Jesus 1. Her humility 2. Her commitment to God and 3. Her bravery.

TSL 31-01-2016


I would like to focus on one short phrase this morning from our Gospel reading.

And it is the personal words that Simeon says to Mary:

34 ……..And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Simeon has been prophesying about Jesus’s future ministry as the Messiah

And then has some personal words for his mother Mary.

Why you might ask?

We are celebrating the Feast of Candlemas which is also known as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

Candlemas is celebrated 40 days after Christmas.

The reason is that 40 days after Christmas is to reflect the fact that all Jewish male children were brought to the Temple 40 days after their birth to be dedicated to God.

Pope John Paul II described Candlemas as follows:

(On) the feast of Candlemas, we recall the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

Forty days after His birth, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem to offer Him to the Lord as prescribed by the Law of Moses.

This is an episode that fits within the perspective of the People of Israel’s special consecration to God.”

Jesus had been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth.

This was as a sign that he was a member of the people of God – the Jews.

Or put another way, it was Jesus’ initiation into the Old Testament Church.

It was very similar to what happens with infant baptism in the Christian Church today.

With infant baptism we see baptism as the sign of the child becoming a member of the New Testament Church.

Interestingly it is the mother who was directed, at the end of forty days from the child's birth.

She had to appear before the Lord with two offerings - one for a sin offering, the other for a burnt offering as a consecration of her first born to God.

Put another way, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple was part of the process which defined the Jewishness of Jesus

Why was that important?

Because - in the Old Testament – prophets had prophesied that the Messiah would be a Jew, and more specifically a Jew from the line of David.

It would seem that both Joseph and Mary were from the lineage of King David.

When Jesus is brought to be presented in the Temple to God, Luke recounts an interesting story

The story of an old priest Simeon being led by God to go back into the Temple, at that specific time because

“It had been revealed to (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (v.26)

It would have been very easy for Simeon to GIVE UP on the hope of seeing God’s Messiah as time passed and nothing seemed to happen.

In fact there were so many false Mesiahs springing up causing rebellions and being killed that it would have been very easy to be cynical about the whole thing.

But Simeon wasn’t cynical.

He believed God had spoken to Him - and that God would keep his Word, even though the fulfillment of it was a long time coming.

That is why he responded wto the promptings of the Holy Spirit to go back into the Temple.

Persistence and Endurance are alien to our

modern culture, but they are still important godly attributes for the Christian today.

I would bet that if you were to have asked Simeon what the greatest day of his life – he would have replied that it was on the day when he saw the Messiah of Israel, the baby Jesus.

It was worth the wait.

But I don’t want to focus on Simeon today. Nor Anna the prophetess

I want to speak instead about Mary, the Mother of Jesus instead.


Well, Jesus day - as indeed it still is today - the mother had a very important role to play in the determination of whether or not a child was born Jewish.

It wasn’t based on whether or not the father was a Jew.

Rather it was decided by whether or not the child’s mother was a Jew.

I wonder if you have ever thought: Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of his Son Jesus here on earth?


I believe God specifically CHOSE Mary to be the mother of Jesus.

And I believe the answer lies in the character of Mary that we see in the Scriptures.

It is a bit unusual for a Protestant to talk about Mary – but the Catholics are right that Mary the Mother of Jesus is someone to be greatly respected.

She has an incredible amount to teach us about Christian living.

From Luke’s Gospel, I see three important character traits that we, as Christians, would do well to adopt for ourselves.

1. Her humility

2. Her commitment to God and

3. Her bravery.

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail

The first character trait is

1. Her humility

When the angel Gabriel comes to her (as recorded in Luke 1: 26-38) and tells her of Jesus imminent birth

”Mary do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen you are going to conceive and bear a son and you must name him Jesus”

She could have had half a dozen excuses to say no if she had wanted to:

i) She could have said; "Lord I’m just a girl I’m not ready to be a mother.”

ii) She could have said: “I’m not wealthy, I’m not educated and I’m not able to provide him with a lavish lifestyle that the Messiah should enjoy.

iii) She could have said: “I am NOT worthy of this honour - maybe it should be given to someone else more worthy." (a sort of false humility) or

iv) She could have said: “Lord, OK but can you just wait till I have married Joseph and squared it with him so I won’t have the slur of being an adulteress”

BUT that’s NOT what Mary said.

What she actually said was:

"I am the Lord’s servant, may it be as you have said..."

Mary had a breath-taking trust that God knew what He was doing when he entrusted her with the job of raising his son Jesus.

And she must have believed with God’s help she could do the job.

I’d like to look in a bit more detail at the next character trait of Mary:

2. Her Commitment to her God

Mary had the right perspective.

She was totally “sold out” to God.

She knew who God was - and who she was - His servant.

And she knew nothing was impossible for her God.

Let’s face it – a virgin birth was not anything she had come across before

But if God had said it, Mary knew that it would happen, even if she didn’t really understand how.

And if the Lord Almighty wanted to give her the task of raising the Son of God - then she would accept it.

What a shining example for us to follow.

There is a small detail about Mary’s commitment to God that I found in the story of revelation of the Messiah to the Shepherds that you can find in Luke Chapter 2.

It is a story we read of every Christmas.

You will recall that the Angel said this to the Shepherds

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:10-12)

Then the shepherds go to Bethlehem and find Jesus just as the Angel had told them

Let me let Luke tell the rest of the story

17 When (the Shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Lk 217-18)

Did you notice what he said about Mary?

While the others were simply amazed – Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

She went a step further than the rest.

She spent much time thinking through what God was doing.

She wanted to know MORE about Jesus – and what God had in store for him.

I believe the reason she pondered all this was because she wanted to know what God had planned for her son Jesus and for herself.

And she did play an important part in Jesus life.

She was part of the team of men and women who ministered to Jesus and his disciples during his earthly ministry.

And we see her weeping at the foot of the Cross.

And we see how special she is to Jesus because even though Jesus was in agony on the Cross, he discharges the duty of the oldest son.

From the Cross He put Mary into the care of the Beloved disciple John.

I’d like to look in more detail at the final character trait of Mary that I identified:

3. Her Bravery

Mary’s bravery is so often overlooked.

Her obedience to the Will of God could have been very costly.

i) The best case scenario was that she could have expected Joseph to reject her and break off the engagement.

Then she would have been left as a single mother with a baby to support WITH NO INCOME.

She might have survived by begging and hoping her parents would look after them.

But very often, the family would be so ashamed of the stain that she as an adulteress had brought on the family – that they would have nothing to do with her.

She would be left to bring up the child on her own – in a society where there was no social security – and the Government didn’t put you to the top of the housing list, as it does for single mothers today.

And once her neighbours in Nazareth found out – she’d have been ostracised.

In fact, that is what Joseph had planned to do with Mary when he saw she was pregnant - until God intervened in a dream to him.

If that was the best case scenario, what was the worst case scenario?

In those days, she might have been stoned to death as an adulteress.

In Israel in Jesus’ day, a woman who was engaged was considered so far as adultery was concerned – as if she WAS married.

And the penalty for adultery was DEATH.

And a pregnancy was all the proof they needed!!

Imagine trying to persuade a judge that it was a virgin birth!!

Mary would have known that – and it took immense bravery to say:

“I am the handmaid of the Lord – let what you have said be done to me” (Luke 1:38)

Following God can be costly – as Christians in countries where Islamic State is active can testify.

I know that I myself would not have displayed the courage that Mary did.

Why is Mary such a role model for us?

You might recall I asked the question

Why did Simeon have some personal words for his mother Mary.

I didn’t really answer the question.

My belief is that God gave her a warning of what Jesus was going to go through.

In fact Simeon’s words were – if you think about it a confirmation of the meaning of the third gift the Magi brought – the gift of myrrh which was associated with death

As she stood at the foot of the Cross, she could have been tempted to believe - as some theologians do - that God had made an awful mistake when He allowed Jesus to be crucified as part of his plan of Redemption for the world.

But it wasn't a mistake. It was - as Simeon told Mary - part of God's original plan.

Simeon’s words to Mary encourage me to think that God can entrust much to people - who take the time to treasure up all the things of God that they hear about and ponder them in their heart. (based on Luke 2:19)

To such people, God can commit much.

That’s why, as Christians we pray and study our Bibles regularly, and it is though doing this that we hear the voice of God.