Following the example of Mary at Christmas

Bryan CribbBryan Cribb, General

An apocryphal anecdote has been circulated for some time at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, regarding one of my former professors. The story goes that an erstwhile student of this professor once questioned him as to whether he ever gave pop quizzes.

With a smile, this peculiar professor responded that he would give a pop quiz the same day that he entered the classroom through the window instead of the door. Of course, the threat was taken in jest. And as is often the case, presumption precedes disaster. The next class, the professor climbed through the classroom window, quiz in hand.

Now, whether this fable is factual or not, it does have a moral. If this student had truly believed that the professor would scramble through that window, a good deal of studying might have taken place beforehand. In other words, true belief is tied to action.

Unfortunately, with many Christians (myself included), a disconnect sometimes exists between our stated beliefs and our actual actions.

However, in Luke 1, we find a woman who did not merely assert that she believed the word of God, but her belief also translated into genuine, glad-hearted, God-centered action. This woman is Mary. Though Christians should be careful not to deify or exalt the mother of Jesus excessively, she does model in this chapter how belief and action are inseparable.

The belief of Mary

The story in Luke 1 is quite familiar. The angel Gabriel brought unbelievable news to Mary. Even though she was a virgin, she would soon give birth to the Son of God.

The claims made by Gabriel in his announcement were staggering. God would soon fulfill the promises of the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7). He would place His Son on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33). He would establish His eternal kingdom. He would bring about the realization of Isaiah 7:14 — a virgin would give birth.

Salvation history would soon reach its climax, and Mary was right in the middle of God’s plans. One wonders if Mary felt the weight of Gabriel’s message. “Am I to be that virgin of Isaiah’s prophecy? Am I, a poor, humble teenager, to be the mother of a divine King?”

Yet, to Gabriel’s incredible announcement, Mary responds with humble faith. She simply believed.

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, later described Mary as “she who believed” (1:45). As Robert Stein in his commentary on Luke points out, even Mary’s question — “How can this be?” (v. 34) — does not carry the connotation of doubt, but instead wonder and curiosity.