Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.  John 19:25-27

One of our final glimpses of Mary comes as she stands near the cross.We see Mary’s faithfulness to her son, Jesus, as she stands and watches as he is crucified.We also see the faithfulness of friends as they stood with Mary and the faithfulness of Jesus as he cared for his mother.


The first one mentioned standing near the cross as Jesus was crucified is Mary, his mother.Mary stood near the cross, watching what no mother ever wants to experience - the death of a child.She must have stood there and wondered what she could do, was there anything she could have done differently and how could she possible help her son.

Mary was a mother.She taught this boy about the Jewish faith, she encouraged him, she laughed and played with him.She watched as he began his ministry and she saw how his own brothers treated him.She saw him change the lives of so many people.She watched the Jewish leaders become angry at his teaching and his popularity.

Mary was a mother who wanted to protect her son.As Jesus hung on the cross she knew she could not protect him, but she never left him.She suffered great loss as her soul was pierced, and through it all she was a faithful mother.


Mary’s friends and followers of Jesus stood next to her near the cross.This group of women walked with Jesus, served Him, and learned from Him.They were with Him in good times and they refused to leave in the most difficult of times.These women stood near the cross and watched as the nails were driven into Jesus’ hands.They watched as the cross was lifted up and Jesus began to struggle to breath.They watched as blood poured from his body.Their faithfulness to Jesus would not allow them to leave.

These faithful women stood strong in support of Mary as she watched her son mocked, spat upon, ridiculed and ultimately crucified. Mary needed these friends as she endured her darkest days.


Mary also received the love and care from her faithful son.“Woman, here is your son, and to the disciple, here is your mother.”We don’t know exactly why, but Mary needed a caregiver.Mary had other children, but for some reason she needed someone to care for her and Jesus provided that for her.In the midst of the pain and suffering, with death so near, Jesus was faithful to his mother. 

In Jesus’ faithfulness to Mary, we see God’s faithfulness to us.Psalm 36:5 says, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”God’s faithfulness to us is endless, it knows no boundaries. 

As we begin a new year, take some time to think about faithful friends, faithful mothers and a faithful son.Set out this new year to be a faithful friend who is there for your friends in good times and in difficult times.Surround yourself with faithful friends who will be with you when you need them the most. We all need faithful friends to walk beside us on this journey.

Just as Mary was faithful to her son, be faithful to your children.Don’t allow anything to separate you from your children.If you are estranged from your child, seek them out, forgive them and stand close to them no matter what they are going through.

And as a follow of Christ, know that he loves you and cares for you just as he loved his mother.His faithfulness to us is immeasurable and constant.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…”

Dana Grubb San Antonio, TX Northside Church of Christ

Because He Turned Water into Wine

Christmas has come and gone and it is now the New Year. I spent my day packing away decorations and making hambone soup with black eyed peas. They’re still good luck the day after New Year’s Day, right? I am always a bit depressed while putting Christmas decorations away. The colors, smells and lights of Christmas are the best part of the year, and when I put it all away, I am reminded that I have to wait another eleven months to bring them out again. When I think about Mary waiting for the arrival of Christ, I wonder if she had a similar feeling once he had arrived. The anticipation of birthing a savior filled her, possibly with mixed emotions. Then, Jesus was born, the wise men came and the new little family received gifts. Once the wise men left, reality set in: She had to take her baby home, and real life began.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to raise Jesus? Was the Son of God ever given a time out as a child? Or, would raising a perfect child prove to be more difficult than we could ever imagine? I mean, how do you tell Jesus Christ to brush his teeth and get in the bed? Then, one day, you are at a wedding with your son, the King of Kings, and his disciples when the hosts run out of wine (John 2:1-2). Mary’s initial instinct is to tell Jesus “Hey, there’s no more wine (John 2:3).” What is Christ’s response? “It is not yet my time (John 2:4).” Then, Mary does what any mother would do in this situation and tells the servants, “do whatever he says (John 2:5).” So, in turn Christ performs his first miracle and because of this miracle, his disciples believed in him (John 2:11).

My favorite Christmas song just happens to be Mary Did You Know. My version of choice this season was by Pentatonix. Have you heard of them? I had it repeat for the entire month of December. The song gives me chills every. Single. Time. The last verse of the song begs some pretty serious questions:

"Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am."

My answer to these questions is yes. Mary knew that she brought the Lord of all creation into this world. She knew that her baby boy would one day rule the nations, that he was heaven’s perfect lamb and the child she tucked into bed every night was, in fact the Great I am. How do I know this? The answer is simple: because she knew that he could turn water into wine.

Looking into the New Year, what kind of work do you need Christ to do in your life? Are you prepared to do what Mary did and boldly ask Christ to work in your life? What if he tells you as he told Mary, “it is not yet time?” Do you have the patience to allow him to reveal himself in his perfect timing? We do not know how long Christ waited after Mary asked him to do something about the wine to perform his first miracle, but we know he did it. Also, as the scripture continues, we see that the wine he created from water was the best wine served at the wedding. This gives us comfort that Christ can and will exceed our expectations. My New Year’s resolution for us all is to be bold in our relationship with Christ, knowing that he will reveal himself in our lives in 2016, because we know that he can turn water into wine.

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5

Lauren Rutland Hightower Children’s Minister University Church of Christ, Shreveport

His Glory Was Revealed

It’s that time of year, where family get-togethers are the center of the season. Family traditions of good food, gifts, games and gatherings take over for a short time.Celebrations are carried out with gusto and much fanfare. 

In our family, Santa brings our stockings to the foot of our bed. As a child I believed this was because the wood burning stove would melt our gifts from Santa.As a momma, I realize this was my parents’ ingenious idea to keep the kids in bed for just a little while longer before the chaos of gifts and breakfast and fun begins.

The piling in of cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas makes Christmas both fun and stressful. At our house, we fed 21 people for more than a week.That’s a LOT of food! The number of trips to the store to get everything and make sure everyone had what they needed could have kept several people employed for weeks.

Even though it is not a simple endeavor to put the whole family in the same house, every year we make the trek to find time with family.We are never disappointed in the time well spent. Although not celebrated annually, two other life events are also guaranteed to bring the whole clan together: weddings and funerals. 

My brother is getting married this spring.Even in the midst of winter, the planning is in full swing. There will be food, friends, family and a small army to help make sure everything runs smoothly.Wedding invitations will be sent and RSVP’s will be requested.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. John 2:1-2

I don’t know what the family traditions were like in Cana, but we find Jesus at a wedding with his mother. Yet, we see Jesus and his disciples (the men he JUST called from the previous chapter) are all attending the wedding. I am guessing the disciples did not send in their RSVP cards on time.

Maybe these extra guests are the reason the wine has run out. Maybe the wedding was a family affair, we don’t know. Maybe, just maybe, Mary feels somewhat responsible for the impending disaster of no more wine at the wedding. Either way she comes to Jesus.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:3-5

My kids are adorable. They say and do the cutest things. Right now my son runs through a room like Buzz Lightyear, his arms stretched out as wings with his pointer fingers raised to be the lights. It is so stinking cute my heart leaps as I watch him. He smiles and jubilantly hollers “To infinity and beyond.”

When all the grandmas and aunts are in the room, I want them to have the experience of seeing my kids’ tricks, skills and above all cuteness. Of course, like most kids if I ask him, “James, show Grammy your Buzz wings.” The answer is “no.” They will show their stuff on their own time, which sometimes means not in front of family.

I wonder about Mary. How did her family feel about Jesus? What sort of indications did he give that he was the Son of God? Was she like me? Did she desperately want the family to see how amazing her son was? Just like my adorable children, Jesus said, “My hour has not yet come.” But then he did what his mother had asked.

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing,

each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” John 2:6-8

Jesus took stone water jars, “the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing,” and turned the water intended for purification, into wine. An interesting symbolism, as today we drink the wine of communion to symbolize our being made new, our purification, in Christ. You see, Jesus makes things new. He took the old purification jars and made new wine in them. He takes us, old vessels, and makes us new creatures. In this transformation his Glory is revealed.

I don’t know why the Son of God chose this moment to do what he did. Maybe it was to honor his mother. Maybe it was planned all along. But I do know the scripture says:

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:11

This was the moment, the first moment when his Glory was revealed. He symbolically showed the Glory of the Lord in the water of the purification jars. At this very moment, the disciples believed in him. 

As the holidays come to a close and families return home to their regularly scheduled lives, how has the glory of God been revealed to us? God brings healing to our hearts. He takes old traditions and fills them with life and love. He makes things new. He comes into the vessels of our lives and fills us with the sweetest wine.

It turns out that in our regular daily lives we have traditions too (known as daily schedules).As we begin the New Year, may our eyes see how Jesus is renewing the habits, traditions and rites to which we hold fast. Maybe, if we are observant, we will see the Glory of the Lord revealed in our mundane experiences as He takes our lives and makes us new creations.

Jessica Knapp Youth Minister, Mountain Ave Church of Christ Tucson, AZ

Treasuring Everything

I have two little boys. I love them with all my heart. I feel deeply the sentiment first expressed by Elizabeth Stone, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I often find myself catching my breath at the sight of my children. When they look at me with precious eyes, when they rest their heads on my shoulders, when they join me in the morning to cuddle before the day starts . . . the love I feel for them is almost terrifying and it is accompanied by knowing. I know that they could be gone for any number of reasons: they could be lost because of a careless driver, a stray bullet or an accidental peanut. I try not to live in paranoia, but that truth sometimes bubbles up and I catch my breath.

This is how I imagine Mary in Luke 2:51. In Luke 2, we learn that Jesus and his family regularly celebrated the Passover and part of that celebration involved some family travel. Mary, Joseph, Jesus and his siblings were celebrating Passover and when they were done, the family left but Jesus didn’t. Jesus stayed to study at the feet of the teachers in the temple. His parents took a couple days to notice their heart was not only walking around, but had been left behind. They were terrified, terrified the way we would be. They mounted a search for him and went back to the place where they last saw Him. They scolded him and he acted so surprised, where else would I be?! In verse 51 there is a small note, “but His mother kept all these things in her heart.”

What did Mary keep in her heart? Did she keep his talking back, his failure to continue on with the family? Perhaps, she kept his words, his choices, his actions and the obedience that followed. I sometimes wonder if she knew or when she knew he would die and what kind of death he would die. There’s nothing in the scripture that tells us she did, but just as I catch my breath when I am caught unaware by the realization that my children are not my own, that life is both good and fragile, I imagine Mary could predict what His end might look like.

In my moments of quiet I go on to think about the many young men in the African American community who have lost their lives innocently and/or without the trial that is their right. I can’t help, but think that their mothers worried about them too. That their mother’s feared their loss each time they left the house and how, like Mary, they are holding onto the words and moments that mothers and sons share, treasuring their little boys in all of their humanity.

From this flow of thoughts comes a flood of tears. I cry tears in solidarity with those who have lost their greatest treasure and I cry tears of joy because of the great love the Father had for us.How could the Father let His only son die? Jesus was loved this way. Jesus was loved by His Mother and the Father with that heart aching, overwhelming kind of love and I believe it is greater than we can imagine. While holding onto that love, the Father chose to allow Jesus to die because of his great love for us. Our love for our own loved ones gives us a glimpse of the Father’s love for us. The Father aches for us as we ache for our children.

Imagine Jesus, for a moment, in the place of the young men who have been dying in the streets of the United States and ask yourself, are you among the scoffers or are you among those who are grieving?

If one could sing in a blog, I would sing . . .

How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss - The Father turns His face away, As wounds which mar the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross, My sin upon His shoulders; Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there Until it was accomplished; His dying breath has brought me life - I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything, No gifts, no power, no wisdom; But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart - His wounds have paid my ransom.

Jesus was at one time a small boy. Doing the things that small boys do, they test to see how far they can go before someone comes looking for them. They are curious and inquisitive; all of them. Someone loves them and someone is treasuring every moment. When I see young men in the community, I wonder what their story is, I wonder who loves them and I wonder who is treasuring the moments as they grow. I pray that the Lord protects them and keeps them safe. Finally, I grieve for those lost to violence here and around the world.

“...but, His mother kept all these things in her heart.”

Spring Cooke Culver Palms Church of Christ

Called and Waiting

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  (Luke 2:41-43)

I first taught this passage at Summer Camp. I was a Junior Counselor for children in elementary. I chose it because I thought they could relate. Jesus was a boy, he was doing what was right, and his parents didn’t get it.

Neither did the elementary kids.

“Why did Jesus sin, Ms. Shannon?”

Umm … What? Something had just gone terribly wrong. I had a sinking feeling in my teenage gut. Where is an adult when I need one?

“Jesus was obeying God,” I said. Not good enough.

The children were going there much to my dismay. Someone, get me out of this mess!

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:46-48)

Every child in the room could imagine Mary’s tone, the same one that their parents have used on them when they were afraid and angry, all rolled into one. It was NOT a tone of voice that came with good news.

The children could imagine themselves uttering the next words filled with some good-old-fashioned pre-teen attitude – in self-defense, of course.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. (Luke 2:49-50)

“So, Ms. Shannon, did Jesus sin? Or, did Mary sin for being mad at Jesus?”

Some questions are more complex than either/or. We ask questions that the text was not intending to answer. If we reframe the question, we might find the nugget worth remembering.

What if Luke didn’t write this passage to show that twelve year old Jesus was more connected to his Heavenly father than his earthly one?

What if Luke wrote this passage because he wanted to reinforce what all good Jews knew? There is a time and place for a person's calling to be fully realized as  that person's vocation.

Twelve year old Jesus was just coming to the age in which he would be nurtured and trained to become a mature Jewish man - a process which was typically realized at age 30.

Jesus was already drawn towards his ministry calling. So, innocently, he stayed at the temple. His heart was ready. Culture was not. Quite possibly, his maturity was not ready, either. It is a confusing thing when our heart is drawn towards ministry but the time is not right.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51-52)

Jesus submitted and was obedient to his parent’s wishes – as those that had authority over him. In this moment, Luke foreshadows Jesus's vocation, while reminding the reader that Jesus was a devout Jew and still needed the time that all Jewish young men needed.

How often have we had a burning passion for ministry but found a closed door? Frustration wells up. Friends may encourage, “All in God’s good time” but do we really believe that it’s in God’s time or our own?

Jesus accepted that God’s timing is everything. Until then, we grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and people. If you are waiting to lean fully into the giftedness and calling that God has put on your heart, don’t fear. Talk with Jesus, share with him this experience, and have no doubt that he fully understands how it feels to wait until God’s time has arrived.

Shannon Rains Children and Family Minister Kingwood Church of Christ

Casting Crowns

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad…Psalm 40:16

True confessions –like many of you, my nativity set includes three wise men. I know that their visit was likely a year or more after the event in the stable, but I like the visual of both rich and poor, wise men and shepherds, those from faraway lands and nearby fields, all worshiping together at the manger. It brings to mind the passage in Revelation 5 when God has purchased those from “every tribe and language and people and nation” to serve as priests in God’s kingdom. The incarnation was for everyone.

Last night I dreamed I was about to drive off the edge of a cliff. I say “about to” because, as is often the case in this type of dream, I woke up at just the right time to avoid crashing. Because of this, Matthew's passage (Matthew 2:1-23) which said the wise men (and later, Joseph) were “warned in a dream” stood out in stark relief against the background of the story. How did they know they were receiving wise counsel during the night, as opposed to, say, reacting to some spicy pizza? What made the wise men “wise?”

Their story begins with the clue that “they came…asking.” For some reason, they knew that the star in the sky had significance. This “star of wonder” did not just cause awe and amazement, but it made them “wonder” what they should do about it! Following the star (and perhaps some astrological charts and kingdom prophecies), they came to Jerusalem asking “Where is the child? We have come to worship.” They are seeking to know the God who created this star, the God who communicates through creation, as well as through dreams.

King Herod gets wind of their questions around town and learns of the “ruler who will shepherd Israel.”Herod feels threatened by this other king and calls the wise men in to find out more. The wise men don’t know of Herod’s plan for evil and continue seeking. They are willing to search long and far in order to worship this king. When they see the star over the home where Jesus was, they are “overwhelmed with joy.” They “knelt down” to pay homage; the child was exalted. They gave lavish, expensive gifts (and traveled a long way to give them); their worship required sacrifice.

All of this gives me pause as I consider my own life. Modern assumptions about the sufficiency of scripture and confidence in all I’ve studied may lead me to conclude I already have the answers. But “they came asking.” Am I truly seeking out this king-child Jesus? Am I looking for Jesus in those around me, expectant of his presence? Or have I become complacent in the incarnation story, lazy in its familiarity? The story of the Magi reminds us that Jesus welcomes those who are asking and seeking. In fact, later in Matthew’s gospel we read that Jesus encourages such asking – he reminds us that “everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds” (Matt 7:8). Even skeptics full of doubt are welcome at the manger.

The Magi search is rewarded with the presence of the king, and their joy leads to worship. The scene here reminds me of one in Revelation 4 where the 24 elders fall at the throne, casting their crowns at the foot of the one who lives forever. This is a beautiful word picture. When you think of a crown, don’t you think of royalty, and riches, and diamonds?Something you would value highly? But like the wise men in Matthew 2, the elders in Revelation lay down their crowns…their symbols of leadership, power, and possession. When we ask, we may find that some of the answers are hard. Does our own seeking lead to joyful, extravagant worship? Are we willing to lay down our crowns at the feet of the child-king?

As we wind down these last few days before Christmas, I am thankful for Advent reminders to wait, to watch, to seek, to ask. Don’t fall prey to the constant clamor to do and buy more. Our waiting and seeking will be rewarded. The Psalmist reminds us:

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts… They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, Who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Are you asking and seeking after Jesus this week? You are in good company.

Dawn Gentry Johnson City, TN MDIV student at Emmanuel Christian Seminary Member of Grandview Christian Church

On Following Stars and Dreams: Hope in the Unclear

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 

While Mary had just finished her season of expectation, the wise men’s journey, predicated on a cryptic, yet profoundly meaningful message, a star, had begun. We don’t know what kind of star it was, but to the wise men, who were known for their esoteric knowledge and certainly studied the movement of stars, this was a special message that the baby king had arrived; a sign that they evidently expected to see because they knew its meaning as soon as they saw it. Living some distance away, the message of this star was so impressive that it motivated what they did next. This king, like the stars in the sky, could be witnessed by anyone. The impact of Jesus instantly spread all over the world at his birth.

The wise men pursued the star in response, using it as a light source and roadmap as they traveled in foreign territory through dark nights, laden with expensive gifts and expecting to get to their destination safely. The promise of the star assured them that they would find who they were looking for once they got there. For the wise men, Advent was not merely waiting and watching for stars, but it encompassed advancing upon the star and a foreign king.

What did the baby king mean to the wise men? These were men who were not considered to be God’s people, yet they understood the significance of this star, as well as the birth, enough to risk traveling a great distance to pay homage. They were strangers who approached King Herod with confidence, sure in the promise of this birth and the place they had in it. Their confidence was rewarded, unwittingly in dangerous circumstances, with the final steps they needed to get to Bethlehem.

Matthew tells us that the wise men were overwhelmed with joy on seeing that the star had stopped (2:10). They were men who likely didn’t expect to live to see this great kingdom come to fruition and didn’t expect to be part of it. Fruition for them was seeing the star stop moving and the baby, not in a palace, but in a modest home.

Later in the chapter, God’s messenger communicates to the wise men (2:12) and to Joseph (2:13, 2:19, 2:22) through a series of dreams giving them travel instructions. Get up and go.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 

Like the stars, dreams typically appear to us at night and even the most intense or lifelike dreams usually become foggy and forgettable within hours of waking. What can appear quite meaningful at night becomes less significant in the daylight when one is conscious. But like the star, the message and the messenger of these dreams emerged from the shadows of sleep and memory loss as an overwhelming light compelling the wise men, and Joseph, to follow their instructions.

They traveled in hope – the wise men, hoping to see the child, while Joseph, who was now experienced at receiving and obeying the messages in these dreams, traveled to save the child. He left by night into a foreign country to keep his family safe and then back into dangerous territory in hope that the promise of the child would come to fruition. And when Joseph was unsure of where exactly in Israel to go, he was given further direction when he needed it.

As we wait for Christ during this Advent season, consider that the meaning of Advent pushes beyond hopeful expectation into real action. It is getting up and going without having a clear picture of where to go or what to expect once you get there. It’s trusting God to get you there safely when you don’t know what the consequences are for following His instructions. It’s having enough faith in your journey to ask for help along the way. It’s preparing for the arrival with gifts ahead of seeing that there will be something to celebrate. It’s confidently knowing that even as an outsider, you belong and that the promise is for you too.

LaCanas Y. Tucker Manhattan Church of Christ New York, NY

It's Never Too Late

This is our Guon-Sā-Nim. This phrase was accompanied by my introduction to an older women, often bent and wrinkled, but also full of a quiet joy and peace. She would smile quietly, even shyly as the women of the church surrounded her and spoke of her dedication to prayer and service to others. The first time I met this woman, I just smiled and nodded as if I understood what was going on. But, when the experience was repeated, I became especially curious.

I was in South Korea with one of our graduate students and his wife visiting churches and holding classes and seminars. When we had a quiet moment I asked my hostess what a Guon-Sā-Nim was. She said,

She is our Anna. She is a widow who has no family so she lives at the church and is constant in prayer. She attends to other women who do not have husbands and to young women who need to learn how to be good wives.

I was stunned.

These churches took seriously the instructions from the Pastoral Epistles on how we are to treat widows who have no family or other means of support. This “Anna” met regularly with the elders to report on what she was doing and to represent the needs of the women of the church. I have thought about this practice for years now.

I have been widowed twice.

The first experience was through the death of my spouse at age 21. and the second by the death of my marriage through divorce at age 62. Each time I felt an emptiness and lack of purpose or direction that is hard to explain and very painful.

Where once I had been part of the core of the church, I found myself in each instance on the margins. In fact church became a painful experience that I dreaded or avoided it entirely. That is until I thought of Anna.

My experience in the Korean church had given new life to this ancient story and new hope to me. Through much prayer, fasting, and support of others I came to realize that my place in the church may have changed, but I am still a vital part of the body of Christ.It is never too late in the Kingdom of God for me, or anyone else, to find renewed hope and purpose. And it I owe much of this insight to the first Anna and the many others I have encountered.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment [the dedication of the infant Jesus at the temple] she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38, emphasis mine).

May each of us in this season of Advent realize once again the privilege of knowing Jesus and speak of the redemption he offers to all who will listen whatever our situation in life.

Jeanene Reese Highland Church of Christ Abilene, Texas

The Vitality of Ritual

Dark and still, the ancient stone walls were breathing and holy. The silence was not oppressive, but peaceful. I dropped a coin into the tiny slot at the base of the pillar and carefully lit a long wooden match. Whispering my prayer, I lit a small votive on the stand before me, one of many bright flames breaking the darkness of the church. Wisps of smoke filtered into the dome above me, as the flame's very fragrance perfumed the vaults of heaven.

There was no magic in that ritual. No special force or mystique. But it had power, that simple act of flame, and smoke, and prayer. As the candle burned, so, too, did my plea to God sear upon my heart. Years later, I carry with me the memory of that moment, still. 

I grew up in a world without religious ritual – or so we thought. Repetition equaled rote, and thus, we held ourselves above common prayer, rites of passage, and liturgy. As I’ve grown, and my church has matured, these practices have returned into our worship, little by little, and I am enthralled by the mystery and the power of these rituals. While traveling in Europe, I loved the opportunity to light a candle in the ancient churches. One among thousands of prayers offered in that sacred space.


When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24)

But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’” (Leviticus 12:8)

I find it remarkable that the virgin mother of our Lord the Messiah still felt compelled to offer a sacrifice for the impurity of his birth. How could giving life to God With Us cause anything, or anyone, to be unclean? And yet, she did not hesitate. Just a week from childbirth, she traveled to Jerusalem, following the ancient laws as her mother and sisters and ancestors had done for a thousand years and more.

The Torah decrees that when a woman gives birth, she is in a state of spiritual impurity, a state defined by the absence of holiness, for seven days if the child is born male, fourteen days if female. To return to spiritual wholeness, she must offer a sacrifice. A lamb, if she can afford it. A pair of doves and two pigeons if she cannot. A sacrifice on behalf of The Sacrifice.

There was nothing impure about the birth of the Messiah, and yet, the ritual was vital nonetheless.

Christ did not need to be immersed for the forgiveness of his sins, and yet, the ritual of baptism was vital nonetheless.

There is power in ritual. A vitality of routine, actions, and words that contain value in their very repetition.There is a sacred beauty in the recurrence of a blessed act worship.

The weeks before us in December are rich with tradition and repeated ritual. The preparation of favorite meals, the wrapping of gifts. The frantic search of the Elf’s next pose, the photos with Santa at the mall. The careful placement of the nativity. The ornaments unwrapped, memories falling from the tissue paper of places, and people, and friends.

These oft repeated acts can, easily, become mindless habits.

Or, they can be worship. The mundane and the silly, the meaningful and profound. Repeated moments and actions, each aspiring to be that sacred act of ritual worship, as long as we’re paying attention.

Adelle Gabrielson Assistant to Children’s Ministry Campbell Church of Christ Campbell, CA

A Birth Announcement

When a woman is pregnant with a baby in 2015 it is common to celebrate in many different ways. First the mother should video herself telling the father that he is going to be a Dad. Then she should also do something special to tell the grandparents. Then you announce it to Facebook in a cute way (puns appreciated) but don’t forget to post those videos you took to tell the father and grandparents. After that there could be gender reveal parties, multiple showers, and maybe even a sip and see after they are born. Our culture today realizes that a birth is important, and we find a million to celebrate the birth of a baby.

So when it is God’s turn to announce the birth of his son, he goes all out! It is pretty adorable in my opinion (is it okay to say God is adorable? I think he is.) He puts a big star in the sky, and he sends a great company of angels to some shepherds in the night sky. What a sight it must have been.  

We often think of what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph to birth the Son of God. I wonder what it must have been like for God to send his son to the earth to be born. Knowing why he was sending him and what would happen, would it be a celebration or would it be something God feels sorrow for?

If I had to hazard a real guess, I would say I think he felt like celebrating. The Bible sure paints birth of Jesus is a celebration. He brings all types of people to the table, the rich and powerful Magi and the poor and hardworking Shepherds. It is an analogy for the change that Jesus came to bring.

My husband’s brother and his wife brought a child into the world just a few months ago. After his wife had a C-Section, my brother-in-law had a few moments alone with the baby while she was coming off of the drugs. I got to watch a proud Daddy look upon a child with all of the anticipation and excitement of who he would grow to be. God with all of his infinite power to love and actually know who Jesus would be seems to be looking upon his son here with that same anticipation and excitement.

This December has been busier and harder than any other for me. I'm already getting tired of celebrating. I am tired of waiting, Advent can be just as hard as lent is sometimes. But I am reminded of the joy and celebration that God himself sent to us. A choir of angels, a bright star, a chance for everyone to know Christ, Kings and Shepherds. 

May we look upon this time of year with anticipation and excitement. We know who Jesus becomes and what happens, but for now lets experience the miracle of this child. Let's find time to celebrate this season.

Maybe skip a Christmas party that will wear you down instead of help you celebrate. You don't need to send out 200 Christmas cards with personalized messages. The kids don't care if the presents are perfectly wrapped. Take a break from the busy to enjoy the reminder of how near God is. Praise God for being faithful to us. Laugh at yourself and your plans and devote yourself to God’s ideals for you. Then do as the shepherds did and go and share about the joy you have found. 

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:14

Holly Racca Youth Minister Southern Hills Church of Christ Abilene, Texas

Birth Plans

The last thing any woman wants to do when she’s nine months pregnant is go to Bethlehem. I don’t care if you're fifteen or forty-five years old, there is a significant biological mandate that makes itself known at the end of pregnancy that says, “Get home! You are about to have a baby!” Pregnant animals know this. When they are about to give birth they retreat to the safety of their dens. And pregnant women do to. As modern women we do a great job of letting our brains get in the way of our instincts, but even modern women find themselves cleaning and organizing their homes, driven by a biological need to “nest,” as their due date approaches. So the last thing any pregnant woman, first century woman or twenty-first century woman, wants to do when she’s about to give birth, is travel.

But Mary’s story is filled with plans that she didn’t make. Looking back over the nine months she remembers her miraculous conception, her reluctant fiancé, the angel with big promises, and the compelling emotional encounter with her cousin Elizabeth. And now this. Her birth plan is thrown out the window, as she and Joseph follow Caesar’s orders and head to Bethlehem. As she grabs her bag and walks out the door she thinks, “Maybe at least the walking will put me into labor.” Because no matter how scared you are, no matter how much you would rather be in the safety and comfort of your own home, the one thing every pregnant woman wants when she gets to that forty week mark is to not be pregnant anymore. And she knows that walking helps. Every step moves the baby’s head deeper into her pelvis, pressure mounting in her hips, subtle but increasing pain in her lower back. With every step she wonders if this will be the one that will break her water and send her searching for the nearest safe place to give birth.

Sure enough, this normal teenage Jewish girl whose life has suddenly become filled with divine surprises, goes into labor. Mary knows how births are suppose to happen. Her mom and her midwife are supposed to be there, but they aren’t — they are home in Nazareth. And she is apparently having this baby in Bethlehem. Like the woman who gives birth in her car assisted by a 23 year old highway patrol officer with basic first aid training because traffic is stopped dead and the baby won't wait, Mary depends on the care of strangers as she gives birth to her first-born, a son.

After the ubiquitous uncertainty of pregnancy, the amazing creation process of labor and childbirth works the way it’s supposed to. The chaos of traveling, frantically trying to find a place to stay while the contractions grew more frequent and intense, has ended, and Mary feels intensely grateful that she and her baby have survived. The hay of the manger and the soft swaddling clothes feel oddly perfect as she holds her beautiful newborn in her arms. She feels his soft skin against her own as he nurses himself to sleep.

Her mind is tired, and her body’s exhausted, so she sleeps as well. Off and on for the next twenty-four hours, she sleeps. A blanket keeps her warm as the baby lays on her bare chest, and the Bethlehem midwife she’s only known for a few hours gives her sips of water and soup. As she dozes off she remembers the angel’s words. “Do not be afraid.” And she realizes she’s not. She is filled with a crazy mix of feelings right now, but fear is not one of them. She actually feels courageous. It’s a divine maternal form of courage unlike anything she has ever known before. And in this hazy, weary, postpartum state, there is one thing that is crystal clear to Mary. She is this boy’s mother and she will do whatever she has to do to take care of him. Wherever his life leads, she will go.

“And they came with haste and found Mary, Joseph, and the babe, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16)

Amy Bost Henegar Minister for Family Life and Spiritual Formation Manhattan Church of Christ New York, NY

Image: Where Advent Begins © Jan Richardson

I'm Pregnant





Wanting time to simultaneously go fast and stand still. Hoping for the test to give results.Wondering how five minutes could take so long.AND then…the results appeared.

I am pregnant.

My mind rushes with thoughts and emotions. This is what I had prayed for. This is what I had hoped for. We are having a BABY! I am excited, happy, and terrified all in one moment because let’s face it: having a baby changes everything.

This is where we find Mary just before our passage.

For Mary there was no pregnancy test. No discussion with her husband about the planning, the trying, the outcome. Nope. For Mary there was an Angel and he said,

Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and

give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be

called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his

father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his

kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:30-33)

I look at the test again, just to be sure. I pull out my teddy bear stationary, and write the following note:

Dear Daddy,

I am so excited to see you in nine months.Mommy loves you and I love you.

Love, Baby

I leave the note on my husband’s pillow. I couldn’t wait to tell him so we can walk this journey together. The anticipation and excitement are terrifyingly overwhelming.

BUT Mary, sweet Mary, who had found favor with God was in a different situation. How exactly do you explain to your fiancé that you are pregnant with someone else’s baby? Mary sought out her relative Elizabeth who had also turned up pregnant unexpectantly. Immediately, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounces blessings upon Mary.

Boy was THIS baby going to change everything. I cannot conjure up the ocean of emotions which must have been surging through her thoughts. But we do have her song, an amazing praise to the God who is in control.

When I have thought about Mary in the past I always pictured a young, scared, new mom. I felt sorry for her.BUT, when I read her song of praise or sing it (thank you Randy Gill for arranging it so beautifully), I hear a song of quiet strength.

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has been mindful

of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—

holy is his name.

Mary chose to acknowledge the honor she had been given with this pregnancy. She praised God for her circumstances, which from the world’s point of view looked bad. Mary knew this awesome burden, was also an awesome honor. God had chosen her to be His servant.

God has chosen each of us to be His servant to bring peace to the world. We can choose to accept our calling and praise Him for the honor we have been given each day or we can grumble and complain about our burden. Too often I find myself not recognizing the awesome honor I have been given to be a servant of the living God. 

That first pregnancy God gave me a beautiful, perfect, amazing daughter. She is strong willed, expressive, stubborn and so smart. She is an amazing gift from God. May I be reminded of the great honor that has been given to me to raise her for Him.

This advent season, may we each cultivate the attitude of Mary and praise God for the burdens/opportunities we have been given. May we remember the blessings which have been bestowed upon us and may we praise Him for the honor we have in bringing about love, joy, and peace to the world. Our situations might sometimes look bleak, but may we remember the humble servant Mary and her strength as she brought our Savior into this world.

Jessica Knapp Youth Minister, Mountain Ave Church of Christ Tucson, AZ

Because We Seek Each Other

Luke is often my favorite storyteller in the Gospels. I like how he brings in certain stories, what he chooses to include or where he places focus. I’m glad he tells us this part of Mary’s story with Elizabeth in the way he does. Luke 1:39-56, feels like sisterhood to me.

“. . .she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

We’re told these two women are related, likely distant cousins, but they had a relationship with each other that included friendship, guidance, support and love. This young girl and this woman “well along in years” found the kind of connection that drove them toward each other when big things happened. It had to feel like such a gift for Mary when dear Elizabeth called her “blessed” in the midst of what felt confusing and scary. Mary “hurried” to her side to share in this joy of motherhood and God-breathed miracles because they could lean on each other, and Elizabeth’s own baby began the celebration by leaping for joy. I’ve always hoped there was a lot of laughter and tears in that visit. Aren’t the best times with our sisters full of laughter and tears? Everything that is both good and troublesome comes pouring out when we gather, so we can sort out the madness and find our way forward together.

“. . .My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. . .”

I know lots of people stumble over this moment as Mary replies in song. We brush it away as Luke’s storytelling, because surely it didn’t actually happen this way. I hope that isn’t true. I hope Mary sang from the joy and gratitude of her heart in the presence of her precious friend and relative because my family is that weird. Sometimes I need to know our weirdness has an older place in the world. We sing to each other. It’s rare, and almost never our own newly inspired lyrics, but it’s a way we communicate because song often captures emotion better than sentences. When the people I love are overflowing with what God is doing or what is happening in our world, we take to poetry and verse. We let music bridge the gaps our voices can’t.

I totally get Mary in this moment, and I love that history has immortalized her words for worship. Just as she walks ahead of our waiting to receive the coming King. She opens the door for vulnerability regarding the complexities of His coming, too. There is so much to thank God for in the moment of knowing we are called “blessed,” and there are also so many questions. Mary takes up the role of worship leader and draws us to the presence inside her. She brings forth the One who will lead us down many roads in life, and takes the lead herself.

“And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”

Then the story ends with long visits and goodbyes. Isn’t that the way of sisterhood? We stay longer than we planned if needed. We see our dear ones through to the next step if possible and then we go on about the other parts of our lives—a little emptier and a little fuller all at the same time. Elizabeth’s seclusion in the early part of her pregnancy must have made this time so much sweeter for them. Darling Mary, while facing her own very big life upheavals, stays for three months. She stays with Elizabeth. This passage doesn’t tell us whether Mary stayed through the time of Elizabeth’s labor or not. The story is not simply about the babies in their wombs. This passage paints a picture of two women who seek each other out when God speaks into their lives. They spent time with each other, in the presence of God, when they needed it most. Mary’s choice to travel at this point in the story helps me remember to seek out my sisters when God is speaking. She guides me toward maintaining relationships that matter instead of pulling away when life is a little too big. I’m so grateful to call her a sister in the way that all women link arms and lean on each other.

Dana Spivy Children`s Minister Maury Hills Church Columbia, TN

Peace Born through Shadow

Every day thousands of people leave home, enter waters of chaos in a dubious boat, and seek new beginnings elsewhere. These huddled masses bob on waves where whales lurk beneath and waters condensate above to form clouds the shape of burning buildings and torpedoes.

There is no peace there.

The torpedoes fall as rain, waves capsize boats, and humans enter the depths. Be certain, no one perfect falls into those waters, save the children. An alcoholic bobs along in a life vest along with the elderly woman who stole her neighbor’s husband forty years prior. A widower with a violent streak sinks as quickly as the young woman who sold herself to pro cure the money to gain passage on the boat.

Every soul is muddled, and the sea is a sort of unprecedented chaos. Broken people come in contact with the insurmountable power of water praying for new birth.

In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. It was dark. Chaos reigned, and God flew with an outstretched arm to suppress the turmoil. Calm fell upon the face of the earth so that new life could be born.

Much later, a teenage, middle-eastern girl, Mary, is confronted by a messenger of God and is justifiably distressed through and through. Greatly troubled. It’s a phrase only used here, but implies chaos in the soul. The messenger consoles her by telling her that she is highly favored, and that God is with her.

His message: In ten months the Prince of Peace will emerge through a breaking of the waters.

Mary’s obedience to this painful transition will change humanity as did Eve’s disobedience. The birth of the curse will be reversed through the birth of the Resurrection. All of human history rests on this moment.

Name him Jesus, Mary. Feed him healthy food, Mary. Redirect his toddler tantrums, teach him how to choose good friends, and make sure he goes to Hebrew school. Raise up God, Mary, and His kingdom will never end.

All I need is your virgin womb, says the Lord.

Humans hold a lot from God -- time, money, the second cloak we bought on sale at Macy’s last year that’s only been worn once.

We’re especially possessive of our bodies. Let us design them with good looks, no scars, no burns, disfigurements or diseases. We choose to whom we offer them. My body. My choice.

This is why rape is the ultimate violation, and rightly so, for our bodies are sacred spaces, temples of the living God.

Yet God asks for Mary’s virgin womb, to which Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant.”

She is highly favored indeed.

This divine/human conception narrative wasn’t new. Often ancient gods disguised themselves to trick and impregnate women. Yet, the God of Creation put these fables in their place by meeting this young woman on her turf, identifying Himself clearly, and coming to Her gently. This was not another divine rape story, another “Haha, I tricked you for a good time” tale with Zeus.

No, this was the God of the chaotic ocean who is simultaneously sheltering fragile souls in the cleft of the rock with His hand. This is YHWH, gentle and good.

Even so, this true and kinder divine conception put Mary in grave danger. A middle-eastern, single, pregnant woman could be destroyed. Her betrothed could leave her to fend for herself with no option but to board a boat for a foreign land, praying for peaceful seas and welcoming hearts on the other side of the Mediterranean.

Surely all of these thoughts ran through Mary’s mind, yet the Spirit of God stretched over the chaos. The power of the Most High overshadowed her. It’s the same covering with which God enveloped Jesus at the transfiguration. It was a Divine embrace through which the holy one would be born.

In Advent, God comes near.

And as in every season, God asks for everything. Even so, God never takes the most intimate places of us without a purpose.

The discomfort of a donkey ride in the third trimester, the side glances at the market, the blood and water expelled on hay in a pauper’s cave in the agony of childbirth…it was all to save the world.

Life was born through chaos because one middle-eastern girl surrendered all under the enveloping cloud of God.

As the weather cools and snowflakes begin to swirl, may we notice the turmoil around us-places where God’s covering can birth shades of spring. Maybe she’s the new widow living next door, or the homeless with agitated minds, souls emerging out of waters where Arabian soil was dredged in hasty departures. . . To them may we courageously say, “God is near,” and overshadow them with His love. May we see each person this Advent season as one for whom the Prince of Peace was born through the virgin womb of a young middle-eastern woman who was willing to give all to God, and through whom, the New Creation killed the curse.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Tiffany Dahlman Spiritual Director and M.Div. student at Asbury Theological Seminary Worships with the Helen Street Church of Christ Fayetteville, NC

Radical Acceptance

The visitation (Luke 1:26-38)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

We know her well as the mother of Jesus, but her own story is not often told in our churches. Even the phrase “virgin Mary” feels strange and foreign on our tongues, and we have allowed our fears of ascribing too much significance to Mary to rob us of learning about and from her witness.

Yet she is presented by Luke in this passage as a young woman who finds favor with the Lord, a servant of God, and the first believer in the good news concerning God’s visitation in human flesh. Who is she? Her name is Mary. She is a young virgin from Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, who gives birth to the Savior of the world and provides a model of responsive, submissive faith.

Mary is presented in Luke’s gospel as the central figure in the infancy narrative of Jesus. She is introduced as a “virgin, betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (1:27). We learn of her virginity before we hear her name, a manner of introduction (virgin, widow, wife, etc.) not uncommon in the ancient world. But in her case, her virginity underscores of miracle of birth that is to take place.

Thus, with this introduction of Mary, her story begins. As it unfolds we learn that she is of “lowly estate,” a “handmaiden,” and poor. Hers is a portrait of a powerless person favored by a mighty God. She is young in a world that respects age, a woman in a world controlled by men, and poor in a highly stratified society. Yet we discover that she is strong, and her strength comes from a submissive and obedient heart and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The angel appears to her—not in the temple in Jerusalem, the city of David—but in the obscure village of Nazareth of Galilee. We should not be surprised then, that the Angel’s greeting perplexes her: “Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you (1:28). As she ponders in her heart what sort of greeting this is, the angel reveals the mystery of the incarnation and the meaning of the grace with which God has favored her. He calms her fears, and tells her once more that she has found favor with God. Then in intimate terms he describes the role of the Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus!

Surely to a young girl from Nazareth who is just beginning to ponder the mysteries of life and birth and marriage to Joseph, the prophecy of the angel concerning this pregnancy is a lot to ponder, and no doubt the scandal it brings with it strikes terror in her heart. Thus, her response to the angel strikes at this reality: “how shall this be, since I am a virgin?” is not unlike Zechariah’s when he learns that Elizabeth will bear a son: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years” (1:18). Each expresses the incredulity of these announcements and reflects the limitations and impossibilities associated with his or her own reality in the flesh. The angel’s answer is simply, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Mary’s response to the angel provides the basis of a model for all who hear the good news of God’s salvation and accept the call to discipleship. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (1:38). As if in answer to her own question, “How can this be?” she answers, “Let it be.”

Mary stands in all her lowliness and womanhood, her poverty and status as a handmaiden. She postures herself as the servant of the Lord, which echoes the opening stanza of her hymn “for he has regarded the lowly estate of his handmaiden. . .” (1.48). Her words are rich in meaning and reveal the heart of this humble servant of the Lord “. . .let it be to me according to your word.” Do we not think that Mary understands the implications of the angel’s words? Her objection that she is a virgin surely reveals that she understands the scandal of her pregnancy and the reproach she will bear in a world of honor and shame? Yet this young woman who has no husband fully embraces the scandal of faith and answers, “let it be.” Thus the image is drawn of Mary of Nazareth: model believer and servant of God, who responds with radical acceptance without reservation to God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Can we not embrace Mary as a model of discipleship for the church and stand with her as we say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)?

D’Esta Love is chaplain emerita at Pepperdine University and a member of the University Church of Christ in Malibu, CA.