Mary loved God and was faithful to God. God honored her faithfulness and he also honors our faithfulness. When we are willing to let God lead us into uncomfortable situations, He begins to trust us with more and more. What will you let Him lead you through?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Today, we’re starting this new series, God With Us, and we want to help you prepare spiritually for the Christmas season by looking through the eyes of those who experienced the first Christmas. I think this series will teach you important things about God, how He is with You in all this, and to keep in focus what matters most at Christmas. Because there’s so much that gets in the way.
The first Christmas was not so predictable as it is now. In fact, the first Christmas was laced with shocking surprises from God. Mary was a Jewish teenage girl, probably between 13 and 16 years old. She had hopes, dreams for the future, plans to be married to the love of her life, Joseph, who she was engaged to marry (which was normal at that time). I’m sure there was exciting anticipation building for the wedding ceremony later that year, when one night, an angel appears to her with seismic news of Christmas. God interrupted Mary’s life, trusting her with a lot. Lets look at her response. I want us to consider—how will I respond to God’s interruptions in my busy life, how will I respond if God wants to trust me with more?
Luke, who was a doctor turned historian, writes to a Greek or Roman governor saying: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses… since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4
Luke is basically saying to this Roman official, as you know, many eyewitnesses surrounding Jesus have written about Him, but I too carefully investigated everything. That’s what makes this so troubling—if it’s just a good story, it doesn’t really threaten to interrupt our lives or demand anything from us—it’s just a good Christmas story like Rudolph or Santa. But if this really happened, as the eyewitnesses claim, it interrupts the business of life without much thought to God, and God comes crashing into our world in a way that’s personal, shocking, and life altering.
Listen to what the angel says to Mary:
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you…Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38
“May it be as you say…I am willing.”
That was Mary’s response. When God trusts you with something—is that your response? May it be…I am willing. Gabriel was the angel who delivered the news—the same angel who 500 years earlier told Daniel the prophet the exact time Messiah would come. Daniel wrote this about 500 years before Jesus was born (we have proof in the Dead Sea scrolls).
Daniel says, [Gabriel…came to me in swift flight [and said] “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One [Messiah], the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.[g] The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary [Jerusalem Temple].” Daniel 9:21-26.
This same Angel, Gabriel, tells Daniel the date Messiah will come, be killed, all before the Temple is destroyed (this happened. Jesus was killed in 30AD, in 70 A.D. the romans destroyed the Temple—it’s still not rebuilt). Here the same Angel tells Mary you’re gonna have a baby–and I know that’s shocking cause you’re a virgin …but don’t be afraid!”
Don’t be afraid! I’m not a woman, so I can’t relate to pregnancy fears…but I watched a live birth—when my daughter was being born saying, “This just isn’t gonna work—it just doesn’t seem possible.” Do not be afraid…the angel said—because there were other reasons to be afraid beyond giving birth. Not only was Mary going to have a son…her son wouldn’t be just any, old Jacob. Her son would be Son of the Most High God, Davidic King of Israel, the long-awaited Messiah (like Daniel and others foretold). Name him “Yeshua” or “Jesus” in English Gabriel said—Jesus means “salvation.”
What’s remarkable, if you read The Old Testament in Hebrew, you see His name over and over. Every time the word “salvation” comes up, you see His name – Yeshua, Yeshua. Jesus. Jesus. Gabriel says “Name him Salvation—Jesus.”
And now the God who created the Universe with a word, would create life in her womb. And this wasn’t just a “rent a womb” deal. God would take Mary’s DNA to form a fully human, incarnation—the human representation of God, Son of the Most High.
In Jewish Synagogue Mary must have heard the promises of the long awaited Messiah. Surely she’d read Isaiah the prophet, who said:
“In the future [God] will honor Galilee…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:1, 6-7
Maybe she remembered Isaiah’s promise, written 700 years earlier, as Gabriel told her the news. She must have been thinking, surely not me—I live in Nazareth of Galilee, but…Not Me…Why me? What will this mean for my life?
“May it be as you’ve said.” Mary’s Humble willingness is shocking. It’s hard for us to see, because we’ve carved Mary down into serene Manger Scene figurine—or made her superhuman, sinless. That’s not the Bible’s picture of Mary. The Bible says all of us sin—all except one, Jesus. But the Real Mary was the image of willingess in the midst of scandal and turmoil and the unexpected. Scot McKnight notes, when Mary whispered, “May it be” to the angel, the inner seams of Mary’s life were ripped apart.” God trusts her with a lot, but it cost her a lot.
Imagine from Mary’s point of view. Her “May it be willingness” was spoken months before her “I do” wedding to Joseph. The “good news” Mary heard that day was the strange news that God’s plan was to have her conceive out of wedlock. In a world of Torah law—It would scandalously appear she had broken God’s laws and ways. It will create gossip and judgement, feeling outcast and isolated, knowing in your heart you’re doing right and following God, yet feeling shunned and rejected for following God’s plan.” When she said, “May it be as the Lord says”…she must have been picturing the implications!
Joseph knew he was not the father…imagine trying the “no really, Joe…it was a God-thing…I promise, there’s no one else.” But these were serious charges…because she was engaged, she would be a sotah – suspected adulterer). The Torah, the legal code stated adultery could hold the penalty of death at the worst, public ridicule, and shame at the least. “May it be.” Villagers would taunt and ostracize her son—after all, he would be a mamzer (a derogatory Hebrew word for a child born out of wedlock). She knew Joseph’s reputation would be ruined, he would be required legally to divorce her, leaving her stranded as a single mother with no money, trying to raise the would-be messiah. These thoughts must have flashed across her mind…“May it be.” This was a woman of courageous faith. Mary’s willingness is remarkable.
God loves to trust people with his plans. God could always do it Himself, but that’s not His will or ways—His ways and plans are always to involve you, humble willing people to carry out what He is trying to accomplish. Do you realize that? God trusts you—probably more than you trust yourself. God wants to do His work through you, do you see what God’s already entrusting you with or entrusting you to do? Are you willing? May it be…?
2000 years ago, women were not seen as equals with men in their culture. Jesus would seek to change that as a rabbi with female disciples. God is with Mary and trusts her. And God is with you. God Sees and is With You! Moms who are giving up your careers to homeschool your children, God SEES and is with YOU! Women who are being paid less or treated worse than your male peers, God SEES and is with YOU too! Women around the world who are abused for being women, God sees and is with you. Often God’s story moves forward through the willingness of a woman whose faith is greater than the evils and injustices of our world. Humble willingness costs us something – just like it did Mary.
Or like the story we heard this summer from Aman Quadri, on Gateway’s Board, shared his miraculous story of coming to faith in Jesus. If you didn’t hear it— watch the message “Where God found a little muslim boy.” As certain as Aman was of Jesus being the One true God, when Jesus asked him to go public with his faith, that was hard. Aman knew it may cost him his family because of the teachings of Islam—he would be rejected by his family. That’s a big cost. And for many years, he didn’t see his family. Why would God ask so much? Because it’s those who courageously trust in God who bring Light to others. Aman’s family started coming around, and they are seeing the love and light of Jesus in Aman. But understand—this world is set against Jesus for no reason. Jesus demonstrated the love of God, taught us to sacrificially love one another, even our enemies—yet why is there so much opposition to the name of Jesus?
I was talking with Heidi Barr about that this week. You might remember her story from What’s After Life? She grew up in a Jewish home with agnostic, atheistic parents, yet she always believed and prayed to God. At 16, her horse fell on her, crushing her—she clinically died. Jesus was there with her—she instantly knew He was God, and Jesus, the One she had been praying to. Heidi knows God entrusted this experience to her, so she is writing a book about her story, and she was asking me this week—why is it so many people are against Jesus? She knows many from her family will turn against her if she tells the truth about encountering Jesus. She said, you can be Jewish and believe anything—buddhist (you can be a JuBu—all good), anything—except belief in Jesus, then you’re outcast. I reminded her why—this world is broken and evil, yes there is good, but there is also a current of evil that tries to sweep all of us along to deny God and do things against God’s will. People are just pawns. We believe lies, and we caught up doing things opposed to God. But that’s why God trusts you, and me, with His work. Because God is overcoming evil as you and I are humble and willing “May it be as you say” even if it costs us.
God Trusted Mary
God Trusted Mary with a lot, but God also trusted Aman, Heidi, and you. What has God already trusted you with? Maybe He’s trusted you with your own business, or authority, or with great influence, or with more money than most. Why has God trusted you with so much? Ever asked that? It’s always to partner with God in His work. Maybe He’s trusted you with a loving family, or the freedom of singleness, or time, or gifts, or experiences. He trusts all of us, and He asks all of us to join Him in restoring a broken world. What’s He asking you to do—will it cost you something—will you respond courageously like Mary “May it be…I’m willing?” Those people change the world.
When Jesus started his ministry, many of the religious Pharisees got set against him, to the point of wanting to kill him because they were not humbly willing, they wanted power and wealth, and Jesus threatened that. God using willing people to change the world, but evil uses pawns through lies and fear to do it’s will.
Jesus said to them, 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40.
He’s saying I am the Messiah the Old Testament prophets foretold—I give eternal life, come to me. But they refused.
They exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham?… “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself…. John 8:52-59.
When Jesus says “Before Abraham was born, “Ego Eimi” I am.” He’s quoting Yahweh when Moses asks What is Your Name, God says “Ego Eimi” “I am—the self-existent one, the uncreated one.” And Jesus was claiming that Name. Which is why they tried to stone Him for blasphemy—and it’s why they ultimately crucified him.
Last week we showed you in the Old Testament book of Daniel, the Messiah is called the Son of Man (Jesus favorite name for himself) equal to God, given all God’s authority and worship—and he will come again on the clouds. The night before Jesus was crucified.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy!” Matthew 26:63-65
Jesus claimed to be the unseen, almighty Creator God, entering into our world to Be with Us. So imagine Mary—entrusted with the birth and raising of this child—the Messiah. What gave Mary the Courage to choose willingness? What can give us that courage when God entrusts us with His work? Luke continues to tell Mary’s story. He says Mary went to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who the angel said was also pregnant with John the Baptist. When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth’s baby starts kicking and Elizabeth says “Mary you are blessed more than all women and your baby is blessed” because Gabriel, the same angel, had visited Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah as well—saying their son would be the one foretold by the prophet Malachi who would announce the coming Messiah.
Mary responds with what’s called “Mary’s Song” though I doubt she burst into song:
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Luke 1:46-56
What gave Mary her courage was her view of God. Mary saw God as a Big God who does good things for those who humbly follow him. She had a big faith in a big God. No doubt, she was recalling all the stories of the Old Testament–how in the most bleak, devastating circumstances, when Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Bathsheba—her distant relatives in the line of David—when they showed courageous faith, willing to trust, despite the cost, God came through. He is Mighty, He shows mercy, He brings down the proud arrogant, He lifts up the humble and rewards in due time. The Mighty God is God of the Humble who follow him in the midst of a broken world. But Mary’s song is a call for God’s Mighty Justice too.
Do you know that in the 1980’s in Guatamala, Mary’s Song was banned from being read in any public place? Because it’s a revolutionary song. It’s a cry for God’s justice—to bring down the proud, to dethrone the powers that oppress the hungry and get rich off the poor. The oppressive Guatemalan government was threatened by the unifying hope of Mary’s Song for the oppressed—so they banned it!
We see Mary as this meek, passive, quiet Christmas figurine, but Mary’s song was a courageous call for revolution in a broken, evil world. Mary’s song is that of an activist. That was her hope—the overthrow of the evil kingdoms of her world. At the time, King Herod was ruling. He was a brutal despot who overtaxed the poor, oppressed the Jewish people, murdered at will–slaughtered all his own sons out of paranoia. When he got news that a King of the Jews, Jesus, had been born in Bethlehem, he had every male baby slaughtered. Mary’s song a cry of revolution—Herod the proud and Caesar will be dethroned, brought down, My Son the Messiah will reign forever and bring justice and goodness—the Mighty God will set things right. That’s where Mary found her courage—in the hope of God’s character. That’s still God’s Character today…but you, his church, are his revolutionary plan.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church…”. The church of Jesus is made up of all who trust in Him, and He trusts in you to be His Body, working together as coordinated parts of One Body, following His Lead doing His Work in this world. – Colossians 1:15-20
God Trusts Us
You know friends, Covid feels like it’s pushed pause on life—so many are waiting, waiting for things to go back to normal. And many are hurting—for many reasons in this season—but while many are giving up, we as a church having been Giving More. Covid has not stopped church—it stopped Sundays in a location—but it hasn’t stopped you, Jesus’ church.
Check out a quick video overview of some of what we have done together:
I’ve been to most of those places, as have many of you, serving alongside our partners. And in this time of Greatest Need, God has Trusted us, His Church, to meeting needs in a hurting world—thanks to all who give and serve, this year: Close to 10,000 people now watch these Inspire services every month, from all 50 States, in 75 Countries—we’ve been able to bring God’s Hope around the globe in this season. Plus 622+ kids and students have been invested in weekly. 1400+ in groups rather than isolated, we’ve connected 40% more people this year—and had more find freedom in recovery than last year. During Covid our church gave 26,000 free What’s After books to bring proof of Life after Death and the hope of Gospel to quell the fears of our friends and neighbors.
We’ve met Needs of the Most Vulnerable in our city – 15,000 meals distributed by Gateway during Covid, 240 backpacks you gave for Refugee kids for school, 35 Networks with 727 volunteers have been serving everywhere from (Hope Clinic (where free medical care is given), Refugee meals, Austin Disaster Relief, Racial Reconciliation, our Food Pantries at 3 campuses and much more you’ve done to serve needs during Covid.
And through our Global Partners – in India 8500 people got food—people in dire need; in Burundi Africa, 12,000 got food and 5000 heard the message of Jesus during Covid. In Haiti, Guatemala, and the DR 45,000 people received Covid support—these are people in absolute survival-mode. We got 3000 bibles into a Middle Eastern country, helped start 300 churches in Nepal. You share in what our partners do because just like Gateway can’t do this without your investment and time, our Partners can’t meet needs of the most vulnerable without partners like us. You are Jesus Body, He trusts us to do His work with him. I just want to thank you, all of you who have given of your time, your money, your prayers—when God asks, you’ve said “May it be as you say…I’m willing.”
Financially when Covid hit, we had to cut 20% of our budget as giving decreased, yet we were able to cut expenses and re-prioritize and meet even more needs. Some of you have lost jobs and it’s a tough season, some of you still have jobs or have even seen a windfall in this season. On behalf of what we’re all doing together—if God has trusted you with more, give generously here at Year End so we can do even more in 2021. I have a feeling God’s going to trust us with more—because more needs are coming—more opportunity is coming, to show people the character of a God who loves us and gave Himself for us—that’s Christmas.