Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 8: Difficult Conversations
Lk 1:26 God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
Mt 1:20 an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife
(Additional Readings: Lk 1:26-38, Mt 1:18-25)
Continuing: We said in the previous meditation that we have arrived at that year in history when three people have angelic encounters, two face to face and one in a dream. Zechariah was the first of the two face to face encounters; Mary is the second. What we said in respect of Zechariah, about life going on without surprises and thus lowering expectations, must surely be true of this young teenage girl, but after that her youthful response is much different from the aged priest.
An Unusual Conversation: When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary he does not ask permission, he tells Mary what WILL happen. Look at all the positive words in what he says: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Lk 1:30-33) We often say God never forces His will on people but this seems a rather straight forward declaration of what He is going to do. Mary’s only question is how this can come about. After he explains how, she simply responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (v.38)
God knows His people: I think the answer to my implied question above is very simple: God knows His people and therefore knows how we will respond and He knows Mary’s heart and knows it is open to whatever He has for her. It perhaps raises a further question: does God instruct where there will be rejection or disobedience? Well, looking at the biblical record, clearly yes. Jonah is another example who, like Zechariah needed a nudge from circumstances. There are others in the Old Testament who were told things but refused them (Eve has to be the classic example!).
So yes, God knows our hearts but if Jonah or Zechariah are valid examples, then He also knows that some of us just need a nudge in the right direction to get us there. So why does He persevere like this? Is it that He knows our potential, knows what we are capable of, even if we do need quite of lot of encouragement? Joseph in the third of the angelic encounters was a righteous young man and that righteousness almost got in the way. It needed a dream – yes, just a dream – to get him on side. In fact Joseph was so open to the Lord that four times the Lord gave him a dream to guide him. (1:20, 2:13,19,22) What is it, I wonder, that we need to get us on side, into the flow of the ongoing activity of the Lord? Sometimes it is just encouragement from a partner or friend, sometimes it comes when reading His word or hearing it preached, sometimes it comes through circumstances, but however it comes, remember, its goal is to move us on in the will and purposes of God. Let’s make sure we do that.
Let’s Pray: “Lord, yesterday I confessed to you that I find this matter of calling to be scary, but I thank you that you know each one of us uniquely and you know our potential and you know what ‘encouragements’ we each need to reach that potential. Thank you that you have unique plans and purposes for me (Eph 2:10) and, even though I stumble, you see my heart’s desire to serve you and so you will get me there, you will see me through to completion of your plans for me (Phil 1:6). Lord please do it. Amen.”