I have a small nativity set that my husband bought for me our first Christmas together.
This little set was in our first apartment as newlyweds. Next, it was proudly displayed on a shelf in our first home. Our girls’ tiny hands played with baby Jesus and with each passing year, they looked forward to pulling out the precious figurines.
When we moved overseas, most of our Christmas things were packed away in storage but I couldn’t leave my little nativity set behind. I wrapped each one in paper and put them in a bin to fly across the ocean. My nativity set made the trek to France and then, to West Africa with us.
Braving the heat and humidity, the dust and the bugs, the nativity was a part of each Christmas there.
Finally, in the last year, these treasured figurines were once again wrapped in paper, placed in a bin, and flown to a new home in South Africa where they currently sit on a cabinet near the Christmas tree, cozy, homey and beautiful.
As I glimpse at their tiny faces, I often wonder about Mary’s real thoughts and real emotions in that moment.
A young girl
A holy pregnancy
A million unanswerable questions
A trip to see family in another town
A new husband
A long journey with uncomfortable transportation
A small list of worldly possessions
A lonely labor and delivery in rough conditions
A small group of visitors from another land
A fear for her little family
A move to a new country
A divine call by the Most High
When I ponder what her life must have looked like in those years. Marriage, motherhood, ministry and moving… all painfully and wonderfully familiar to me.
From the moment the angel spoke, her life was full of changing circumstances and surroundings. She experienced goodbyes, loneliness, transition, fear, weakness, and less than ideal moments.
As I sit here in South Africa, with my twinkling Christmas tree next to me, I consider her life, her circumstances, and her situation. I imagine her first response to the call of God, her gasp at an unbelievable challenge, and her deep feelings of inadequacy to complete the task.
I see her tears of difficulty, joy, and pain, sensing her questions and uncertainty.
I somehow understand the immense feelings she must have experienced with each passing, unplanned challenge. The roadblocks, uncomfortable travels, unnecessary expenses and desperately long journeys.
Mary, a normal woman like us, allowed God to do something amazing and unprecedented in her heart.
She grew into a mighty woman in spite of great transition, deep loss and drastic changes.
Her heart repeatedly pondered the call of God and she said yes every time. She made a daily choice to raise the Son of God, a daily choice to walk out the life that God had planned for her to live.
That, my friends, is part of the miracle of Christmas, an often untold miracle of Christmas.
The miracle of Mary, living the life God had prepared for her. Mary walking a difficult path yet obeying God through the challenge, transition and loneliness.
Mary saying yes in spite of cultural difficulties and unknown risks while navigating marriage and motherhood during a season of great stress.
Mary living a miracle.
A miracle that gives us hope wherever we sit in the world today.
Hope when the path that we’re walking isn’t easy. Hope when we’re changing cultures, languages, homes, and countries. Courage when the risks are real, overwhelming, and growing by the day.
But we can see, through pondering Mary’s life, that we will make it through.
Her story is an example of the personal growth that can happen as we choose obedience and allow the Holy Spirit to carve a road where there is no clear or easy path.
Just like he did for Mary and Joseph, God will give us visions and dreams to guide us. He will speak words of love and provide places of rest. He will send friends to walk with us. He will finish the work he began in us.
He is with us in this moment and he promises to be with us through every trial and storm.
He is the same God who called Mary and asked her to live an unimaginable life, the same God who gently guided Mary through the transitions and moves and changes.
He is the same God who gave her the strength to watch her Son give His life for the world.
Her life is miraculous, and that miracle is true for you and for me.
As I finish typing my thoughts of Mary, I’m listening to a new version of an old song.
As we think about her life, as we learn from her quiet strength and her everyday obedience, is it possible that maybe the Holy Spirit really did whisper questions to her heart?
Maybe not at the moment of Jesus’ birth (as is often contested about this song) but over the years, as he grew and became a man, did the Holy Spirit encourage her and fill her with hope by reminding her who He was?
“Mary, do you know? Do you remember who I’ve called you to raise? Do you feel the purpose? Can you see me at work in this struggle?”
And, maybe the Holy Spirit is asking you, asking me, “Daughter, do you know? Do you realize who I’ve called you to raise? to reach? to teach? to disciple? Can you raise your eyes above the difficult circumstance and see the miracle I’m working through your life? Do you remember? Do you see the eternal decisions and life changing things I’m doing in and around you? Will you let me keep working through you? Beloved daughter, do you know?”
We know Mary did know many things. She knew she held the Son of God. In the same way, we knew the call we answered, the mission we were asked to fulfill.
But as Mary couldn’t have possibly known all that obedience would require of her, neither do we.
Yet, we walk in the faith, in the miracle, in the knowledge that the One inside of us is greater than anything we face. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is power and truth and life and love, holding and keeping us until he returns.
Like or dislike the song, can you see these questions being asked to Mary at some point in her life? Can you see how the gentle reminder of each question would encourage her as a woman in ministry, motherhood and marriage?
Do you need to open your heart to these questions in your own overseas journey?
Do you know the One who is inside of you? Do you remember the power that lives in you?
How does the knowledge that the Son of God is with you help you in this season?
Image submitted by Jenilee Goodwin