A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

December 27, 2021

"Mary Kept All These Things In Her Heart..."

The anticipation, joy, and busy experience of Christmas Day is now over. For those of us who are believers in Christ, our souls and spirits have rejoiced that Jesus, the Son of God, chose to be born as a human baby; bringing the Light of God into the darkness of this world. For a few short weeks of the year, we look forward to this celebration, and are filled with an inner peace and happiness that obscures [for a moment in time] the reality of just how dark the world has become. But how many of us are now experiencing an emotional letdown or disappointment as we once again face coming to terms with what might be the harsh realities of our lives?  

It's an age-old dilemma. How can we go from one day, feeling jubilation over our spiritual victory in the Christ child, to the next day feeling as if the bottom has dropped out of that hope? Well, let me suggest a new way to deal with the doldrums of the holiday. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Contemplate her excitement and anticipation of miraculously conceiving the Son of God; of hearing the angel Gabriel tell her, "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. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” In the Old Testament, the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be the "Son of God", but He is also referred to as  "the Son of David". So, as young and confusing as it might have been for this young woman, she received Gabriel's proclamation that "the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God." And the Bible finishes Gabriel's declaration with these words: "For the word of God will never fail". Some manuscripts translate this to say, "For nothing is impossible with God". 

So, the Bible then shares Mary's words of praise for YHWH, thanking Him for finding her worthy of such favor and declaring all "the great things" He has done for her and His servant Israel, "For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and His children forever". Imagine how hopeful she must have been that the long wait for the Messiah was over and how her personal circumstances and those of her people would soon change! I believe we share in that same hope and joy as we celebrate that long ago birth and what it means to us. We share in the amazement and wonderment of the shepherds and the Wise Men from the East, to whom it was also revealed that the perfect Shepherd of Israel was to be born in Bethlehem. Even the heavens declared His royal birth, as a star guided them to the manger.

Yet, within a few days of the birth of that holy child, it must have become apparent to Mary that the world was not going to receive her baby with open arms. Both the Wise Men and Joseph received dreams from God that the child was in danger. So Joseph bundled up his young wife and baby and they escaped to Egypt as King Herod, the vassal of the Roman Empire, sought to kill Jesus because He threatened Herod's power and Rome's control of Judah. Having escaped Herod's purge of newborn baby boys, it would be two years before Joseph heard from God that it was safe for his family to return to their homeland. 

What must Mary have been thinking? It was obvious that the life of her child -- the Son of the Most High God -- was in danger! It is clear that she would have been fearful. But did she also have doubts about the message she received from Gabriel? Did she question what the future was going to look like? How long was she able to hang on to the hope that she would yet see her child take his rightful place as King of the Jews? We know that she was never able to see her son sit on the earthly throne of David, and had to witness the Roman Empire not only crucify her son, but continue to rule Israel throughout her lifetime. But for modern Christians who are experiencing the too-common letdown after the highs of Christmas, perhaps we can contemplate Mary's experience and learn from how she responded to the fears, disappointments and devastation in her world.

From the beginning, Mary knew the path that God called her to was not going to be an easy one. She would become pregnant before she was married, and she was forced to leave her homeland, only to return to the backwaters of the land of Israel; to Nazareth, a hamlet in Galilee -- certainly not the center of the powerful Jerusalem where it was expected the Messiah would return and rule from His earthly throne. She had very real fears about the state of the world, and rightfully so. So do we! But like Mary, despite our fears, we can rely on the promises of God for our purpose here on earth. Our desire to serve God and His kingdom on earth must become greater than our fears of this world. Like Mary, we must keep moving forward, trusting that God will lead us and deliver on His promises for us -- no matter what the world may look like.

I can only imagine the shock Mary must have felt after the angel Gabriel told her the power of the Most High would overshadow her and she would conceive the Son of God! All the doubts and fears of that reality must have swept over her, but what was her response? She praised God for His faithfulness in her life, and that is something that I fervently believe is the answer to our post-Christmas blues! Read Mary's "Song of Praise" in Luke 1:46-55. "He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him." There is power in our praise! So, if you are experiencing any kind of despair or depression, I urge you to encourage and strengthen your spirit, as Mary did, and let your words of praise sustain you through whatever we may experience in the coming weeks, months, or years.

Mary's purpose in the life of Jesus carried a huge weight and responsibility. It was also a source of what must have been intolerable pain and suffering. She watched her son be ridiculed, face religious persecution, and ultimately die on the Cross, a most undignified and excruciating death for a Messiah. The agony she must have felt watching her son suffer! She knew the promises of God and still believed them to be true; but it was quite obvious she would not personally witness them. Each Christmas season, we celebrate that same hope in the victory of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Yet we are seeing the world surrender to the Evil that once tried to defeat Him. We continue to believe in the promise that He is seated on His throne in Heaven, and will one day return to secure His Kingdom here on earth. But we, too, face the reality that we may see more suffering and death before that reality happens, and there is no guarantee that it will be in our lifetime. So, like Mary, in our suffering [whether physical or spiritual], we must learn to fully depend and lean on God. He is our way through the morass of evil that threatens to surround us. We must not let our personal suffering consume us, but rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, and carry us through the sorrows and suffering. I believe God was a consistent presence in Mary's life, and He must be so in ours.

Once Mary realized that the part she played in God's plan was not going to come as easily as she might have imagined, it was necessary for her to trust God in her path of the unknown. It goes without saying that we, too, are in uncharted territory at this time in history. We've never faced uncertainties and fears such as what we are seeing on the horizon. It is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate the world and find "safe harbor" in anything but God, the Father; Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit. Mary had limited information and control over how God would use her. She just simply trusted Him with all her heart, and was willing to follow the path He set before her. We can do that, too, as we emerge from the warmth of the Christmas cocoon into the cold reality of a threatening world. Trust in Him, fully and completely!

Finally, Mary made a decision to surrender her life and the life of her child to God's will. We can make the decision that even though every day cannot be like Christmas, we can surrender the day to God's will for us, not trying to control our purpose, but letting Him, in His sovereignty, direct us to what will please and serve Him. We need to have the courage to admit that He knows what's best for us and His plan, and then surrender every aspect of our lives to Him. It won't be easy, as Mary discovered, but I pray that we each step into her example of greater trust and surrender, as we play our part in God's restoration of the world.

So, in finishing, I just want to encourage everyone to rest in the hope that Christmas offers. Do not let the uncertainty and fears of this crazy world divert you from the purpose God has for you. Let us rise above the post-holiday melancholy and enter a time of renewed hope in the trustworthy, faithful, consistent, and never-ending will of God to lead us and direct us to victory. I believe in Him, and I believe in our capacity to surrender to Him, rather than our fears and despondency. Praise Him, now and forever more!

Deuteronomy 31:8     Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.    

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