"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.
"May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38 NIV).
"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the
Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife"
Dr. Steve Allison and I were asked to conduct a workshop for the Pan European Lectures earlier this month. Steve decided to talk about the marriage literature - what we know that makes up a good marriage/family. I was to present the spiritual elements as it applied to expatriates living abroad on a special mission. Until I began this preparation, I never realized how much expatriate evangelists are like Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph were two ordinary people called by God to do extraordinary things.
When Mary received her call to be the mother of our Lord, she answered the call and immediately left home to be with her cousin, Elizabeth. Immediately, Elizabeth, upon seeing Mary, confirmed her call by saying, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished." She remained with Elizabeth three months. She was with people who affirmed her and encouraged her. Mary was doing what was right. I'm sure Mary was a great help to Elizabeth, as well, as Elizabeth was an older woman bearing her first child. If she stayed until John's birth, she also got to experience the miracle of Zacharias' returned ability to speak. Mary must have been very affirmed in her belief about God's providential care. This would prepare her for what was to come.
When Mary returns to Nazareth, she is three months pregnant. She faces the disbelief of others, even by those who love her. God intervenes once again. Not only has Mary received the call of God, God also calls her betrothed, Joseph. What an extraordinary man - he is immediately obedient to the call. He brings Mary into his home as his wife.
No one knows exactly what God will require of us when we heed His call. I'm sure Mary and Joseph never thought they would do the things they did or go the places they went because they said, "Yes," to God. Like expatriates, Mary gives birth in a strange place, without family nearby. While in strange places, they entertain strangers from every walk of life - shepherds and Eastern kings. They run to foreign countries with their children and learn different languages and stay until they hear God's call that it is time to leave. Expatriate parents can relate to Mary and Joseph not understanding Jesus remaining behind to debate with the religious clergy of the day without regard to their anxiety. Like Jesus, expatriate kids have their feet in different worlds at the same time and understand all of them. Their children, being third culture, learn to appreciate peoples of all cultures. You can see Jesus' great affection for his mother as Jesus begins to live independently of her by fulfilling her request for more wine at a wedding, even though he chides her a bit by saying, "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" (John 2:4). Expatriate parents find they are pretty proud of their kids and know they can do a lot of things other children can't!
Max Lucado has had some wonderful thoughts about Jesus becoming human - that Jesus would become an embryo and develop in a womb and be born in a stable - are amazing facts. This very act of becoming human has placed God's big stamp of approval on familes. He trusted his own son to a human family. Jesus taught a lot of things about family. He said we are not to place it above our love for God, he promised that those who heard his call and left family would have family wherever they go. Yet Jesus always approved of family. He chastised the Pharisees and Lawyers for finding a way to keep their money to themselves instead of using it to care for their parents. His great respect for his mother, caused him to ask his good friend, John, to care for her as he was dying.
Mary and Joseph heard God's call and though they underwent harsh times: giving birth far from home without family, going to the temple at the time of purification alone, even being pursued by the henchmen of a pathological, narcisistic king, who wanted to kill their child, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night to a foreign country, God sent people to surprise and comfort Mary and Joseph. God sent shepherds to celebrate their child's birth. He sent them two older prophets to assure them that they had really heard God's call. He sent kings with gifts (a baby shower?) and His presence was always with them (dreams).
As expatriates on a mission of God, I think if we could ask Mary and Joseph, "Would you rather have had an ordinary life and always stayed home near family instead of this sometimes scandalous, sometimes dangerous, often poor, not sure what tomorrow would bring, sometimes lonely life?" we would hear them say, "We wouldn't trade our lives for anything."
God bless and love's prayers,