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But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” - Luke 1:30-31 (NIV)
My youngest was born on Christmas day. It was a wild not-so-silent morning as we rushed the three older kids to open their presents while mom labored in the corner, bending over the sofa and celebrating their gifts while hiding each little grimace of pain. And while Rosie was the fourth child in the litter of Purvis kids, a Christmas labor was certainly a new thing for us. In fact, that wasn’t the only first she threw at Angie and me.
She was our first unplanned pregnancy. The other three kids fit perfectly into the timeline of family and financial planning. Then, all of a sudden, Angie locked her keys in the car. That’s the tell-tale sign of pregnancy-brain for my beautiful wife. Some ladies go to the pharmacy to buy a pregnancy test. We’d just wait for Angie to lock the keys in the car and then we’d know.
All that being said, I was in shock. I loved being a dad and was excited to have another kid. But because I didn’t plan for it, my brain spun out of control. I had been married for eight years. I’d already experienced childbirth (as an observer, mind you. Angie did all the heavy lifting there!). My experience was nowhere close to the bewilderment that Mary would have experienced that night. Yet, Mary’s resolve in this situation puts her amazing faith on display.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” - Luke 1:28 (NIV)
Normally, I like to open a devo with a fun little quip that makes me giggle or puts a smile on my face (and hopefully yours). Sorry, folks, I ain’t got one of those today. Today, I wanted to dwell on one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever gone through in my life. Yesterday, I talked about how my sweet baby, Rosie, was born on Christmas Day. Well, 24 hours after she popped into the world with great vigor, we got some tough news. “Your little girl’s heart isn’t functioning as it should. We’re moving her to the NICU at UK and calling in a pediatric cardiologist. But it looks like heart surgery is imminently in her future.”
What was a joyous celebration became a season of terror and worry. For nearly two weeks we waited for all the paperwork to be filled out, the doctors to be scheduled, and the surgery to finally take place. It was sheer and utter misery. I’ll spare you the details as you can probably assume the worst and it’d be fairly accurate. But I’ll jump to this: We’re just a couple weeks away from Christmas Day, when we’ll celebrate a completely healthy little girl’s seventh birthday. Rosie’s 100% now, folks. Surgeons are good, God is great, and He taught us a lot through that pain.
But what about Mary? The angel said, “...you are highly favored!” But Mary’s little boy grew up being ridiculed, debated, doubted, and, eventually, murdered. Favored? In a worldly or even parental context, I don’t think so. Her favor was something greater, though. There was suffering, yes. But the eternity with her Son would have made her baby boy’s catastrophic life story all worth it. Thankfully, Mary was thinking beyond this lifetime.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” - Luke 1:34 (NIV)
My first date with Angie was on April 12, 2003. On June 12, that same year, I bent down on one knee and asked her to marry me. Yep. Two months after our first date we were engaged. Then, we were married in August, a mere two months after that. Some people thought we were crazy. A few thought we were madly in love. Most, though, assumed Angie was pregnant.
Full disclosure here, folks, we were very extremely pure during our dating and engagement. Those accusations of pregnancy couldn’t have been more inaccurate. Normally, I’d just say, “Haters gonna hate.” But those accusations stung. Our purity was sacred to us and it was painful to have that called into question. I learned a lot about sensitivity as I navigated those conversations with those who called our integrity into question.
The truth about our hasty pre-marriage experience? Well, we loved one another and knew it was God’s will. But God’s will isn’t always evident to everyone. So it can cause pain. In John’s account of Jesus’ life he references a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus refers to God as his “Father,” and the Pharisees used it as an opportunity to take a jab. “We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself." Did you catch that? “Jesus, we know you were conceived out of wedlock, but we come from better stock than that.” Thirty-something years later and they were still using it as an arrow to aim at Jesus’ mom.
Here’s the truth; No one believed the virgin birth story until after the resurrection. They had spent thirty-something years whispering about Mary behind her back. But the only thing that really mattered was what happened in these conversations between Mary and God. His will trumped the whispers of mankind.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” - Luke 1:38 (NIV)
Let’s go back to the moment that I asked Angie for her hand in marriage. But first, let me give you context. If you didn’t read yesterday’s devo, you should know that we’d only been dating for two months. Also, it’s very pertinent to realize that, as I was kneeling there with that ring in my hand, I didn’t have a job. In fact, I had just been fired by a church. Who gets fired from a church?! Well, me. Want more context? That proposal was in the back of a pickup truck. There wasn’t skywriting or a candlelit dinner. It was in the back of my dirty ol’ Tacoma. Lastly, for any of you who are lucky enough to have laid eyes on my beautiful wife, you’ve seen that she’s out of my league altogether. Was I nervous she might say no? ABSOLUTELY! She had every reason to say no. It was a ridiculous request. But she said yes and everything changed.
Frederick Buechner wrote a book of character sketches from people of the Bible. He writes this fictional firsthand account of the angel Gabriel as he encounters Mary:
“She struck him as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child. But he had been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it. He told her what the child was to be named, who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. 'You mustn't be afraid, Mary,' he said. As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn't notice that beneath the great golden wings, he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of Creation hung on the answer of a young girl."
Mary, this teenage girl with very little life experience was presented with God’s gut-wrenching calling and common sense would make anyone assume she’d turn it down. But she said yes and everything changed.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words…” - Luke 1:28-29 (NIV)
Allow me to vent; my wife and I have two vehicles. A couple weeks ago her van broke down and we took it to get it fixed. Three days later, my truck breaks down. So we get that fixed. I picked it up yesterday. This afternoon my wife calls and the van’s broken down again. So I get to take it back to the mechanic in the morning. I’m ready to start searching Craigslist for a horse and buggy. But that’s not what today’s devo is about. To own a car is to have car troubles. It’s just the way it goes. But here’s my point…
I have two coworkers (and good friends), Neil and Will, who live near me. And for the last couple weeks, every time they get a text or phone call from me, I’m sure they’re thinking, “It’s Derrick. He must need a ride.” And, truthfully, they’re correct in that assumption. I’m that guy for Neil and Will. I try to vary my phrasing to not be too transparent.
“Can I snag a ride on the way in?”
“Care if I bum a lift home?”
“Can I grab shotgun at 5?”
But they see through that thin veil. When I’m calling, it’s because I’m in need.
Mary’s thoughts are interesting when Luke writes that she was “troubled” by the angel’s words. It’s like she hears a big, positive greeting from Gabriel but responds with, “Yeah, but what does he really want?” People often treat God’s requests the same way they’d treat a needy friend who’s trying to bum a ride. “If I ignore this text, I can pretend like I didn’t see it and I’m off the hook.” And while Mary’s initial reaction may read the same way, her response wasn’t at all. She took the challenge and the world changed forever.