I don’t remember exactly what year I started “buying” Christmas presents for my family, but I think it was sometime in late elementary school. I still remember being at Washington Park Mall in Bartlesville with about $30 in my pocket and an hour on my watch to complete the task of buying a present for my mom, dad, and sister. I don’t remember what I got my dad and sister that day, but for some reason, I still remember the little music box I got my mom. I think it is still somewhere on a shelf in the Robinson household at Christmas time. It played Christmas music while a little teddy bear spun in circles while riding a rocking horse. . . I think it cost $12 but it looked like a million bucks to me.
Now, how does a 10 year old have funds to buy Christmas presents? At that time in my life I did not have a job, and drew no salary. In order for me to purchase anything I had to be given money to participate in the process. My parents wanted me to learn the value of giving, so they resourced my generosity for Christmas 1983.
I was thinking about this today as I read Luke 1. In these verses, a 13 year old Mary is about to give the greatest Christmas gift the world had ever seen . . . Jesus! But in order for Mary to give the gift of the baby Jesus to the world, she needed to be resourced by her heavenly Father. That occurred in Luke 1:26-38 as we saw yesterday. However, in order for Mary to have enough resources to not just conceive, but survive until delivery of “the Gift,” God would need to give her even more “funds.” This provision is laid out in Luke 1:39-45, 56:
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” . . . And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”
These verses begin “in those days.” “Those days” were the days following the angelic proclamation that Mary would birth the Son of God and the days immediately following Mary actually becoming pregnant with Jesus Christ. In “those days” Mary left Nazareth and headed south to the home of her cousins Zechariah and Elizabeth. At first glance, this seems like a rather mundane fact, but a little more examination lets us see that Mary stayed at Zechariah’s house for three months! That is quite a long visit. While the text is not completely clear on this fact, it is very possible that Mary took off for the hills to find a “safe house” in which to lay low while people adjusted to the fact that she was pregnant.
In the first century, being pregnant outside of marriage was not socially acceptable at all. It would have brought dishonor to her betrothed, Joseph, and his family, as well as her own family. Again, it would be assumed that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph during their engagement, and the penalty for this promiscuity could very well have been death by stoning. We have all heard at how news spreads around small towns with amazing speed, and I am guessing that it did not take long for news of Mary’s pregnancy to be known in most every corner of town. Additionally, it obviously took Joseph a little while (and an angelic visit of his own — see next Monday’s post) to come to grips with what was really going on. All this added up to Nazareth not being a safe place for Mary to nest during pregnancy, so she headed south to stay with relatives while she waited for the storm to blow over. Isn’t it amazing to see how many ways (humanly speaking) that the Christmas story was almost over before it started?
Well, our Heavenly Father wanted Mary to be a part of giving this first Christmas gift, so He resourced her with a safe house during her first trimester. Not only did she have a place to go, but that place was full of gracious affirmations that God was not just in this situation, but indeed inside her womb. Elizabeth’s unborn son (John) lept in the womb at the presence of Mary and unborn Jesus, and Elizabeth’s encouraging words would have been balm to Mary’s soul. God gave Mary an encouraging and safe place to get used to the notion that she would deliver Messiah 9 months later.
There is great encouragement in this story for us as well. Whatever God calls us to do in life and ministry, He will resource. The spiritual power, divine encouragement, and opportunities we seek are all given to us by our Heavenly Father according to His plan.
This Christmas, many of you will resource your kids so they can give a Christmas gift. As you do, remember the resources God gave to Mary, and the resources He is giving to you each day.