What Did Being Blessed Look Like On Mary?

What does being blessed look like? Let’s see what it might have looked like in Mary’s life.

In Luke 1:29-35 a young Jewish virgin is told by an angel that she has been chosen for something really important. Gabriel greets Mary with some powerful words of affirmation:

“Hail, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”

Favored? God is with her? Blessed among women? This is a lot to take in. Should she believe it? What does Gabriel look like? How does he approach Mary? Does he hover in the air in a glistening white garment? Or does he just walk up and say, “Hi! I’m an angel. I have a very cool message for you.” We aren’t told, but whatever the case, Mary is afraid.

The angel tells her not to fear; she is going to have a son who will be called Jesus. He will be the Son of the Most High God. Mary doesn’t dispute the angel’s claim, but she needs more information. She knows how babies are made, so she asks the angel, “How can this happen since I’m a virgin?”

The angel tells her something that still confuses most people.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”

I’m sure Mary has no idea how it is all going to come about, but she tells the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word.” (verse 38) She signs the bottom line. She’s in. The angel said she is blessed. So that’s good, right?

But Mary has no idea at this time what “blessed” is going to look like in her life.
She probably gets her first clue when she misses her period and tells her mother and father the joyous news. How do you think they take it?

And then she has to tell her betrothed, Joseph. Does he believe her? No.

He is going to divorce her privately, not wanting her to be stoned as an adulteress. Betrothals are serious business. Mary is technically Joseph’s wife, but he is supposed to wait until after the wedding ceremony to exercise his marital privileges. People will think he didn’t wait! He will be looked down on by the entire community for his lack of self-control if he doesn’t divorce her. And he did use self-control! He did wait!

He loves Mary. He doesn’t want to see her hurt. But she has to have been with another man. His heart is broken.

Fortunately for Mary, the same angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. That she has conceived the child by the Holy Ghost.

The “Blessings” Continue

Mary gives birth in a cave in the midst of dung and dirty straw, with no midwife and no mother. Forty days after her child is born, Mary and her husband go to Jerusalem for her purification and to present her first-born son as the law prescribes.

Living in Jerusalem is a very old man named Simeon who has heard the voice of God telling him that he will not die until he sees the Lord’s anointed one. When Mary and Joseph go to the temple with baby Jesus to present the sacrifice, Simeon is there. He knows by the Spirit that this is the one he has been waiting for. He takes Mary’s baby into his arms and thanks God, saying that now he can die in peace because he has seen the salvation of the Lord.

He tells Mary that her child will cause “many in Israel to fall and others to stand. The child will be a warning sign. Many people will reject him. And you, Mary, will suffer as though you have been stabbed by a dagger…”

I imagine Mary wants to say, “Wait a minute! The angel said I would be blessed! This doesn’t sound like a blessing to me!” But it doesn’t stop. Sometime before Jesus is two years old, Mary and her husband flee to Egypt because a maniacal king is out to kill her child. When the king dies and she returns to Nazareth, she is probably looked down upon by the people of her community. Do you think they believe her story? I doubt it. She watches her mother and father suffer the shame of a daughter who allowed her betrothed husband to sleep with her before the proper time.

But all of these things are minor compared with what is to come.

Mary’s son is also the Son of God. She knows that. But she is his mother. She nursed him at her breast, changed his diapers, taught him how to go in the chamber pot. Her heart is knit with his.

The things Simeon told her are starting to come to pass. He’s in trouble with the religious leaders. Many people have followed him but many are rejecting him. Mary is trying not to be afraid, but it’s hard. Things are getting worse. They are calling him a blasphemer. Her Jesus, who has never broken one of his Father’s commandments, a blasphemer? They beat him within an inch of his life. They’ve made up their minds. They’re going to kill him.

Mary stands beneath a rugged cross while her son is dying for a people who are jeering him. I’m a mother, and I dare say she doesn’t take her eyes off of Jesus for more than a few blinks. She watches him suffer because she’s his mother, and she has to be with him. None of this feels like a blessing.

After three days and nights in the grave, the son that God and Mary share rises from the dead.

She rejoices with his followers. He is risen! She knows that even she needed her son’s shed blood to pay the price for her sins. She understands that. She believes. But the dagger still twists in her heart. She misses him, oh, so much. She longs for his arms around her. For the kiss on her cheek. For his eyes which shine with love for her. She cries, not because she wishes he hadn’t gone to the cross, but simply because she’s his mother, even if he is the Son of God.

A note from Marilyn:

Mary truly was blessed among women, but blessings don’t always look like we think they should. Can we look behind our heartaches and trials and see God has a blessing hidden there? He does.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…

At this most difficult Christmas season, may we all remember why Jesus came and that He has promised He will come again.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.