Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 18

The Angel Visits Mary and Joseph

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Today's Text: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Job 33:4

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25, Job 33:4

My flight was canceled—for the seventh time that day. What I’d planned to be a refreshing girls trip, had quickly spun into a stress-filled travel debacle. I had set my heart on this trip, buying a ticket guaranteeing (or so I believed) my passage from Point A to Point B. But the weather and the airlines had different plans for me. I’m not going to lie; it’s hard for me to stay positive when my expectations start falling apart. And based on the mood in the airport that day, I’d guess most people don’t react well to unwanted change.

A delayed vacation is such a little thing compared to, say, the unexpected pregnancy of a virgin. I used to think it was strange that Mary was afraid when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. He’s an angel, after all. Shouldn’t she be amazed or awestruck? While fear is hardly an uncommon reaction to encountering angels in the Bible (Matthew 1:19-25; Luke 2:8-20), Mary’s story leads me to believe that perhaps angels do not appear like the gentle white-clothed, feather-singed, harp-carrying creatures we’ve imagined them to be.

Now try to imagine a young, teenage girl with a formidable creature appearing before her, saying that, while there is no logical or scientific reason she should be pregnant, indeed she is! This makes it seem quite natural for Mary to respond with fear and then disbelief. And so she asks the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). She’s basically saying, This cannot be happening—can it? Who hasn’t felt the same way at some point or another?

What’s unique about Mary’s reaction is that she moves from fear of the angel, to disbelief of the situation, and then on to obedience to her God. I don’t know about you, but I tend to move from fear to disbelief to frustration to defeat—only landing on obedience after a long internal struggle. Mary doesn’t do that. She doesn’t tell God He will have to take her kicking and screaming into His will. Lo and behold, her betrothed Joseph follows suit—his heart moving from fear to disbelief and, ultimately, to obedience.

I think the secret to Mary and Joseph’s faithful response lies in their true identity. It’s significant that after the angel Gabriel breaks the shocking news, Mary quickly identifies herself as “the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). She could have objected to God’s will, aligning herself with other identities instead, arguing, “But I’m a virgin!” or “I’m un-wed!” or “I’m still young!” All of those things were true, but Mary’s truest identity came from her relationship with God.

When we fight the will of God, aren’t we just prioritizing another identity over the one He’s given us? In our hearts, aren’t we quietly saying that we want to be lord over our own lives, rather than abiding with Him as His faithful servant? Thankfully, we can gladly choose the role of God’s servant because we know the Lord is a far better and more gracious ruler than we could ever be to ourselves.

Instead of struggling against the good things God wants to do in and through our lives, let us imitate Mary’s reaction to a shocking and wild calling. Even better, let us emulate the obedience of Jesus Himself before His Father (Luke 22:41-42). Although fear and disbelief naturally arise, let us lean into the Lord’s calling with obedience. Only then will we find the peace that can only come from walking in relationship with the Most High.
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Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

  • “let it be to me according to your word.” – these are the words that Mary spake and it shows us she is just being obedient – asking God to do whatever it is according to the word the angel just gave her. I don’t always willingly accept the will. I was telling others it’s been 3 years in the making for me to do something Gods been telling me to do. And it has totally been because of fear that I am not good enough although he called me to it. Moses wrestled through the motions of giving God excuse after excuse of why He wasn’t the man for the job and with each excuse God showed Him a way out of that excuse. I can be like this and I’m so thankful for this study because it makes me recognize when I’m being stubborn or just plain ol disobedient. If she would have said no, she could have missed out on the greatest opportunity known to mankind. Wow.

  • Rachel Brown

    I am behind on this study but so glad I didn’t give up – I really, really needed this word today.

    • Benny Benabe

      Me too! Glad to be sticking with it. From fear to disbelief the obedience….praying it for myself. ❤️

  • ” I tend to move from fear to disbelief to frustration to defeat—only landing on obedience after a long internal struggle. “. This line really stood out to me because this is how I often times react to God’s will in my life especially the part about “only landing on obedience after a long internal struggle!” Praying today that I can move my initial reaction to things and move straight to trusting God and His will for my life.

  • Help me to emulate the obedience of Mary, Lord!

  • Mary is scared and confused, she’s pregnant and a virgin. Nobody is gonna believe that. Yet she still says yes to God, even in her fear. She knows who she is in God’s eyes so t doesn’t matter what anyone else will say or think, she is prepared to give up everything she has, her family, her friends, her fiance. All of it, to obey God. May I be more like Mary, ready to drop everything I know and have to follow God’s plan.

    • Debbie Deal

      Amen. When it is something that doesn’t make sense to me (often what God directs us to do, does not in our limited way of thinking) I argue like I know better than God. How strange, when he is infinitely the genius of creation and all mankind. In my brain, I know that. I am getting better throughout the years-not perfect or anywhere close to it, but better, at stopping to talk with him and pray for my heart to be obedient to His will. It is my desire to be obedient to Him, b/c I love him above all things in and out of this world. My desire is good, but too often, my execution is found lacking. I will continue trying harder and harder each day. Hopefully by the time he calls me home to him, I will be pleasing to him. That is my goal. I love the example that Mary & Joseph have set for us. They both had a difficult journey being set by God. What wonderful examples they were to all of us, even today, of following God’s word and will, regardless how it appears to the world. We serve such an awesome God!!!

  • Wow what a great devotional today. How we land on obedience last…so true – thank you for encouraging me there SRT. And oh my, that last verse ‘The Spirit of God has made me,and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’ pierces my heart today.

  • Caralee Lilly

    It staggers me that over and over again my identity as wife, mother, daughter, friend, nurse takes priority over my identity as follower of Christ. Yes, Jesus asks us to do hard things but His things are eternal. Oh that my soul would magnify the Lord and that my spirit would rejoice in God my Saviour!

  • Our truest identity is to be servant of the Lord. But if I were to take my current attitude and project it onto Mary, she would have gotten utterly stuck on the fact that Joseph had intended to divorce her, and she would have dug into that bitterness. “Speaking with angels and giving birth to the savior of the world are great, but did you hear what Joseph said?? He must not really love me at all.” When I feel rejected by my own husband, I don’t dig into Jesus, I dig into my bitterness. Lord, help me be true to my truest identity.

  • This is so great to hear this morning. I have been fighting with my own self and not idintifying who I am through God’s eyes and ultimately getting myself in situations such as a relationship that I know, deep down. is not working. After being broke up last night, I read this passage this morning and realize that God’s plan is bigger for my life and I am willing to be his servant to see what His plans are and throw mine away. I finally see what I need to do according to what God has been secretly saying to me all along. Looking forward today with God’s hands at work! Amen!!

    • Diana Yepez

      Thanks for sharing! This passage hit my soul too! haha It was encouraging seeing how you are choosing to press on to what God has in plan for you, even this very day. Encourages me to do the same!!

  • Kristi Veis

    Fear lead to disbelief that ultimately lead to obedience. May that be my reaction to whatever God allows to come my way! Mary was such a great role model I just hope I can instill those character traits in my daughters. Be blessed my friends!

  • Anne with an E

    Oh SRT, thank you so much for this. It really hit home for me. I’m returning home from my honeymoon in Sweden today, and have been feeling down. I got food poisoning upon arrival here and spent the entire trip in bed. I find peace in Mary’s complete surrender to God’s plan for her, and I look forward to returning home, where I can recover in my own home, and celebrate the birth of Christ.

  • EarlyBird

    How many times I’ve read and heard this account, right? Yet as I look deeply at it this morning, I do wonder what I would do in that situation. What would be my response? Much was at stake. She didn’t ask for time to think about it, or consult with someone. How would I respond to a being who appeared in my room? As our dear Tina often says…But God. He gives us what we need when we need. How often the Word says, “Fear not”. Yet I do fall into fear, into “what if”, into “but…” May I move forward in life trusting more fully in His plan for me, more intently listening and discerning His voice. May I be so faithful to step out and say “Yes, Lord”.

    • Nea

      This is such a great point about not conferring with someone else. Because if that happened to me I know I would panic and try to find someone else to get a second opinion from. But God is God. Seriously why would we need a second opinion from a person if we had an experience so clearly divine? This really helps me think about who I’m serving and setting priorities straight.

    • Claire

      This has always been the wonderment of this story. I am afraid in my life time and especially with young girls these days, there would have been an eye roll and a “yeah, sure, that can’t happen”. AND I would have been prettified if what my earthly father would have done.

  • Julie Bagwell

    Gods servant first. That is what I needed to hear today !

  • Crystal Mendez

    “Thankfully, we can gladly choose the role of God’s servant because we know the Lord is a far better and more gracious ruler than we could ever be to ourselves.” Amen!

  • Here lately I’ve struggled with my identity as a teacher…. scores not what I want them to be, stress at school, big classes this year, and lots of babies who came unprepared for science…. But I think God has been trying to get my attention….. My identity is in him, his servant…. his daughter…. This season I strive to remember to be like Mary…..to know his will is greater …. to know his plan is better…. to know his success may not look like the world’s success. Lord, help me to honor you and serve your will.

  • Tanya BatesGarner

    Over and over, I keep thinking how seemingly impossible it would be for me to go through what Mary and Joseph did (my weakness revealed)!! The scandal. The disbelief and eye rolls. The total judgement from man. – I say that I trust the Lord, and I’ve followed Him into crazy unknowns, but Wow- I am still in awe and gratefulness for those two regular kids trusting God! Thank you, Father, for choosing so wisely.
    — I am your servant Lord. My identity is in this.

  • Tochi Heredia

    I’ve read these verses many times during my life, yet today I noticed something new. After Gabriel tells Mary that the Son she’ll bear will be the Everlasting King, the only thing she seems to be concerned about is “How can this be? I am a virgin.” She could question how this child can be the Messiah, but she’s worried about being unqualified for the task. It’s only when the angel reminds her that it’s not about her that she gives herself completely to the will of her God.
    I love how the Lord chooses faulty, fearful and weak people to be His servants, how He chooses to display His sovereignty and might through our inadequacies.

  • I needed this devotion and comments. Thank you for sharing. May my true identity come from my relationship with Him.

  • Alexis Maycock

    As we lean into our calling with obedience- He meets us. Even if we lean with fear or disbelief- He meets us.

  • My desire is to do the will of God but life throws so many things at me sometimes, it seems I get lost so easily in who Im “Not” than in who I am in Christ.

    Thank you for today’s reading maybe today I’ll get it right!!

    When we fight the will of God, aren’t we just prioritizing another identity over the one He’s given us? In our hearts, aren’t we quietly saying that we want to be lord over our own lives, rather than abiding with Him as His faithful servant?

  • Lord let me lean into your calling with obedience immediately…not after I’ve tried to wriggle free from it.

  • Jennifer Ciarletta

    I️ will be praying for you. I️ know the struggle of weight. It’s been a journey. I️ will say that the Lord ever so gently reminded me that my identity is in Him and not in my weight. I­t­ took along while for that to sink in and not let me be consumed with my appearance but at the same time I­t­ was a sweet reminder to me that He’s got this and He knows me. Walk with Him in this journey. I’m praying for you sister.

  • Jennifer Ciarletta

    “When we fight against the will of God, aren’t we just prioritizing another identity over the one He’s given us?”
    I️ will be pondering this all day I’m sure. How many times have I️ done this without even thinking of what it says to God about my willingness to trust and believe in Him. This faith thing is weighty stuff wrapped up in the simplest of concepts…believe Him, trust Him, take Him at His Word.

  • Kelly Chataine

    Let my first response be . . . . . “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

  • Elisabeth7291

    I love today’s devotional. When we fight God’s will, aren’t we prioritizing another identity over the one God has given us. It is so easy for me to get caught up in one of the dozen or so “identities” I have for myself and neglect the only one that matters – daughter & servant of the Most High King.

  • Churchmouse

    The hardest prayer for me to say and to really mean is “Thy will be done.” It’s also the only prayer that is always answered perfectly.

  • Amazing devotional today. All these bible verses, all these carols and songs… It basically just goes past you like it’s the most normal thing in the world. I’ve been raised with this story after all. This devotional made me sit and think again: what a strange story. We are surrounded by images of Jesus and Mary. All so nice and sweet. Surely she must have been one of the happiest mums in the world. And surely it was just great that she bore the son of God… Right? Surely though she hadn’t had a clue about how she’d go into history. And surely it really wasn’t something she was waiting for.

    Thanks for reminding me that beautiful gifts often aren’t the gifts we look for.

  • The days leading up to my daughters birthday were lonely days. Sad days. Heart breaking days. The heaviness over me was like I had been hit by a truck. I struggled to breath, and I was bearly holding on to God and His word. I felt alone.
    I was struggling!

    But God…

    It was Pentecost, and in my silent grief I made it to church. The pastor asked us all to stand and in expectation, put our hands out to receive the Holy Spirit, as they had done in the upper room all those years ago… I can remember thinking, I’m only doing this because the pastor has said to…. no soon had I closed my eyes and put my hands out, there, right there in front of me stood an angel! A beautiful vision, I certainly had not made up, or imagined… I was in no place mentally to see good in anything. And yet there before me stood this angel. I opened my eyes in fear, my heart pounding to leave my chest… the angel was still there… then it was gone. I sat down, confused… then I realised what I had seen, and closed my eyes again in hope, but it was gone… I left the service and went to visit my grandchildren who always make things better. Hugs later, yet still niggled by my vision, I left to go home. My son followed me out, telling as we walked to my car that, a friend of my daughters had been to a seance and that my daughter had come through… I told my son I would talk to him the next day, but that I needed to get home.. I was afraid. All the way home, not knowing what to pray I repeated the our Father, over and over. I literally got into the house and took myself to bed. I was afraid. Morning came, I had amazingly slept well, but no sooner had my feet hit the floor, it all came back, more our Fathers and a few more please be my guide and helps. On route to work I met the mother of the friend who went to the seance… I had to tell her as she talked, that I was a follower of Jesus and that I couldn’t listen to anymore. I was afraid.
    Got to the church office where I work and the lady sitting next to me asked how I was.., I said fine and tried to concentrate, eventually came clean about the events of the evening before, omitting the vision part. She literally scooped me up out of my seat and presented me to a lady she said would understand more of what I was talking about. After a brief outline, the lady explained that we would pray 1) for peace for me and 2) for God to send His angels to watch over me…. The penny dropped. The scales fell away. Realisation…. I joyfully jumping out of my chair shouted ” He already has!!!!”
    Yes, even when I had my very own God sent angel, I was afraid. It only took me 24 hrs to see what was in front of me.! But I did with the help of people God had put in place.
    But God…
    He is good.
    He is faithful.
    He is my protector.
    My guide.
    My Hope.
    He will never fail me.
    Amen.
    Amen.
    Amen.
    Thank you Lord God. Thank you.

    Sending love and hugs across the pond dear Sisters. May you know His peace and grace in all you do today. Xxx

    • Kay

      Tina, God has put you on an amazing journey. Thank you for sharing your testimony. God is so big and so good!

    • Kim R

      Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story of God’s work in your life Tina, so powerful and moving! What a great example of how God already knew your need before you realised it yourself! We have an amazing Father!!

    • Christina D.

      Tina such a powerful story and tremendous reminder that when we are looking for something from God, so often He has already given it to us. I’m thankful for you and your heart and every time you comment and share on SRT!

  • Hi all! I could really use prayer right now. My weight has been sneaking up on me for years now, to the point where I am now officially 40-50 lbs overweight. I’ve been dealing with other autoimmune issues and changed my diet for that (with success!) but the weight seems to just keep coming. I really need prayer for wisdom, perseverance, self-control, and encouragement. Lots and lots of encouragement. I have been trying to get healthy for so long and never follow through with my plans. Please lift me up in prayer on this issue.

    • Tina

      Court, praying for wisdom and strength in this difficult of times. Praying the Lord God guide and direct you, to lead you in the best way to go. You are His and He will not let you down. Keep holding onto Him trusting He’s got this. He is faithful. Sending some hugs from across the pond…x

    • Kim W

      Hello Court, I follow a gal on Instagram moms.can.be.fit you should look for her! When I started following her a few years ago she didn’t realize she had autoimmune issues. Her story and success are inspiring and motivational! She is so knowledgeable! I’m saying a prayer for u right now!

    • Barbara Menefee

      Court,

      Praying! I agree with Kim! Find a community to hold you accountable, whether virtual or real. There’s lots of good stuff on the internet. I have also found that small changes are easier to stick with than total deprivation, but you have to find what works for you! Good luck. Praying for you this Christmas season!

      • PursuedByHim

        Court, I have been struggling with my weight for a long time…unsuccessfully. I am ready to make some changes by focusing on God instead of what I want to eat (I love food). My husband and another couple are going to do this with me…and I with them.

        I pray you will find a support structure and then focus on God to do this. I pray we both remain focused on scripture and God and rely on our friends help (and reminders) to do this. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be perfect, because we are imperfect beings. So when you and I mess up ( and we will), we’ll pick ourselves up and start over again, Court!

        “[We] can do all things THROUGH Christ who strengthens [us].” Phil 4:13 …and He will over and over and over again!

    • Alissa

      Praying for you, Court! I feel your pain!!! Check into Trim Healthy Mama. :) It is changing my life!!

    • Crystal Mendez

      Father God, I thank You for Your great mercy and grace. I thank You for Your loving kindness that daily sustains us, Your children. In the name of Jesus, I ask that You would make Your will clear to Court this morning. I ask that she would know You and her identity in Christ more deeply today that she has in the past. I ask that she would find the wisdom and direction she’s looking for in You. I ask that she would extend to herself the same grace and mercy You offer her. May she know how uniquely loved she is by You, and find the strength to carry on each day knowing You are near to her. As a daughter of the Most High King, may she know the victory and authority provided her by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May she trust You with everything! I ask all this in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen!

    • Bemeuplord

      Check out Trim Healthy Mama. Join the online/Facebook support page. A lot of support and encouragement there.

    • Sarah D.

      Praying for you! A great channel on Youtube for workouts is Popsugar fitness and Blogilates, ( they include beginner ones that are easier to do) and they give great tips on living a healthy lifestyle. Hope this helps, you are loved!
      Blogilates: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCIJwWYOfsCfz6PjxbONYXSg
      Popsugar Fitness: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCBINFWq52ShSgUFEoynfSwg

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