The Coming Savior
Open Your Bible
Luke 1:1-80, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Jeremiah 23:5-6
The older I get, the more wary I am of getting my hopes up. I’d hoped to get the lead in the school play, but I got a secondary role instead. I’d hoped to get into a master’s program, but I didn’t. I’d hoped that relationship would work out, but it ended. Because of this, I have become very good at what I call “hope management.” I never let my hopes get too high. In doing so, when my hopes fall, the landing is softer.
This is why I can’t blame Zechariah for questioning the angel Gabriel when he tells him, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John” (Luke 1:13). Zechariah protests. He was an “old man” and his wife, Elizabeth, “was well along in years.” Although Zechariah was clearly in the midst of a heavenly encounter, his question has undertones of disbelief: “How can I know this?” (v.18).
This tells me that Zechariah and Elizabeth had gotten their hopes up about a child before, and Zechariah can’t face the disappointment again. He can’t name another unborn child in expectation, only to have those expectations dashed. But as a result of Zechariah’s unbelief, he is unable to speak until the day his son is born and he sees God’s promise fulfilled.
Mary’s response to Gabriel is different. She is told something equally unbelievable––that she, a virgin, will conceive a child. Gabriel instructs, “You will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (vv.31–33).
But Mary’s question is more logistical than it is incredulous: “How can this be?” (v.34). As the CSB Study Bible says, “The difference between Mary’s response… and Zechariah’s is that Mary asked her question not from unbelief but from puzzlement.”
The nation of Israel had high hopes for a Savior for generations. I would not blame Mary for containing her hope. But she does the opposite. While Zechariah’s mouth was closed, Mary’s opens in praise: “My soul praises the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (vv.46–47).
These words reflect the type of unmanaged, unharnessed hope I want to have in response to the promises of God. Instead of reserving my hope, smothering it, not letting it get too high, I want to hold hope with open hands, believing the Lord will do what He says, that He will make good on His promise to save.
What I have that Mary didn’t at this point in her life is the end of the story. I know God made good on His promise to save. When that is where my hope lies, I cannot be not disappointed, and instead, I can declare:
“The Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy.
His mercy is from generation to generation” (vv.49–50).