Wow! Here we are at the beginning of a new year. 2021! It seems like every time I finally have a chance to post, so much has happened in my life. This past year had its fair share of challenges, but it was also filled with so many blessings. In everything, God has been incredibly faithful. At the beginning of 2020, I chose to focus on the word "relationship". I asked God to help me further develop my relationship with Him. It was my prayer that in the overflow of that, my earthly relationships would improve as well. Well God really answered my prayers . He stretched me and challenged me in many ways. He helped me to develop enough discipline to read His Word daily, and as my relationship with Him deepened many of my other relationships were refined as well.
Whenever the holiday season comes around, I begin to read the story of Jesus Christ's birth over and over again, and I become reacquainted with Mary. I really like Mary. Not only was she my sister in motherhood, but she was also a thoughtful woman of strong faith. I've always been amazed at the thought of her raising this incredibly gifted child. A child unlike any that has ever walked the Earth before. How did she do it? How did she maintain her faithfulness in raising a son she barely understood? I feel all of that in this season of my life. In pondering over Mary's story, I was inspired to choose my word of the year. Obedience.
Yes, I know that a year of obedience doesn't seem particularly exciting, but I believe that many areas of my life will benefit from a focus on this word. I am struck by what Mary had to say when the angel Gabriel came to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ:
"The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her."
~ Luke 1: 35-38
Did you catch that? She simply nodded her head and said "I am the Lord's servant." Not only did she submit to the Lord's will, but she also obeyed the call to service. She recognized that things were going on that were beyond her understanding. She leaned into her faith and her faith led to her obedience. Is that not unlike what happens in our own lives at times? Sometimes it is really hard to obey because we don't understand the why behind the command. We can't see what we are being brought to or protected from. Take a child for, example. Little children don't understand why we tell them not to do things, and this makes it difficult for them to obey. They can't see the broad scope of the situation. They have to learn to go against their own wants and desires, trust that the parents must know what they are talking about, and obey. If only our little ones could understand that the directions we give them are for their own good. They would avoid so many hard lessons, right? If only we all could be more like Mary. Her obedience led to the greatest blessing known to man.
Something else I like about Mary is that she is a woman of profound feeling. She is very meditative, and yet, she is slow to speak her mind. I often think about the shepherds and angels who came to visit Baby Jesus. Angels were praising and people were talking about this new king. There was so much excitement! And yet:
"...Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart."
~ Luke 2:19
There are several occasions in which Mary is perplexed in her obedience. She probably had so many questions, and yet she dutifully fulfilled her mission only knowing that God must have something big planned on the other side of things. She trusted and believed that if she kept stewarding the responsibilities that were given to her, there would be a harvest one day.
Let us note that obedience often requires sacrifice. Perhaps Mary had other plans with Joseph. Perhaps she had her own ideas of how she thought life would be after marriage. All of those plans were abruptly changed when she was asked to take on the monumental responsibility of raising the world's Savior! Consider Jesus in the garden before being taken away by the soldiers. He knew that he was being asked to do something very hard. It was going to be a major sacrifice for Him to die for our sins. Matthew 2:42 tells us what Jesus did, despite His own personal distress over what was about to occur.
"He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.”
~ Matthew 2:42
Jesus obeyed the Lord, and through His obedience, we were all blessed beyond all measure.
Even though obedience can be hard to swallow, there can be joy and praise in it as well. After Mary spoke with the angel Gabriel, she ran over to Elizabeth's house where Baby John leaped inside of Elizabeth's womb at the presence of the Lord. In the midst of her obedience, Mary began to praise! In Luke 1:46-56, we call Mary's praise the "Magnificat", which is Greek for "praises or magnifies". And Mary's praise is beautiful! She is thanking the Lord for giving her this responsibility, and she marvels at the blessing that will come from the birth of the Messiah.
So who's blessing is tied to your obedience?
For me personally, I know that six little ones will be blessed if I simply obey God more in my day to day life. Regardless of whatever focus you choose for this year, I implore you to sprinkle a little more obedience to our Lord and Savior in there as well. Even if it is something as simple as reading a 1-minute devotional every day, your life will be improved through your obedience to the Commandments of the Lord.
May this year be a year of growth and sharpening for us all. Happy New Year!