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Ordinary, Extraordinary, Mary
The most famous woman in history! More than 80 titles are used for her, and there are more than 11 million internet sites on her. Who is this young girl?

Mary… the mother of Jesus Christ.

Mary… arguably the most famous woman in history.

… you are never too old, or too young, to be used of God.

Mary, The Virgin Mother, The Blessed One, The Handmaid of the Lord! More than 80 titles are used for her, and there are more than 11 million internet sites on her!

But we often think of her only at this festive time of year. What is so special about this woman? Was she ordinary or extraordinary, or both? I think she was both, and maybe deserves a little bit more of our attention…

The Gospel writer Luke gives us some first-hand information about her. Perhaps she told him her story, the things she “treasured in her heart” through the years (see Luke 1:1-3, 2:19). Mary was there from the beginning of the Gospel story. In fact, you could call her Jesus’ first disciple! After all, she was the only one, for a brief time, who knew and believed that He was the Son of God, sent to be the Saviour of the world, and her Saviour too!

Scholars believe that Mary was young, between 13 and 16 years of age when the angel Gabriel visited her. She was very young, by today’s standards, to become a mother, but not by the culture of the time.

I want to insert something here: you are never too old, or too young, to be used of God. In fact, I believe Christian young people today are vital in the call of God, and I honour what God is doing in and through them. Look how He used the teenage Mary! I wonder what she was doing when Gabriel came to her. Was she in her own room, in communion with God, as we see in most of the paintings of her? Or was she down at the river washing clothes? Was she out on the hillsides with the sheep? What we do know is that she was surprised – who wouldn’t be! The angel says to her, “Greetings, Mary!” (Ave Maria in Latin – hence the song’s name). He then tells her she is “highly favoured” ie. blessed, and that “The Lord is with you.” I can almost hear Mary breathing a sigh of relief after her initial fright – Ok! It’s gonna be ok! The Lord is with me.

I believe Mary had a close relationship with her Maker, and now her Maker is going to draw even closer to her. She will play an integral part in the making of the Messiah. Imagine, God’s own DNA being put into a human being, and her own body becoming the earthly host of the Heavenly God. Wow! Does God value women or what?

The angel then downloads the identity and destiny of Jesus Christ to Mary. Her reaction is both ordinary and extraordinary. She first asks a perfectly good, biological question: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).

She was ordinary enough to know about the birds and the bees at her age!

The angel then explains the mystery of how this would happen: that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her, and that she would give birth to the Son of God. Now, I love that word “overshadow.” To be in someone’s shadow, you must be close to them. Mary was close to God, and God overshadowed her, and she conceived Jesus.

Then the angel gives a practical example of another extraordinary birth for ordinary Mary. He says, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month” (Luke 1:36-37).

Then these words – these amazing words – were spoken to this young woman: “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary’s reaction to these words of impossible possibility are what makes her extraordinary. She says to the Lord, Whatever! I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” In other words – YES!

Her YES made the Incarnation possible, her YES brought our Saviour to earth one Christmas Eve, her YES still reverberates through history. What an extraordinary, ordinary girl, this Mary! Truly, she was “blessed among women”!

You can read about the incredible events that took place in this young woman’s life in Luke 1 and 2. I encourage you to take some quiet time this busy season and ponder these things in your heart, as Mary did.

Melissa Bone, speaker and co-author of The Power of Blessing along with her husband Terry, has been frequently featured on 100 Huntley Street’s “Full Circle” program for women.

Originally published in St. John’s United Church Newsletter, Cornerstone, December 2007.




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