The Faith of Mary & Joseph and The Wonder of the Incarnation
Recently I ministered on how I feel as Christian's, we've lost our astonishment of the incarnation of Jesus, the God-man.
Do you feel familiar with the story? Can you honestly say you experience a sense of astonishment or wonder when you read it each year?
Trembling, astonished and speechless.
This is how Mark ended his gospel, the very first gospel ever written. Three women who went to the tomb and left trembling, astonished and speechless. Sounds very similar at least in part to Mary's story when the angel Gabriel came to her.
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”” Luke 26-34
Mary was initially troubled but it didn't take her long once she started contemplating what she had heard .
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, The promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever. Luke 1:46-55
Just imagine if Mary had responded to the angel and said, "oh perfect that’s just what I was expecting-thank you!!"
No Mary was just as astonished as the women who left the empty tomb.
Then I began asking myself when was the last time I was astonished when I read about the annunciation? Did I stop to contemplate not just what was written but what was not said. Am I astonished at the faith of Mary and Joseph? Have I truly considered what they went through?
This has left a mark on me this Advent season. I've spent more time in awe and wonder of the incarnation of Jesus and those whose lives were forever changed-Mary and Joseph. I'm amazed at the character of Joseph; we know very little about him other than he was a righteous man. And what about their personal interactions following the conversation? ..for example-how did he find out? We aren't given any details. It only says that she was found with child. What did that conversation sound like? All scripture says, is that he had decided to divorce her quietly; at least, until the dream when the angel appeared to him.
I can honestly say, I'm astonished at that kind of faith.
Their faith has me definitely contemplating my own this Advent season.
WHAT WE BELIEVE MATTERS
The Nicene creed reminds us, as we confess it each week, that it was for us, and our salvation, that he came down from heaven, became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human.
For me, nothing explains this better than the book "Athanasius on the Incarnation." Here are some excerpts to help us understand more fully, the reason for his descent.
"For speaking of the manifestation of the Savior to us, it is necessary also to speak of the origin of human beings, in order that you might know that our own cause was the occasion of his descent, and that our own transgression evoked the Word’s love for human beings, so that the Lord both came to us, and appeared among human beings. For we were the purpose of his embodiment and for our salvation, he so loved human beings as to come to be and appear in a human body." St Athanasius
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ ”) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:1-27 HCSB
"God had wished human beings to remain in the state that he had created them, but they chose otherwise, preferring what is closer to themselves, and this, Athanasius specifies, is their body. Thus far from denigrating the bodily reality of human existence, the body, for Athanasius, is, in fact, “closer”to human beings, it is their own, or what is proper to them. As we have seen, God intended human beings to transcend their bodies, with their mind set on high and contemplation of the Word, which is Jesus. The human beings that God had created for life and community with himself in the knowledge of himself, have become subject to death now. This, as it were, put God in a predicament: what should he do? Allow death to hold, sway, and so seem weak, lacking care and concern? Or should he himself go against the law that he had laid down, that death would follow on from transgression? The resolution of this divine dilemma is the Word of God, takes a human body as his instrument , in order to be able to offer it to death, and in this way, conquer death, rendering his body incorruptible.
The second divine dilemma treats, the same predicament, but from the perspective of knowledge. Once human beings had their sights set only on material bodily things, how else could God grab our attention as it were, apart from through a body. Therefore, the Word of God takes a human body, again as an instrument through which in his analysis, he makes himself known. Although first seen as a human being, by the works he does in the body, works, which are clearly not human, but divine, Christ makes himself known, not merely as a human being, but as the Word of God himself."
"And now the very corruption of death no longer holds ground against human beings because of the indwelling Word, in them through the one body. Coming himself into our realm and dwelling in a body like the others, every design of the enemy against human beings has henceforth ceased, and the corruption of death, which had prevailed formally against them, perished. For the race of human beings would have been utterly dissolved had not the Master and Savior of all, the Son of God, come for the completion of death. Truly this great work supremely befitted the goodness of God. For if a king constructed a house or a city, and it is attacked by bandits because of the carelessness of its inhabitants, he in no way abandons it, but avengers and saves it as his own work, having regard not for the carelessness of the inhabitants but for his own honor."
"Salvation is not a one night stand. Salvation is not a ticket to heaven. Salvation is not a sinners prayer prayed once upon a time. Salvation is what happens as the story of Jesus intersects and becomes infolded into our own story. Salvation is what continues to happen as we live out our lives out of the ongoing astonishment of the gospel story." Brian Zahnd