There is no biographical sketch of Mary in the gospels, no description of her childhood. We don’t know her temperament, her struggles, her hopes, her dreams. All we know is what the Bible tells us: she was a virgin to whom an angel came, bringing news that would change not only her world, but all of human history.
‘How awesome must she have been,’ I think, ‘that God would lavish such kindness on this young girl?’ I find myself looking for clues in this, Mary’s entry into the work of redemption, hoping to find a clue for myself. I want to be blessed like Mary was blessed! I want to be part of God’s plan like this, want to be used like her! Maybe I need more faith? More patience? More prayer time? Or maybe, just maybe I’ve missed the point altogether.
You see, there is one particular character trait that marks Mary’s story in Luke 1. In the Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of praise to God upon visiting Elizabeth, we see this theme emerge: humility. Mary draws attention throughout her song to her humble and needy state, the fact that God has lavished undeserved goodness on her. She praises God for scattering the proud (v. 51), bringing down rulers (v. 52), and sending the rich away empty (v. 53) even as He lifts the humble (v. 52) and fills the hungry with good things (v. 53). For Mary, the Lord has shown Himself to be good not in spite of her neediness, but because of it.
Our culture does not value neediness. Our church cultures frequently do not value neediness. We value strong, self-sufficient, capable people who pretty much “have their acts together.” We value those who can do, who can work, who can perform. We value effort over faith, confidence over humility, leadership over servanthood.
And at the end of the day, we often give little help to the student who silently feels like they are drowning because their life is falling apart practically or relationally. We speak of faith, but we forget to speak of the humility that grows faith. We speak of servanthood, but we forget to speak of the King who we serve.
Mary says it in Luke 1.48: “He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Here, we see that the beauty of Mary isn’t found in some type of heroic faith. She is simply someone who knows her need and His provision. She sees His strength in her weakness. She, without pretense, takes the Lord at His word (Luke 1.35).
What our students need this Christmas is what Mary had: neediness. If that is all they have – the awareness of their brokenness, their need for help, and their need for rescue, let us remind them that it is enough. He is a God who asks them to simply open our mouths wide and He will fill them (Psalm 81.10). He is a God who knows their frame, remembers they are dust (Psalm 103.14), and looks upon their humble state (Luke 1.48). He is a God who doesn’t just raise the needy from the ash heap to sit in a place of honor (1 Samuel 2.8), but enters into the ash heap of humanity (Philippians 2.7) so that any who trust in Him can be brought into the family of God. It is not their strength that lifts them up, that makes them to endure, and that can give them a legacy of faith. It is His.
Let us be like Mary this Christmas – absolutely aware of our neediness – and ultimately, His goodness.