When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.Galatians 4:4,5 ESV
With the events of the very first Christmas, God entered into a tumultuous world, bringing hope and restoration to people who often despaired of change and peace. What he did through the birth of Jesus was nothing short of revolutionary. He was on a mission to save the world! And yet, the way he went about it defied the expectations of even those who were most hopeful. Indeed, the means he engaged for realizing his mission to save the world were so ordinary as to be extraordinary.
Center stage in the cast he assembled for this real-life earthly drama that changed the course of cosmic history was a very young lady named Mary. Humble, inexperienced and unmarried, the Lord chose her
as the person through whom the “Chosen One,” the Messiah, would come into the world on that Christmas night so long ago.
As we know, the greatest blessing of Christmas far surpasses the delight of children opening presents, or the love of a family gathered around a meal, or even the heartfelt satisfaction of worshipers singing beloved carols together. The truest and deepest of Christmas joys flows from the gifts gained for us through Jesus. He came that we would be reconciled to God and adopted into his family!
These are things we desire all people to have and to celebrate, and yet increasingly we see across our communities that fewer and fewer of our fellow citizens share this understanding of Christmas, and of the Christian faith in general. Indeed, the church in North America is in decline, and many, I fear, despair of that ever changing.
Numerous church leaders and researchers have suggested that North American churches are struggling in part because, sadly, they have failed to see and value the perspective and capacity of a new generation. They have been unwilling to entrust the mission to young adult believers.
Apparently, the God of the universe had no such qualms. When the time came for him to activate the centerpiece of his grand plan for the salvation of all the world, he entrusted its passage to Mary. She was a mere “teenager” between the ages of 16 and 18, and yet he sent the angel Gabriel to “commission” her, saying “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:30-32)
By her own admission, Mary was confused and even frightened by these prospects. Initially and quite understandably, she was rather skeptical of her “commission,” wondering, “how can this be?” But the angel assured her of several marvelous and essential things: First, she was “favored” – she’d been given God’s grace. Secondly, the Lord was with her! Thirdly, the supernatural work required was to be done by the Holy Spirit. And finally, “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:28-37)
How did young Mary respond? Apparently without pause or hesitation, she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Would I have responded the same? Would you?
I can almost hear the arguments, questioning, or even laughing skepticism that might have come from Mary had she been someone of my age or older, in spite of the promises and assurances spoken by the angel. (Remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife?) After all, don’t we “know better”?
Friends, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite sure that the Lord has a role in his mission for each of us, regardless of our age. If you, like me, are “older,” please know that you, too, can respond to the Lord’s call with a resounding “yes, may it be so,” as did Mary. Commissioned living is indeed for all believers of all ages, but I also believe that at the first Christmas, and before it, and since, God has invested and engaged uniquely in the lives and souls of young people for the sake of his mission.
I am in awe of Mary’s response. I am in awe of her wide-eyed, mystery-embracing faith and youthful risk-embracing obedience. I am in awe of God’s call on her life and what he accomplished through her.
I am similarly in awe of what I believe God is doing and will do in and through young adult Christians today! Still much of the world is tumultuous and in despair, in need of the hope and promise of Christmas. Still God is working in the lives of young adults around the world who are followers of Jesus, uniquely calling and equipping them for his purposes. He is entrusting the continuation of his mission to “ordinary” young people, young people like Mary. Isn’t that extraordinary?
I say, let’s trust them. I say, let’s trust him! Because the God who commissioned Mary and sent us Jesus is still God today. And he still has a mission to save the world.