Bring the Greatness of God to Others This Christmas
“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!’” (Luke 1:26-28).
In one moment of time, young Mary’s life was forever changed. As the angel of the Lord spoke about her future, Mary went from an obscure Jewish teenager to the hand-selected mother of the long-awaited Messiah. Everything changed when she understood her destiny.
Mary didn’t know power or popularity, wealth or fame; we don’t even know her last name. Yet she was chosen above all the women throughout time to bring the greatness of God’s salvation and healing into this world.
It’s the kind of salvation needed by both paupers and presidents, rich and poor, black, white, known and obscure. And such healing would become the spark of life in the darkness of dead men’s souls, and bridge the great divide between lost humanity and a loving God.
Yet her journey was not without difficulty as she had to deal with practical facts: not fully understanding God’s plan, judgmental people speaking lies about her, her own doubts and fears, and trusting God to vindicate and protect her. Mary’s story was a trial of faith. Yet she made it through and so can we.
Because like Mary, we are all, in our own God-ordained way, called to bring something extraordinary into the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
But to do so, we must learn from Mary’s experience.
1. Commit to Personal Righteousness
“Personal righteousness” refers to a commitment by believers to live consistent with God’s high calling to carry His light into a lost world. We must commit to display integrity, purity, honor, respect and holiness. Our lives should be examples for others to emulate – not perfect lives without fault, failure or messiness, but lives that are consistent with being on a mission for God Himself.
We must hold grace, not as an excuse to sin, but as a motivating force to live honorably before God. We should neither become judgmental nor a stumbling block to those who desperately need Christ’s forgiveness. Personal righteousness is a battle that we commit to fight in order to be examples of God’s love that helps lead people to salvation.
And I believe “personal righteousness” was a factor in Mary’s selection to bear the Messiah for mankind:
“…to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:27).
“Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’” (Luke 1:34).
These verses imply that Mary, who was divinely chosen for this extraordinary task, was chosen partly because of her commitment to personal righteousness. In fact, the Word makes it clear that there is a connection between personal righteousness and God’s decision to entrust great responsibilities to people. This also implies lackluster personal righteousness limits the effectiveness of the individual in their success.
“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT).
Anything less than focused commitment to personal righteousness will become a weight that stands in the way of our God-given assignment. And I’m convinced that if we would fight as vehemently for personal righteousness as we do for social righteousness, or pointing out the sins of the world, we would impact the world in much more profound ways!
2. Be Available
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Translation – you don’t have to be great to do great things for God! The Message Bible has a good contemporary paraphrase highlighting this concept:
“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have — right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start — comes from God by way of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 MSG).
Notice here what Mary says of herself:
“For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
“Low estate” means someone who is low in rank, considered vile, or who is humiliated. It describes a person who is down and out, rejected, despised, overlooked or simply not popular!
Although it can’t be proven, some people believe Mary was the least in her father’s house, as if she were under some particular contempt and disgrace among her family – like the Cinderella of ancient Israel. Regardless, it is clear that Mary felt there was nothing extraordinary about Mary! Yet, God chose her.
Why? The Word demonstrates that she made herself available to God; to be used by Him to carry out His extraordinary mission. She was willing to make room, in her life and in her womb, for God to use her.
But I would guess that if we took a hard look at our busy schedules, most of us would mirror Martha, the sister of Mary Magdalene rather than Mary, the mother of Jesus.
“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).
Translation – your schedule is packed too full to focus on the things that matter most in life.
At times, our lives get so cluttered, so over-burdened that we don’t have time or mental space to be available for God to use in any significant way. If that resonates with you, then it’s time to reorganize and reprioritize some things; we must intentionally make ourselves available so that we are able to carry out anything He asks.
3. Understand the Purpose of Favor
One of the most memorable words of the angel’s announcement was “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you…” (Luke 1:28).
Many times, we misunderstand favor in our society. God’s favor is not all about blessing, good breaks and open doors in order to increase personal or social status. Rather the purpose of divine favor is to allow us to accomplish what God needs done in our lives.
- Joseph found favor with Potiphar, found favor in prison, and found favor with Pharoah…because his purpose was to serve as Prime Minister over Egypt in a time of great famine.
- Young David found favor in the eyes of the prophet Samuel, and God touched David’s sling shot with favor to defeat the giant Goliath in battle…because his purpose was to serve as King of Israel.
- Daniel found favor in the courts of the wicked King Nebuchadnezzar…because his purpose was to serve as the prophet of the LORD to the nations.
- Esther found favor in the eyes of the King of Persia…because her purpose was to serve as an intercessor to save her people from destruction.
Favor is not as much for our person, as it is for our purpose. Even so, when we commit ourselves to God, that favor does positively affect our lives in many forms.
4. Be Willing to Risk Everything
Think of what Mary risked to bring the salvation of God into the world.
Imagine the dinner conversation with her parents. Or the angry, hushed argument raging between her parents and Joseph’s parents. Imagine what it felt like to walk to the marketplace, sit in synagogue or look into Joseph’s wounded eyes.
For Mary to fulfill her God-given assignment, she had to release control and risk it all: her reputation, family and friends, her financial security – even her life. In the culture of that day, she could have been stoned to death for adultery while betrothed to Joseph.
Whatever God entrusts you to bring into the world, regardless of your sphere of influence, be aware there will be a personal cost. Jesus did not try to hide this aspect of being His disciple.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’” (Matthew 16:24).
How was Mary able to accept the high price and high calling of bringing the Son of God into the world?
“Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord’” (Luke 1:38).
One of the greatest challenges for many of us, especially in Western society, is seeing ourselves as God’s servants. We forget that as believers, we have given our lives over to Christ, and we are no longer our own; rather, we have been bought with a price.
The Christ who created us and redeemed us from death now has the right to direct our lives and our actions in it, regardless of perceived risk to our plans, social standing or financial well-being. But every person who impacts the world in a significant way for God understands this truth. For example, you’ll see the Apostle Paul in his epistles constantly reaffirm his submission to Christ.
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
A “bondservant” was someone who had been purchased as a slave. At the time appointed for them to be set free, they elected to stay with their master for life and serve them, because of love.
Ultimately, that’s what it takes to bring divine greatness to the world in an impactful way. It requires we love Jesus so much that, even though we must reprioritize things in our lives to reflect His character, we intentionally make room in our schedules to answer His call at any time, and be courageous enough to step out in faith well beyond our comfort zones. We devote our lives and everything we do to serving Him as our master.
It may seem impossible now, but nothing is impossible with God! He is greater than our human limitations, and He can prepare and position us for every good thing He has planned.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/vovan13
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.