Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b
Christmas has arrived, the countdown has ended and our Saviour is here! Maybe for some of us, there is disappointment – that the long-awaited day has come too quickly. Or maybe we struggle with our current family circumstances. Maybe we fear or dread what the new year will bring. Maybe we are confused by how God is moving in our lives, or conversely with the lack of any perceived movement in our lives. Maybe the struggle isn’t about our family or friends – maybe the struggle is with ourselves. Whether we like it or not, I think Christmas makes us look both at what we have and what we feel is missing or lacking. Not easy.
Today as I reflect on Mary, I wonder if she had moments of disappointment leading up to the birth of Jesus. Knowing that her Son was meant to save the world, would she have struggled with how people would have undoubtedly treated her, not knowing the circumstances that led to her being pregnant? Would she have feared possible estrangement from her family and community? Would she have dreaded her means of transportation for the trip, the back of a donkey? Would she would have questioned the lack of room in the Inn, and God’s provision for them? Would she have been disappointed in the lowly stable? To know that God had a plan for this baby would have been astounding, but how many times would she have wrestled with how hard the journey ahead would be? Here is Mary’s story of surrender:
Mary, a virgin, was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel of the Lord came to Mary saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you.” These words “greatly troubled” Mary, but the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid.” The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would give birth to a son, to whom she was to give the name Jesus, and “He [would] be great and [would] be called the Son of the Most High.”
Mary simply stated, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” The angel told her of a cousin who in her old age was also expecting a child. Mary hurried off to spend time with that cousin. During her time with her cousin Elizabeth, she felt encouraged and blessed. Mary wrote a beautiful song in response to what was happening within her:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name…
Due to a census being taken of the entire Roman empire, Joseph, who had experienced great personal struggle himself regarding Mary and his future life with her, needed to make his way to Bethlehem. Mary, highly pregnant, accompanied him on his journey, and when they reached Bethlehem, she began labouring. Of course, because of the census and the surge of displaced populace now visiting the town, there was no room to be found. The only place that they could find in overcrowded Bethlehem was a stable inhabited by animals. Here, in the humblest of beginnings, Jesus was born. Mary wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger. That night, angels filled the sky and the lowliest shepherds came to worship the newborn king. Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Mary’s story continues throughout the gospels. It never ends. She has the joy and the heartache of being the mother of our Saviour. But that night, over 2000 years ago, she treasured. Maybe she relived that night as she watched her son grow; maybe over the years she recalled the holy night when our Christ was born. As I find myself almost catching a glimpse of the face of the tiny baby, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it is almost incomprehensible that this tiny one came for each of us! So backwards from what the world thought then and still backwards from what the world thinks now. I find it incredible that Jesus’s birth, life and death turned so many things upside down, and yet life continued. Mary became pregnant and gave birth to a son – her life did not stop or pause for a moment. Despite fear, dread, loneliness, confusion, disappointment, and ultimately loss, her life was a continual surrendering to the Branch – not just in the moments that were, without a doubt, miraculous, but in the everyday, in the ordinary. She had to repeatedly choose a posture of surrender.
The word surrender can suggest many things. Without an understanding of the sovereignty of God, surrender connotes defeat and destruction. To relinquish and give up everything – torturous! For most people, an all-out fight to the death. Surrender. What the world doesn’t always know and what we often forget is that surrender to God means we win! When we surrender to God, He becomes our Saviour – not condemning us to destruction, but saving us from it! I’m learning that surrender does not mean everything becomes good in my life, but that rather it builds hope that God is working through everything in my life. To surrender daily restores things that are broken – faith, identity, and relationships with others and with ourselves. But more so, surrender brings us rest and regeneration within the Living Branch!
Come to me [this is surrender!], all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28