The Bold and The Brave: Mary
When I was in Year 10, my English teacher asked the class to give a speech about one of our heroes. I chose to talk about my mum. It turns out this is a classic option – some fellow students also gave speeches about their mothers, and I was struck that we all mentioned sacrifice. My mother has given up huge amounts – whether big things, like pursuing a further degree, or small things, like a lie-in on mornings when she got up to make me breakfast – to be a good mother. Motherhood, done well, takes bravery, because it’s a series of sacrifices that put someone else at the centre of your life.
Mary, Jesus’s mother, is an incredible example of sacrifice.
The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ (Luke 1:35) At this point, I’d have some questions! Gabriel tells Mary a little about the amazing destiny of Jesus, explaining that ‘The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ (1:32-33) What a glorious picture! Here Gabriel tells Mary the end of the story – Jesus victorious, the world restored! - but he skips the middle bit. The question I’d have is: What about me? What happens to me?!
Mary was engaged to a man in her town. She knew who she was going to spend her life with. She most likely knew the house she would live in, the market where she’d buy food and the well she’d draw water from. She also knew what happened to women who became pregnant outside of marriage, because they were publicly punished. The news Gabriel brings to her derails all this certainty. This story is so familiar to us that I think when we read it now we forget how downright terrifying it must have been for Mary. She had no idea what her life would look like if she had this baby. But does she ask any of the questions I know my mind would have been buzzing with?
No. Her response is: ‘I am the Lord’s servant… May your word to me be fulfilled.’
What a reply! In a moment, this teenage girl shoots into the hero God made her to be. She sacrifices her security for a life of radical obedience and trust. She was probably the same age as I was when I gave that speech about my mum, not even fifteen years old, and yet her bravery in the face of the unknown astounds me.
Later, she sings a beautiful song of praise to God, and I think this song gives us insight into her bravery. She declares in verses 47-48:
‘My spirit rejoices in God my saviour,
For he has been mindful
Of the humble state of his servant.’
Mary knew that God was mindful of her. He knew every failing and obstacle in her life, just as he does our own, and he chose her. He chooses each of us, too. We can be bold because we are known by God – he sees us, and he knows just how he will lead us through our own lives, just as he did for Mary.
And she goes on in verse 50:
‘…His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.’
The second reason Mary could be so brave was that she knew who God is. He is a faithful God, merciful from generation to generation! In times when we are floundering in uncertainty, we can trust that he sees us, loves us, and is faithful to us.
So this Mothering Sunday, let’s celebrate Mary! Let’s celebrate her bravery! Let’s celebrate the bravery of the women in our lives who have made the decision to mother well, and honour their sacrifices. And most of all, let’s celebrate that God’s love calls each of us to live in the boldness of being known and loved.
Isabel is a second year English Literature student at Durham University. She's an American who moved from L.A. to London when she was twelve and fell in love with England, and she's passionate about seeing God flood this nation!