The Face that Most Resembles Christ's
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Luke 1:26-28
Maybe you haven’t heard this phrase before, yet what an accurate description of Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose face bears her genetic likeness; this according to the Scriptures and the doctrine of His church taken from God’s Word. “Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin. (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.37, 1648) When you think about it, of course, it makes sense; and, if you have read Dante’s Divine Comedy, you have seen this phrase there in the closing cantos. After waiting many, many generations, stretching into millenniums, with glimpses of God’s oases of prophecies and promises along the way, God sends His messenger Gabriel, in keeping with His calendar, to a quiet, obscure, little town in Galilee to spark a light which would illumine the entire world. Advent is drawing near. It is right at the door.
From a promise of good news in the primeval past found recorded in the beginning chapters of Genesis to the announcement of Gabriel to a young woman, still a virgin, in Nazareth, the ages of waiting are coming to an end. It has been conjectured that the Angel Gabriel appeared to a girl of about 13 or 14 named Mary. This arises from taking the word “virgin to signify “young maiden and also, it is thought, to be still a virgin you must be within a year or two of puberty. Anthropologists are quick to dogmatically proclaim in their research that in this near first century culture marriages most commonly occurred when girls were this young and men around 30. So Mary and Joseph, it is assumed, fall by such broad strokes into the common parameters without taking any other pertinent information into account. I rather think it is more likely that Mary was closer to 20 for a number of reasons. Her maturity in character: calm, patient, thoughtful, not prone to being frightened, genuine humility in her heart. Her maturity in wisdom by virtue of knowing the Scriptures well evidenced in her response to Gabriel, her interaction with Elizabeth, and her strikingly beautiful and richly scriptural song, known as the Magnificat. It is not to say that some 13 year olds are not mature beyond their years, but it is clear to the knowledgeable student of God’s Word that Mary had been a student of the Scriptures herself for more years than 13 or even 16 would allow. After all, she was not a 12 year old Jesus. It may be true of surrounding Arab cultures, as even today, that the marriageable eligibility of girls was 12-14, but not necessarily so in Israel. And it was apparent that some of the women in Jesus’ circle were unmarried at older ages like Mary Magdalene, and Mary and Martha, among others. But it is primarily Mary’s mature demeanor and knowledge of the Scriptures that set her apart from one much younger.
Here is a woman singularly blessed by God; Gabriel calls her HIGHLY favored. I would say she has been more favored in being chosen to be the mother of God’s Son, carrying Him in her womb, providing a home with Joseph for the Savior of the world, than any other human being. This does not raise Mary to the level of divinity, and Scripture never suggests such. The Angel warns John in Revelation, “Worship God only! In fact, there is precious little about Mary in the Bible. Yet she should be esteemed by all Christians as one who has been selectively chosen by God for a preeminent honor. Mary, the mother of God’s Son, and consequently, the mother of God, is especially one you can personally love and emulate in her devotion to her Son and Lord and her pursuit of a holy life.
Advent is a great season for you to renew your acquaintance with Mary, in both what she was called upon to do and how she responded to the very weighty election of God on her life. There is plenty there on which to meditate. Put yourself in her shoes, yes even you men can give an honest effort, and think on the wisdom of God as He orchestrated the root of your salvation in the Incarnation, using a virgin named Mary from a town no one heard of before. Becoming like Mary, dearly loved by her Son, is magnificent preparation for the Second Advent coming soon to a planet near you.
“And through all his wondrous childhood he would honor and obey, love and watch the lowly maiden in whose gentle arms he lay: Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as he.
(3rd verse of Cecil Alexander’s carol, “Once in Royal David’s City, 1848)
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