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Find guidance through the advent season with the mother of Jesus and central figure in the story of Christmas, Mary.At Christmastime we remember that an ordinary, young, poor, oppressed woman was chosen to play a significant and breakthrough role in the redemption of the world. It is no mistake that a woman gets to be a part of all this, and that her voice, her questions, her fears, and her actions matter.
Mary’s faith and her wisdom form an astonishing aspect of the story of how God became a person for the love of this world. And in our weary world that is waiting and longing for light, meaning, peace, and love, we can do as Mary did when she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant 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.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. 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.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Consider for a moment what life might have been like for a young woman in an insignificant district of an occupied country under the control of the most powerful empire the world has ever known. And now contemplate the experience of a woman at a time when a woman’s voice meant very little indeed; in fact, her testimony was practically worthless in a court of law. Think of how a woman living under such oppression was also expected to follow the cultural norms of marriage. This is the world as Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced it at the beginning of the first millennia.
Throughout this coming Advent season, I invite you to join me in reflecting upon Mary’s perspective on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus the Son of God, considering what she thought, what she saw, what she witnessed, and what she came to believe. Luke draws on Mary as a primary eyewitness in his gospel, and he includes her unique experiences and responses. Luke centers Mary’s perspective as our viewpoint into the story of how God came to be a human being.
In Luke 1, Mary receives this extraordinary message from an angelic visitor. She is a virgin; the text is clear that although she is betrothed to Joseph she had never slept with a man. The Angel Gabriel tells her that she is “highly favored” and that the Lord is “with her.” What a contrast with her situation on a natural level. Mary is poor, young, insignificant, female, and a citizen of an occupied people. God does not see our position, status, or potential as this world does with its hierarchies, priorities, and social delineations.
Mary is told that not only is she going to miraculously have a child, who will be “the Son of the Most High,” but the child she will have will also be given David’s throne. This meant that he was the heir to all the Old Testament prophecies about the Davidic line, and that he would be a visible ruler of the Jewish people. He would be God’s Son, here on earth. The Angel Gabriel brings together the hopes of Israel here—that an anointed one, a Messiah, would come in the line of King David and deliver God’s people with the promise that God himself would provide his own son for the salvation of all people.
Mary is given more detail—her son will not merely reign for a short time in history. He is not going to be a temporary savior for a particular moment of geopolitical difficulty that the Jewish nation finds itself in—Mary’s son will be born in history and will reign forever.
Her son will be great and his “kingdom will never end.” The heart of the incarnation is captured in these words to Mary, which she in turn recounts to Luke. Her son, who will be born from her womb, her seed—her egg—and carried and then delivered from her body, will be such a great king that his kingdom will be eternal.
This is the wonder of the incarnation—the eternal God is born into history.
Luke reflects and records that Mary was worried when she heard this. She was troubled and she was afraid upon hearing those words. This is a reaction that rings true. The awesome revelation of who Jesus Christ is going to be—an eternal ruler who will be born in history—is given to a simple teenage girl. And quite naturally she is astonished.
Her question reflects her intelligence when she asks, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Mary’s question demonstrates that she did know how human biology worked. She understood the basics of reproduction. And she was prepared to speak up and question the angel. Biblical miracles and revelation happen in the real-world context that we experience, and so side by side with describing divine intervention the Bible is honest about our human questions, fear, and wonder when we are faced with something supernatural.
This capacity to grasp the revelation given to her says a lot about Mary, as does the enormity of the responsibility she is trusted with. But ultimately it says a lot about who our God is, including who he values and whose voice matters. Who gets to be a part of his purposes in this world? A young woman named Mary.
Reflect for a few minutes today on this moment in the Advent story. The promise given by an angel to a teenage girl is that God would come into human history through her womb and be born as a baby. Mary’s child will be miraculously conceived, and when he is born, he is going to reign forever on David’s throne.
Give thanks to God for his coming into this world, and as we look forward in our journey in Advent to discovering more of who Jesus is through the eyes of Mary, pray the words of a historic prayer that invites God to stir our hearts with faith and fruit for his kingdom.
Stir up we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people, that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of these be plenteously rewarded through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Church of England Book of Common Prayer
The angel answered, “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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Today on this Advent journey shaped by Mary’s perspective, we consider the interaction between the Angel Gabriel and this unknown young girl living in an obscure part of an occupied land, where a defeated people labored under the control of a massive empire. This woman, Mary, heard the angel say to her, “Don’t be afraid; you have found favor with God, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus, and He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High.” What did Mary make of those words? The text says that she was afraid, and she was troubled and that she had asked how this could happen.
The angel replied that the Holy Spirit would come and that the very power of the Most High God would overshadow her.
Mary was a Jewish woman. She would have been steeped in the scriptures from childhood. She may have known the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and he will call him Emmanuel.”
It had been prophesied long ago in the history of her people that God was going to enter his own creation and be born of a virgin. God himself would be born as Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” But it was never going to be an ordinary conception and birth. The sign signifying that God is at work in this way is that this child’s birth is an intervention from outside—the Virgin will conceive and bring forth a child.
Mary may well have known those words of the prophet Isaiah, but she would certainly have known the words of Genesis 3:15, where her foremother Eve had been promised in the scriptures that her seed, the seed of the woman, would crush the serpent’s head.
I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
From the earliest scriptures the promise is there that one day a child would be born of a woman and crucially of her seed rather than a man’s seed, and that child would have absolute authority and power to crush evil in this world, bruising the very head of the serpent.
Imagine Mary, a dispossessed person living under an oppressive regime, a woman living in a patriarchal society, hearing an angel tell her, “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Not only is God going to do this for all people, but he is also going to do it through you. Perhaps we might grasp her sense of wonder. The child born to her will be a “holy one” and will be recognized as “the Son of God.” This is who Jesus is. Mary is pointing us unequivocally toward the uniqueness and divinity of Christ. Her recounting of Gabriel’s prophecy is critical evidence for the nature and identity of Jesus as the Son of God. Theologians sometimes call this Christology. Mary is convinced. Her reply shows us that she believes that what she has heard will come to pass. Her fear is natural, and it is acknowledged, and her words echo through the pages of scripture and through the corridors of the ages, down to us today. She said to the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” What outstanding faith!
As we walk through this Advent season and prepare our hearts to welcome and worship the Lord Jesus at Christmas, take some time to reflect on Mary’s faith and say with her: “I am your servant, Lord, may your word to me be fulfilled.”
In this Advent season, perhaps we can draw encouragement from the simple but astonishing faith and obedience of a young woman. A young woman who understood theologically this magnificent intervention of God in human history and who said “yes,” offering her own body willingly to this calling with these simple words: “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Mary’s involvement also points us to deep truth about how the incarnation was to unfold. Her question was: How can this be? The way God came in history matters as well as the fact of him coming. Some time ago, a teenager asked me if men and women are equal image bearers of God as Genesis 1:27 claims: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Why did God come as a man? As we have seen, Genesis 3:15 contains a messianic promise given to Eve, promising that her seed will crush Satan and evil. God will come as a man in history and will be a woman’s offspring. Through Mary’s womb, God comes into the world as a man, but he is born of a woman. Jesus is born as a man, the Son of God in human history—but he is born of a woman. Both male and female play a unique and significant role in the incarnation of God.
Mary’s response to the word of the Lord through Gabriel: “May your word to me be fulfilled” is preceded by the angel’s promise: “No word from God will ever fail.”
We beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Church of England Book of Common Prayer
Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.… At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
In this Advent season, it is meaningful to take time to stop, reflect, and actively prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord Jesus into this world. Mary’s testimony gives us a unique and fresh perspective, given her unmistakable viewpoint on the central events around the birth of Jesus Christ. Today’s scripture passage gives us insight into how Mary understood what was happening.
In the last two days, we have reflected on the interaction between the Angel Gabriel and Mary following his announcement to her that she was going to give birth to a son unlike any person who has ever lived—“the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” And today we consider what happened at the end of that encounter with Gabriel. Mary is told that Elizabeth, her relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and that “she who was said to be unable to conceive is now in her sixth month of pregnancy. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Mary is going to give birth to a child, who will be Immanuel, God with us, who will be the Son of the Most High, and he will rule forever. The enormity of this truth is underscored by signs of confirmation to her. She, a virgin, will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, but there will also be a further sign. This is that her aged relative Elizabeth, who had been barren for years and years, is now also pregnant. In fact, Mary is told that Elizabeth is already in her sixth month at this point. As human beings, sometimes we need reassurance, we need signs and affirmations that we are headed in the right direction. We need to know at a deep level that we are on the right track. Mary is given her own virgin conception and the miraculous pregnancy of her aged, childless relative Elizabeth, as two tangible signs, so that she can know for certain that this really is God at work and it is not just her mind playing tricks on her.
Pregnancy is an extraordinary thing. Women all over the world will find their lives utterly changed and altered by pregnancy. And Elizabeth experienced exactly that. Her husband was a priest named Zechariah. He was a high-profile person, and so their barrenness as a couple was a cause of extraordinary shame for them, and a very public shame since childlessness was experienced as a deadly social and spiritual stigma. For Elizabeth, bearing a child would not have been a private experience. This birth was something that would be a miracle in the open and undeniably on the public record.
- Mary’s Voice is the most unique and relatable advent resource I’ve ever read. Amy gives us a vantage point of advent that is rarely, if ever, seen. She reminds us that the church flourishes when we hear the faithful voices of women, the poor and the oppressed. Our souls are enriched when our theological reflections on the life, death and ultimate triumph of Jesus, our Savior, are not devoid of a rich awareness of the social situation of those whom God used in the story of our redemption. In the busyness of advent, Mary’s Voice is an invitation for us to pause in praise joining Mary’s Magnificat, remembering that, in Christ, God has “…lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things."—Chris Brooks, Author of Urban Apologetics, Host of Equipped with Chris Brooks, Senior Pastor Woodside Bible Church
- If leadership is about influence then, after Jesus, Mary was the greatest leader of all time. Uniquely she was present at the three great moments of our redemption: the Incarnation, Passion and Pentecost. In this book, Amy Orr Ewing presents Mary’s perspective – her fear, her faith and her wisdom – to highlight how her life can offer hope to all who journey through tears, disappointment, lament, struggle and pain.—Nicky and Pippa Gumbel, Author, Pioneers of Alpha and Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, London
- What better companions could there possibly be for our journey through Advent to Christmas than these two women: Mary the mother of Jesus who speaks more powerfully into this season than any other, and Amy Orr-Ewing, a trusted voice and respected friend whose insights never fail to encourage and inspire me.—Pete Greig, Founder 24-7 Prayer International and Senior Pastor Emmaus Rd Church
- A beautiful and intensely thoughtful set of Christmas reflections, given added depth by a stunning set of illustrations.—Professor Alister McGrath, University of Oxford
- In Mary’s Voice: Advent Reflections to Contemplate the Coming of Christ, Amy helps us to recapture the awe and wonder of the birth of Christ, and what this means for us today. By elevating the voice of the young, strong, vulnerable, marginalized, courageous, obedient, faithful, and often overlooked Mary, the mother of God, Amy unveils profound insights into the meaning of Christmas. This book will be a great companion as you prepare your heart during the Advent season. I have never been more captivated by Advent reflections and know you will see Jesus more clearly and love him more dearly as you journey through these pages. —Christine Caine, Founder of A21 and Propel Women
- As Amy embraces the legacy and first-hand witness of Mary’s personal and significant part in the story of Advent, every chapter opens, astonishes and excites the reader’s heart to the courage, calling and faith of Mary’s heart. The beautiful rhythm and cadence of Amy’s voice reveals the full theological picture surrounding the astonishing courage, calling and faith laid upon Mary’s heart as she carries the most influential person in all history to an awaiting weary world. This book wonderfully translates the real Mary story crossing all denominations, ages and lives.—Yazz, Singer-songwriter and Author of Pearls of Great Price
- Rich, deeply beautiful, and moving, Mary’s Voice shows why Christmas, for all its fevered rush and consumerism, is still the festival that slows the racing mind, stills the overloaded heart, and creates wonder. Amy’s meditations deepen our understanding and sympathy for Mary, for Advent, and for all women too, but in a way that also makes her reflections rich for men and for all who seek for the meaning of life.—Os Guinness, Author of The Call
- Looking through the lens of a woman in the 21st century about a woman in the 1st century, Mary’s Voice is unlike any Advent devotional I’ve ever read. Amy Orr Ewing compels her readers to consider Mary’s “enormity of responsibility” in the longing and waiting of the coming King. Capturing my heart into the wonder of the incarnation through the life and perspective of Mary, I know this book will make an impact in the lives of women for many more centuries to come.—Rev. Lisa Wink Schultz, Chief of Staff, US Senate Chaplain’s office
In Mary’s Voice, Amy has provided a beautiful and unique perspective surrounding Christ’s birth. This devotional opened my eyes to a new way of imagining that first Christmas through Mary’s eyes. What a gift!
—Lauren McAfee, Founder, Stand for Life; Ministry Director of Hobby Lobby Ministry Investments
- In this powerful devotional, Dr Amy Orr Ewing reintroduces us to Mary’s life and her often forgotten voice. We’re reminded of Mary’s theological depth, prophetic insight and profound surrender, and then invited to consider our own response to Jesus. Mary's Voice is a valuable companion for the Advent Season.—Jo Saxton, Speaker, Author of Ready to Rise
- As both a Christian and a Pastor, I’m always looking for fresh insights, perspectives and inspiration when considering the glory of the Incarnation. Amy Orr-Ewing has provided all of that in her book, Mary’s Voice. A refreshing journey through the days of Advent with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as our guide. I loved it and am sure you will too.—Brian Brodersen, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California
- In Amy’s inspiring new book on Mary there is so much to treasure up and ponder in our hearts. We’re reminded how remarkable a role she played in the gospel story, and how extraordinary an entrustment she carried. Each day gives us insight into the life, character and voice of one of the most influential women in scripture, and indeed history. My friend Amy’s beautifully written pages reach both head and heart -- and are so Christ-exalting. This highly recommended book is a wonderful companion for Advent, or indeed any time of the year.—Beth Redman, Author and Speaker
- Amy’s life and words have given voice and hope to many, and her reflections in this beautiful Advent book around the voice of Mary amplify the unexpected, wise, tender ways God speaks to each of us. With threads of art and history, this volume invites us to see anew the wonder of the God of hope and promises, redemption and life. My hopes were raised and my heart was stirred through these extraordinary reflections.—Canon Sarah Yardley, Mission Lead of Creation Fest
- On Sale
- Oct 24, 2023
- Page Count
- 208 pages
- Worthy Books