The miracle of Christmas continues to stir heart, mind and imagination as the story is re-told generation to generation. Recently a very good friend of mine brought to me a chapter from a well-known theologian who quoted John of Damascus concerning the birth of Christ as follows: “…it is essentially right when John of Damascus describes Mary’s ear as the bodily organ of the miraculous conception of Christ. The operation of the Holy Spirit at the conception of Jesus is one mediated through Mary’s faith. Mary believes…and by believing in the Word of God spoken by the angel she is thereby enabled to take the eternal Word into herself…”
It seems to me that Luke conveys that piece of truth beautifully in the opening of his gospel. Side by side are Zechariah, the priest and Mary, the humble and ordinary young woman—both individuals from the chosen race of Israel. Each received a miraculous and life-changing visitation of God through the angel Gabriel.
Consider their place in Jewish life at that time. Zechariah was to administer the duties of the office of priest, both teaching the people and bringing them before God. He was responsible to uphold Torah, offer continued hope that the promises of God insured and bring his people before Holy God. Mary was a worshipper of God and lived among the Jewish nation with no particular status or pedigree to commend her for the future that was to be hers.
Gabriel announces the good news to Zechariah that the son he and Elizabeth had longed for was to be born, describing the nature of the child and even giving him the name he is to be called. The one who taught Torah, who knew the stories of his ancestors (specifically Abraham and Sarah), and who was to instill and exhibit faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob responded to the angel by the question “how can I be sure of this?”
Mary, on the other hand, receiving the news from Gabriel about bearing the Son of God, asked “how will this be?”
Two very different questions with two very different points of reference. The religious leader questioned the validity of what the angel said. Mary questioned the manner in which it would take place.
From the very beginning God has been looking for people who would walk by faith: who would hear, believe, and act upon that belief thereby creating with God, reproducing with God, and inviting others to the life of faith.
Paul was clear: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Ro 10:17).
If the organ of conception is the ear, I wonder what God would be asking you to believe this Christmas season that will enable the Divine Creator to use you in the ongoing workings of His eternal Kingdom.
May our answer be that of Mary’s: “be it unto me according to Thy Word!”