Mary the Prophet: Advent 2020 Week 2
Sunday, December 6, 2020: Advent Day 8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:
Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
a voice shouting in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight."
-Mark 1:1-3 (CEB)
Prophets Preparing the Way:
This verse talks about the role of John the Baptist, a man of service and humility, who declared he wasn’t even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals, the job of a slave in his day. This posture of servitude, coupled with John’s status as a prophetic authority, shows us that humility is valued highest in God’s kingdom.
Similarly gifted, Mary was used profoundly by God as a prophet, although she is rarely recognized in this way. Cultures over the centuries have tended to put her in a box and categorize her as a model of obedience and passivity for women. However, the reality of her story is much more interesting.
Mary first received her call as a prophet when she was encountered by the angel, and she was asked to step into the role of mother to the promised Messiah. God makes sure Mary is okay with this adventure, and makes space for her questions and doubt, (Lk 1:34). Other important prophets have followed a similar pattern of call-to-questioning-to-consent, such as; Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to name a few. Mary is confronted with God’s idea for her to step into this role and she is given a choice. Mary consents to becoming the mother of Jesus and with her “yes”, God has done amazing things.
We aren’t all going to get a visit from an angel to tell us our calling, but God is faithful to show us what our next step is, in fact you may already know. Spend time in prayer today asking for courage to step into what is in front of you, or if you aren’t sure, ask God: “What is my next faithful step?”, and journal your thoughts.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020: Advent day 10
When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him. They accused him, “You went into the home of the uncircumcised and ate with them!”
Step-by-step, Peter explained what had happened. “I was in the city of Joppa praying when I had a visionary experience. In my vision, I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered from heaven by its four corners. It came all the way down to me. As I stared at it, wondering what it was, I saw four-legged animals—including wild beasts—as well as reptiles and wild birds. I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill and eat!’ I responded, ‘Absolutely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice from heaven spoke a second time, ‘Never consider unclean what God has made pure.’ This happened three times, then everything was pulled back into heaven. At that moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. The Spirit told me to go with them even though they were Gentiles. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered that man’s house. He reported to us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is known as Peter. He will tell you how you and your entire household can be saved.’ When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as the Spirit fell on us in the beginning. I remembered the Lord’s words: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who am I? Could I stand in God’s way?”
Once the apostles and other believers heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and concluded, “So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life.”
God’s Chosen People
It is hard for us to imagine the deeply rooted belief systems that the Christians in Jerusalem had at the time, for Peter and others, “circumsized” identified them as a distinctive class, and the promised people of God. The young Jewish believers were still wrestling with God’s embrace of gentiles, slaves, women and those who weren't a part of the previous covenant and not identified by circumcision. As Peter interprets his dream, the Holy Spirit falls on them, (Acts 10:44-46), to reveal once again God’s plan for full inclusion of all people groups.
Mary was likely not recognized as a prophet in her day, at least not while Jesus was a child. it would have been hard for those around her, (and maybe her too), to understand how God was using her given her cultural context. I wonder if she thought her calling was complete once she began to raise the boy and life seemed ordinary for a while.
During this time of raising Jesus, the family traveled to Jerusalem for a Passover festival. On the way back home, after a couple days of not seeing Jesus in their caravan, she became worried and went back to search for him. She found him teaching in the temple.
“Child, why have you treated us like this? Listen! Your father and I have been worried. We’ve been looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he said to them (Luke 2: 48-50, CEB).
What do you think Mary thought of Jesus at this time? Did she forget she was raising the son of God and not an average boy? Signs of his ministry were beginning, and perhaps this was one of her first reminders he wasn’t ordinary, and neither was her calling. Soon she would lose her little boy to his mission for the world and her calling as a witness and leader in the early church would begin.
So often we don't have any idea what God is up to, and or we feel unsure if God has plans for us when everything around us feels ordinary.
Pray the prayer in the image below today.
Wednesday, December 9, 2020: Advent day 11
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
- Luke 1:11-17 (CEB)
A Tale of Two Pregnancies
The Book of Luke gives special attention to women. The book opens by highlighting and intertwining the stories of two pregnancies. Both Mary and Elizabeth carry babies with prophesied missions. The time of divine fulfillment of God’s promises has come and Zechariah is the first to hear. His son was to be the one who would lead the people back to the Lord. It is easy to imagine his cautious acceptance of this news, painfully aware of his wife’s old age and the decades of disappointment they have had unable to conceive. Zechariah’s understandable questioning then leads to him being silenced by the angel (Luke 1: 18-19). This has been understood as a punishment for lack of faith, however, it was used as a confirmation of the promise and provided a blessing of protection.
Elizabeth becomes the focus of this narrative. When Mary joins Elizabeth, the two women, both experiencing pregnancies that would have caused many to judge and accuse, have each other and their miracle babies filled with the Holy Spirit. Zacheriah’s silence aids in keeping the male narrative from overshadowing a female-led chapter of this story. Mary and Elizabeth are given the gift of this special time together and these prophetically gifted women are able to tell the story.
Silence can be a gift when someone we trust draws near but isn’t trying to fix or solve our problems. When their careful listening becomes all we need, we become filled with joy and peace. The gift of silence provides time to process and heal, and the presence of someone's listening ears and caring hearts validates our needs.
Pray for insight today to be a listening ear, often referred to as the act of “holding space” for another. Ask God to give you opportunities to serve another in this way in the coming week.
Thursday, December 10, 2020: Advent day 12:
When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming.
Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter;
our tongues were filled with joyful shouts.
It was even said, at that time, among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them!”
Yes, the Lord has done great things for us,
and we are overjoyed.
Lord, change our circumstances for the better,
like dry streams in the desert waste!
Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!
-Psalm 126: 1-6
Yes, Mary Knew:
Mary would have been familiar with this Psalm. She knew her God was a god of justice and that her call as Jesus’ mother meant embracing the prophetic hope like the stories she knew so well. This is why Mary’s song, the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), is more than just a song of praise, it’s a prophetic proclamation.
She knew her son was to be the true son of God, a direct threat to Caesar Augustus’ authority who identified as the “son of god”, (heir of Julius Caesar, the proclaimed “god of Rome”).
Agustus created peace across Rome by ending the civil wars and was praised as their savior for the “good news” (meaning “gospel”) across the empire. This was Mary’s society, and she knew her mission to carry the true savior was a dangerous one that would challenge the highest authorities she knew.
Knowing that her son was destined for conflict and violence, the young Mary would have had so much to process, to be joyful for, and to be cautious about at the same time. Luke tells us she was intelligent and thoughtful (Luke 2:19). As Mary learned more about Jesus, she stored her knowledge up, contemplating and preparing for the role to raise this child which held so much significance for the world.
Dedicate time today to think back on the ways God has been faithful in your life and done great things for you. If you cannot think of any, write a list of your desires for God that would bring you joy in 2021 and commit those to prayer.
Download the Know Your Mothers Daily App to download the images below. Use these wallpapers help you remember this verse throughout the day or week!
Friday, December 11, 2020: Advent day 13
“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. So all of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, and if anyone thinks differently, God will reveal it to him or her. Only let’s live in a way that is consistent with whatever level we have reached.”
-Philippians 3:12-16, (CEB)
Paul compares the work of the church to that of athletic contests. He recognizes that every athlete must compete at the level for which they have trained and he encourages the church to think of spiritual maturity in this way. Perhaps this is why at the end of the letter, Paul admonishes Euodia and Syntyche, two female leaders and co-workers in the church, to reunite and settle their disagreement for the good of the church’s local mission (Phil. 4:3).
It's important to note that Paul’s letter here takes for granted what today can be surprising to some, that women were the leading force of the Phillipian church.
Female leadership is often overlooked in the bible. Sometimes it has been hidden with a translation’s name change, or poor understanding of context, and other times it is just plain ignored. In the case of Mary, her leadership style has been severely underappreciated for her tremendous role as the Mother of God.
When the shepherds came after Jesus’ his birth, and everyone was celebrating the glory of God’s promises fulfilled, Luke tells us “Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully” (CEB), Luke is subtle, highlighting Mary’s intellect and intimate understanding of what God is up to with her newborn son. She sees the potential of God’s work and is preparing herself for what lays ahead as one uniquely positioned to lead.
Paul acknowledges that followers of Christ become spiritually mature at their own pace. One’s own effort toward study and spiritual practices such as prayer lend themselves to strengthening spiritual muscles for when life gets difficult.
Strengthen your spiritual muscles:
Find five minutes today to be quiet and listen for God. Pick a word for God (such as Father, Mother, love, peace, comfort, etc). Close your eyes and repeat your chosen word, inviting God into your heart. Breathe deeply and find a posture of gratitude (maybe your palms up are up or you want to be on your knees).
Pray for strengthened spiritual muscles that help you be still and listen. If your mind wanders, refocus on your word for God to bring your mind back to attention.
Saturday, December 12, 2020: Advent Day 14
Parable of two sons
“What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
“‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.
“The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go.
“Which one of these two did his father’s will?”
They said, “The first one.”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you. 32 For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him.
-Matthew 21:28-32 (CEB)
Tax Collectors and Prostitutes
Jesus calls out two groups of people in this parable as he challenges the perception of the Pharisees. In Jesus’ time, Jews saw tax collectors as traitors because of their alliance with Rome’s political agenda. Prostitutes were seen as making bad choices to live a life of sin.
Jesus would have been intimately aware of the fact that the men of society had failed in their requirement to care for widows and poor women who were driven into prostitution for survival. At the top of this list of those to be held responsible for this were the judgemental and callous Pharisees, aka, the men in power.
The Torah laws in Mary’s day assured that she would have been dependent on a man for survival, and it was up to this man to determine her fate and safety in the world. According to Jewish law, Joseph would have been required to break off their betrothal at the news of the pregnancy. If she were any other woman she would have been labeled as an adulteress in her society.
There were legal ramifications that both Mary and Joseph would have grown up understanding. The fate of an unwed pregnant woman wasn’t pretty. Consequences such as stoning, (Deut. 22:23-24), and the ritual of “bitter waters”, (designed to humiliate the woman and her family in the name of “justice”), would have crossed Mary’s mind as a potential outcome for a woman in her position. We know Joseph didn’t go this route, but the thought that he could have must have crossed Mary’s mind at some point, and in fact Matthew tells us he did have plans to quietly divorce her (Matthew 1:19).
The reality of this fear and possible outcome of her situation further highlights the prophetic power and extreme bravery it must have taken her to accept God’s call to carry the Messiah (Luke 1:38).
Globally, women and orphaned females are the most at-risk groups for experiencing extreme poverty. Poverty is the number one cause of abuse, slavery and sex trafficng for females. There are an estimated 47 million women who are expected to be living in extreme poverty globally by 2021 according to Global Citizen.
Spend time in prayer today for those women living in extreme poverty and for those at risk for sex trafficing becuase of it. Pray for those in power to be held responsible to care for those in greatest need. Use the image below if helpful.