Continuing with my theme from Monday of a reflection on characters in the story of the birth of Jesus, I’m looking at two people who have important similarities, but even more important differences: King Herod and Mary. They both believed a Messiah was going to be born. They both acted; just in different ways.
King Herod may seem like a surprising choice. I was actually surprised as I was thinking about which players to write about next, King Herod was one of the first that came to mind. As the villain of the story, you don’t really hear many Christmas sermons talking about what we can take away from him. I think there is something, though.
King Herod most prominently fits in with the wise men scene of the story. He is the person they go to ask for directions to the location of the Messiah’s birth. How does he respond? Like everyone else I described in my last blog, he responded in action. The Bible didn’t say he questioned the wise men about their source of information or created a council to determine if there was a messiah. Nope, he began the hunt. He accepted the birth of a messiah and sought to destroy him. This goes back to something my parents have long said, “it’s not enough to believe in God. Even Satan believes in God.” King Herod believed a messiah was being born. He believed so much he ordered for all male babies under two in the area to be killed (Matthew 2:16-18). So, from Herod’s example, I ask myself: your faith is abundant, what are you going to do about it?
I think it is safe to assume that we all know the general story of Mary. The angel Gabriel appeared and told her she would give birth to the Messiah as a virgin. Her response?
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the Angel could mean. – Luke 1: 29
I think it is also safe to assume that we could add fear to the list based on the Gabriel’s next words to her: “Don’t be afraid, Mary” (Luke 1:30). There was an obvious reason for her to be confused, disturbed, and afraid by this. God’s calling often does not give us clear answers, nor does it always take away fear. Often those things that are most important that God calls us for are scary and the details are confusing. These feelings don’t represent weak faith. Above all, we know Mary was faithful. These represent our humanness in comparison with God’s all knowing might. What is important is our response in these feelings. What was Mary’s?
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:38
Despite the fact I don’t understand this, despite the fact that the details are disturbing, despite the fact that I am
completely overwhelmed with fear, use me Lord. – That is how I see her response. This is the response that I am trying to build for everytime the Lord calls me to do something that is confusing, disturbing, and frightening.
Let me be a Mary.