Thursday, December 17, 2015

Handmaidens of the Lord

The Handmaiden

As women of God we are given various traits of character.  Do you recognize some of yours?

Mary, the young handmaiden of God, was not so different from you or me.  She had faith, she was obedient, she was quiet in spirit, humble of heart, meditative, tender-hearted, and she chose to be a willing servant. Mary was loving, very devout, and truly blessed.  

But Mary, like us, was in need of a savior, declaring it so in the Scriptures and in her prayers. 

Her story is a familiar one. To the scoffers her story is difficult to believe for it was and is a miracle, real and alive then, continuing to be after over 2000 years. 

I've often wondered what might have gone through Mary’s mind when she discovered she was going to be pregnant and carry the Son of the Most High.  

I came across a Diary the other day.  It’s possible the hand-written journal was hers.  Let me read to you what it said and you can decide for yourself.

Dear Diary. I must write this down for it is a miracle which i must share with someone. 

I was just sitting on the floor of my room looking out my window.  The sunbeams  poured in on my face as they flooded through the panes.  I had been daydreaming  most of the day, just thinking…about things.  That sort of thing happens a lot when you’re fourteen, like me.

While I sat there in the dust, I overheard a few old ladies carrying on in the other room. They were talking about me.  I probably shouldn’t have been listening but I was. 

Here is what I heard.

“Did you go to the betrothal yesterday?” asked one.
“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said another.  “I cried.”
“It was so beautiful,” added a third.

“Well,” said the first, “it’s about time something was done. I had heard a while backJoe got himself a wife.  He’s getting up there in age – needs some kids around the shop. At his pace, he can't keep at his job all alone for much longer.”
“But he’s too old for HER!” the oldest one in the room said to the others. “The girl is only fourteen," she spouted a bit too noisily. "Joe is nowhere near twenty like other young men who should be showing interest in her. Indeed, the man is well over 30 years old ... maybe even more.”
“Oh well,” I heard someone say before they left the room. “You know how it is with some of these youngsters these days.  They’ll marry anybody just to get away from home."

Before the door closed, their voices faded after someone said,  "I  Wonder if Mary can cook.”
I went back to my daydreaming shortly after that.  

Betrothed!  They didn't have it quite right for I was actually engaged.  I could hardly wait for my year to be over so that Joseph and I could have the actual wedding ceremony. I knew it was part of tradition.  All the other girls had to wait. I was no different.

I continued my daydreaming, until I suddenly heard this loud voice behind me.  

“Greetings, you, who are highly favored.  The Lord is with         you!”

I looked up I saw this huge figure of a man standing over me.  It scared me.  After all, I was just a peasant girl.  What could he want of me?

“Do not be afraid Mary,” he said.  “You have found favor          with God.”

What did he mean favor with God?  Who was this man?

“You will be with child, a son will be born, and you will name        him Jesus” 

Oh goodness! I thought.  He must not have known I was not yet married

Even so, he went on. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him his father David’s throne; He will reign in Jacob’s house – His kingdom will never end.”

King David? Had he been speaking about him?  

I knew I was his descendant (one of many) but this meant my son would be the prophesied Messiah of old.  Hearing this, I was stunned!  But the man sounded insistent. 

Was he an angel?  I had to respond.

“How can this be?” I asked him.  “I am but a virgin” (He just had to have known I wasn’t yet married.)

Then he explained. “Dear child – the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. The holy one to be born will be the Son of God!”

My thoughts raced and I pondered not too little.  If this should be true, who would ever believe me?  What would Joseph say?  Most likely he would write me up a divorcement as soon as I started showing and leave me home with mother!  My son would be …. well, I didn’t dare say the word.  The neighbors would shun him from the beginning.  

I almost started crying.  I felt sick inside.  What would I do? My son would be so ill treated.  I would be an outcast!  I felt trapped.  I’d have to live at home forever or perhaps I would get stoned to death? 

I didn't yet lift my eyes. In truth,  I didn’t know what to say.
I started to weigh the situation carefully.  I knew what I had to do. I decided to count the cost.  I was beginning to see, this wasn’t about me at all.  

God had chosen me to do something special for Him!  I had to be obedient to His wishes.  Even though it might cost me everything, I had to consider it all.  How much did I really love God?  

I knew the answer then – I would do it.  I would say yes.  I would be willing.

I looked up at the man-angel.  After a second's pause, I said to him, “I am the Lord’s handmaiden. Let it be to me according to your word.”

He smiled at me and the next thing I knew, he was gone.  At that moment, I felt God’s love like never before, but it was even more than that.  Because of my decision as the Lord’s handmaiden, I knew my God was truly pleased with me. 

My prayer that came a moment later like a poetic melody said it all. 

     My soul magnifies the Lord 
My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior 
He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant
Behold henceforth all generations will call  me blessed 
for He who is mighty has done great things for  me. 
Holy is His name.
Mary made a decision to be the Lord’s servant, a handmaiden of God. She made the heartfelt choice to do what He asked of her -- to do His will no matter what it was. Her character traits were evident by her actions. 

You and I as the Lord’s handmaidens are also asked to serve God from our hearts. We are asked to choose rightly, to do as He asks of us, to do His will even if it takes us out of our comfort zones. Are we willing like Mary to be obedient to His wishes for us? 

We are not Mary, but we are the Lord's servants. As women of God, we have made our decisions to be his handmaidens for this day and age. We have our faith, we make decisions to be obedient, to be quiet in spirit, humble of heart, meditative, tender-hearted,  willing servants. 

Mary was loving, devout, truly blessed.  But Mary,  like us, knew she was in need of a savior and declared it so in her prayer. 

Like Mary, when we  choose to do those things God asks of us, we, too, can feel His love for us like never before. 

Mary pleased the Lord. Her character was evident by her actions. 

 What traits of character are evident in our lives today?