Monday, December 4, 2017

Mary's Story 1

Memory is fickle. The elephant is supposed to have the best. My memory works just opposite of an elephant’s. Once I forget something it’s forgotten forever. 

Some things intensify memory like when a sense is attached to a place or person or event. Smells can trigger memories for me. I’ve walked by a group of pine trees and their combined scent is so strong I’m suddenly in the gully in the woods where I grew up. I can smell Stetson cologne and flash back to a Deacon friend from a church years ago as though he’s in the room with me. I’ve walked into a flower shop and been transported to a funeral service. Sounds can trigger memories. I’ve heard an old style siren and found myself in the back of an ambulance being jostled along on a trip to the hospital after a car wreck when I was in High School. I hear a Neil Diamond song and I’m singing along with a bunch of guys in a dorm room in college.

Another intensifier is emotion. When an emotion is connected to an event, we have a stronger memory. Not only do we know details, we also feel how we felt. We remember with the emotion attached. Ask a war veteran about their experiences and you’ll get more than a historical narration. He’ll go back there. Losing a loved one. We can give a play by play of all that was going on when they died but not in sterile facts, we are there again, feeling with the same emotions. Or in the birth of a child. I can take you back into the birth story of our firstborn and describe the moment I was overwhelmed with tears and begged the doctor to put him back in. Why do we remember so much? It’s the power of emotion—fear, terror, inadequacy, hope, future, love. They add depth to a story.
Emotions help us remember details we might otherwise dismiss as unimportant.

Most women remember much better than men do. Primarily because men aren’t as in touch with their emotions as women. Men remember in general. Women in specific.

In a man’s mind are dozens of little boxes. There’s a box for each subject he might be concerned about. A box for the car, the house, work, the kids, the pets, recreation, sports, vacation, church, health, finances, the wife.

Every subject has a box. If you want to talk about one of those subjects, he’ll go to that box, open it up and talk about what’s in the box. Ladies, if you change the subject, he will close that box, go back and get another box relative to the new subject, open it and talk about what’s in that box. If you go back and throw something in from the first subject, you’ll get the deer in the headlights look as he closes the current box and reopens the other one.

A man has limited RAM – random access memory – the ability for our computers to multitask. Even with all those boxes he is limited to the information he has available at the time to discuss a subject.

Men, your son calls and the grandbaby is born. You take the call and he tells you you are a grandfather. You tell him congratulations and how excited you are for them and hang up. Your wife asks, what was it? A baby. Boy or girl? I don’t know. How big was it? Small, probably. How much did it weigh? He didn’t say. How long was it? I didn’t ask. What did they name it? Smith.

Why? Men aren’t into the details? Those weren’t the main things of the story. The main thing was our son and his wife had a baby and we are grandparents. Women are into the details. So, your wife will by-pass you and your son, call your daughter-in-law and get the details she wants to know.

In a woman’s mind are wires going everywhere. Instead of boxes she has a circuit board with all the wires connecting to everything on that circuit board. Why? Because for a woman everything connects. Every story intertwines. Talking about dinner connects with your mother which connects with how she raised you which connects with why you can’t iron your own shirts. You compliment her new dress and she can’t accept the compliment because it connects with her new size which connects with her weight which connects with Thanksgiving which connects to your mom who brought the pumpkin pie and she had that extra slice.

But let her tell a story and she’ll give great details. A man, not so much.

Now when Luke wanted to write the story of Jesus, not having direct information from personal observation, he interviewed people who did have that information.

Luke 1:1  Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, Luke 1:2  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, Luke 1:3  it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; Luke 1:4  so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Who would know more about the birth of Jesus than Mary? You want specifics ask the mother. Matthew told the story from Joseph’s side. He wrote 7 verses about the birth and 23 about the Magi and the trip to Egypt. Luke wrote 132 verses, never mentioning the Magi or Egypt.

Why was the Magi’s story important to Joseph and not to Mary? Magi were men of renown from a strange land who traveled a long way to see this child that they declared a king. These men did something fantastic, so to make that journey to Bethlehem spoke volumes to Joseph. That would impress a man. But even still, Joseph’s story was just reporting an event as though he was describing stuff in the box that said Nativity. His story was factual but impersonal.

Mary told about family and faith and shepherds who made this birth a fulfillment of God’s love for His people.  That would impress a woman. Her story was relational.

A man’s life-strength comes from what he does. A woman’s life-strength comes from who she is. In a man’s mind what he does defines who he is. For a woman, who she is, expresses itself in what she does. The worst thing you can do for a man is take away his ability to do. What he does gives him his identity. The worst thing you can do for a woman is to take away her concept of who she is. Who she is is why she does what she does.

That’s why the empty nest is harder on a woman than a man. Her life is all about relationships. But retirement is harder on a man than a woman. His life is all about doing.

When you read Joseph’s story you understand he was focused on telling the story from what he was to do—take Mary as wife and protect her virginity and name the baby Jesus.

Matt 1:18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Matt 1:19  And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. [What must I do to fix this?] Matt 1:20  But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
Matt 1:21  "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Matt 1:22  Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: Matt 1:23  "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." Matt 1:24  And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, Matt 1:25  but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Mary was focused on telling who she would be—the mother of the Messiah. And who He would be—the King of the Kingdom of God. She told about this birth as it affected her.

Even though this interview with Luke was after Jesus had died, it was fresh to Mary. It was seasoned with emotions that maintained the flavor of every word. Garnished with details that created the warmth we expect in the story of a baby’s birth.

But why did Mary start her story with her Cousin Elizabeth’s story about the birth of John the Baptizer?

It gave credibility to her unbelievable story of virgin birth. Elizabeth’s was a miraculous birth in her old age. Who else would understand the visit by an angel and being left with a promise of a special child? Elizabeth could give Mary confirmation that this was God at work. Mary probably didn’t even know she was pregnant until Elizabeth told her. Elizabeth was Mary’s sonogram.

Elizabeth was married to a Levite Priest. Not that women married to preachers are any more spiritual than others, but she was probably the one Mary respected most. If you have a divine moment with God, you generally want to run that by someone you believe has spiritual wisdom.

Mary went to see Elizabeth and spent 3 months there, until John was born. Came home three months pregnant. When did she conceive? Most likely the very moment she agreed.

Luk 1:26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, Luk 1:27  to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

Luk 1:30  The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. Luk 1:31  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. Luk 1:32  "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; Luk 1:33  and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Luk 1:34  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" [I need more details.] Luk 1:35  The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luk 1:36  "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. Luk 1:37  "For nothing will be impossible with God." Luk 1:38  And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." [Not: what do I have to do?] And the angel departed from her. Luk 1:39  Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, Luk 1:40  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. Luk 1:41  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luk 1:42  And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luk 1:43  "And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? Luk 1:44  "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

There’s her confirmation. The promise was a reality. God was writing a fantastic story of salvation and deliverance, presenting the Messiah to the world, and Mary’s life-story gets woven in. God brought Mary into the greater story of Jesus. He does that for us. In a divine moment our life intersects with the truth of who Jesus is and we embrace it. We are now part of that greater story. His story becomes our story.

1.       Hidden within Mary’s story is one of the most significant statements in Scripture – Nothing will be impossible with God.
2.      When God is writing the story, everything fits in its proper place, the timing is perfect and the result is good.
3.      Wherever He is in the story of your life, anything is possible because your story isn’t finished yet.
4.      Faith is the ability to trust God to work out all the details in order to bring about a good conclusion.

5.      So don’t judge your story by how it began, wait and see how it ends.

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