Character matters. God wants us to develop and demonstrate qualities which reveal our values and convictions. Character counts as the sustaining force which enables us to make an impact over the long haul – more than intelligence, skills, or education.
When God selected the Christmas couple – Mary and Joseph – he chose two people with sterling character, including traits which qualified them to be Jesus’s earthly parents. While the Bible contains scant details about their appearance or proficiencies, it emphasizes the kind of people they were – their character traits – as the reasons for their selection for their all-important roles.
When Mary heard the angelic message informing her she was to bear Jesus, her response was, “I am the Lord’s servant” (Lk. 1:38). That summarizes her spiritual status in one succinct sentence: complete submission to God. She acquiesced to God’s plan for her life without question or equivocation. She was a servant – a person devoted to meeting the needs of someone else – whatever the cost.
Many years ago, one of our preschool children did something deserving correction. When I gave it, he spun around and declared, “You’re not the boss of me!” That’s the way many people respond to God these days. They hear his instructions, don’t like what they hear, don’t want to serve God (or anyone else), and declare, “You’re not the boss of me.”
Mary models a different response because of an important character quality – humility. As Mary sang her response to God for choosing her to be Jesus’ mother, she declared God had “looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant” (Lk. 1:48). Two words – humble and servant – are closely connected in this sentence, just as they are in life. Serving requires humility. Humble people are willing servants. The two words – just like the two concepts – go hand-in-hand.
Evangelicals rightly reject the way Mary is portrayed by the Catholic Church. But in doing that, we may also miss the powerful example of this young woman for all of us. God selected her as part of the Christmas couple because of her character as a humble servant. She is a model for all of us. When God directs, our best response is to bow our heads and hearts and say, “Yes, Lord” – just as Mary did.
To make that response, you must learn humility and practice serving others. The Bible says you are to “humble yourself” (Jam. 4:10). Interestingly, the Bible never says to humble another person – only yourself. This means your focus should be on learning humility and practicing by serving others. These are character qualities you can develop, over time, as marks of spiritual devotion and growth.
During this Christmas season, let Mary motivate you to develop these important traits.
Pastor Jon Varner shares what he learned developing a practice of combining his daily Bible reading and prayer.