Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this seven-week Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. We’ll be studying the lives of seven incredible New Testament women. It’s the perfect way to journey through Lent together.
Mary: The Young Girl
Read: Luke 1: 26-38
Scholars believe that Mary was only about twelve years old when the angel Gabriel appeared by her side and gave her news that would rock both her world and ours.
What were you doing at twelve years old? I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t thinking about God much, or angels. I was thinking about boys, and what I might wear to the school disco. But yet I know God was thinking about me, just like God was thinking about Mary.
I was Mary’s age, just twelve years old, when I knelt at the altar rail with my sister and invited Jesus into my heart. I remember feeling special as I rode home on the bus that night… like God knew me.
God knew Mary. God knew her name:
‘Do not be afraid, Mary,’ the angel said. ‘You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’
Those words are so familiar to us that they can easily lose their impact, but I would invite you to read them again, slowly.
Can you imagine trying to make sense of those words when you’re just twelve years old, and you’re not even married? Can you imagine an angel standing in front of you as you’re just about to make dinner, his wings all shimmering and shining in the sunlight as he says your name and gives you a message from God?
And this amazing young girl, after enquiring, quite logically, how this will happen, simply bows her head and says: I’m your servant. Let it be.
Mary said yes to God.
Nine months later, when Joseph had gone back to sleep in that small, starlit stable, and the shepherds had long gone, Mary lay awake, perhaps looking at her infant son as he slept, and pondered all these things in her heart.
It’s not hard to imagine what Mary pondered about.
She must surely have been replaying the scene in her mind when the angel Gabriel first came to her in Galilee. She must have been thinking about her cousin, Elizabeth, and their special, shared pregnancies.
She must have been pondering about the shepherds, who rushed in to see this ‘new-born King’, and the choir of angels who appeared to them in the fields.
And surely, surely, like any mom who has held her baby and watched him or her as they slept, she must have been thinking, and pondering, and no doubt worrying, about what the future held for her son.
You can’t give birth to God’s son and not ponder what the future holds.
We don’t meet Mary much more in the gospels. We do know that when her baby was eight days old, she took him to the temple to be dedicated and heard Simeon’s chilling words about how her own soul would be pierced.
We know that like any concerned parent, she searched frantically for the boy Jesus when he went missing on a trip to Jerusalem.
We know she attended a wedding with her grown up son in Cana.
But beyond these glimpses, we know little about Mary. We can imagine that she lived an ordinary life as a mother and housewife, cleaning, baking, doing all the things a woman did, yet all the time waiting, waiting, to see what would happen to her son.
And we all know what happened.
Our last glimpse of Mary is in the place where she surely, surely never wanted to be. We see Mary at the foot of the cross, looking up at her son, the one she gave birth to, watching him suffer an agonizing, cruel death.
Sometimes, saying yes to God means that we might find ourselves in a place we never, ever wanted to be.
Yet this was not the end! Mary didn’t know it then, but this awful, awful part of her life, this very place she never wanted to be, was actually the beginning of the greatest hope the world would ever know. We’re about to journey towards it, as we step onto our Lenten path.
Friends, I don’t know what hard thing God asks of you. I don’t know what awful place you find yourself in. But hold on to that hope! What I do know is that each one of us is somehow part of God’s mysterious, miraculous, unfolding plan in the world.
Mary; me; my sister, who knelt at the altar; you, who are reading these words… God asks all of us to say yes.
God give us strength to bow our heads, like Mary did, and say:
I’m your servant. Let it be.
Questions For Reflection:
- What blessings have you been given that have come with great responsibility?
- What hard thing has God asked of you?
- Where, and how, were you aware of God when you were a child?
- What is God revealing to you through this story?
- Choose at least three links in this study that take you to different parts of scripture where Mary is mentioned. What else do you learn about her?