As pastors’ wives, we can learn from Mary this Christmas and grow in humility and confidence in God as we serve others.
The focus at Christmas is the birth of our Savior, and rightly so. All the nativity scenes and Christmas performances remind us that the Son of God came to earth in human form. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This is a glorious truth worth celebrating. The pastor and his family are immersed in activities during this season in order to proclaim this truth to the church and to outsiders. Underneath all the Christmas excitement lies the spiritual reality that Jesus’ advent testifies to His humility. God became man. “…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus is our example of humility as we contemplate His descent from heaven to earth at His first coming. There is another humble person to notice in the nativity scene, though not to the same extent. Mary, the virgin, who willingly submitted to the Lord’s calling. A calling which would change her life.
Mary was a young woman, living in Nazareth. She had a bright future ahead because she was engaged to a godly man named Joseph. Her expectations must have been high as she looked forward to her wedding and settling down to a quiet life with the man she loved. Everything changed when God sent the angel Gabriel. She was greatly troubled when the angel described her as a favored one (Luke 1:28). The remainder of the message was astonishing and sounded unreal. Mary couldn’t understand what was meant, that she would bear a son. The subsequent statement that her child would be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) probably didn’t clarify anything. But the testimony that her elderly relative, Elizabeth, was six months pregnant was powerful. Mary could confirm that quickly.
Mary’s next words are the focus of the example highlighted in this article: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary’s willingness to serve the Lord in this extreme situation is the quality every Christian, every ministry leader, should emulate. Her song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 begins with a similar humble attitude: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” Within her song of response to the Lord, she states, “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:51b-52).
“Mary’s willingness to serve the Lord in this extreme situation is the quality every Christian, every ministry leader, should emulate.”
Those of us in ministry have many occasions to show humility. Let us notice Mary’s example.
- Some of us will be unable to spend very much on Christmas gifts. We are on a tight budget and might feel humbled when gifts are unwrapped with our extended family. We offer handmade presents created with skill and love which may seem unimportant next to the latest electronic device. It will help us to remember these words of wisdom, which explain what the Lord emphasizes: “Better is a little with righteousness” (Proverbs 16:8a) and “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:16). Look at Mary, who humbly offered herself to the Lord with open hands. Apparently, she and Joseph were so poor that they could only offer the minimum required sacrifice at the temple after the birth of their Child (Luke 2:22-24). Her Magnificat includes “he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:53). She is confident that her God values the humble.
- Some of us will fade into the background at Christmas, perhaps serving in the kitchen so others may enjoy a meal. Others will work in the nursery so parents can worship at the church service. Some will work for hours designing sets, costumes, and rehearsing the Sunday School children in order to present a God-honoring Christmas program. Still others of us will minister to the poor and needy within the church and in our community. Sometimes there is no recognition or thanks from others. Paul reminds his readers: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Look to Mary as an example. She described herself as a servant and was honored by the Lord. The Lord sees those working in the background. “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4).
- Humility is also seen as putting others forward ahead of ourselves. As ministry wives, we may need this reminder. Let others shine while they use their spiritual gifts. Rejoice in the beautiful solo offered at the Christmas Eve service. Appreciate the edifying piano music played to bless the congregation. I sometimes remind myself of the words of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Mary was aware of her special place in God’s plan of salvation. She said, “For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48b). But in her song, she quickly turned the focus onto the Lord. “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49). She deflected the attention from herself onto the Lord.
As we worship the incarnate Son this Christmas, notice humble Mary as well. Let us all seek to display the godly qualities we see in her life and words.