Unexpectedly Expecting

Interruptions. Some are startling but very minor, like when your 2-year-old barges into the bathroom after you forgot to lock the door. Some are a nuisance, like when the fire alarm goes off in the middle of a quiz during class. Some interruptions are exciting, like when your boss walks into your office with a surprise bonus notice or you get a notification on your phone that your favorite team has traded for a star player. Still other interruptions are life changing. The pink slip. That phone call in the middle of the night. “I’m pregnant!”

It's that last one from the Christmas story that I’ve been thinking about recently.  A young teenage girl has an unexpected encounter that becomes a holy moment. Why? Not just because an angel is involved, although that’s remarkable enough in itself. But it’s a holy moment because of how Mary responds to the surprising, truly shocking message of the angel.

This part of the Christmas story can be found in Luke 1:26-38:

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Interruptions turn into holy moments when we respond to God like Mary did.

What do I mean by respond like Mary did? What is it about Mary’s response that is so important?

First, she responded in submission. Mary didn’t negotiate, bargain, or debate. After asking a clarifying question, Mary humbly expresses her willingness to submit to God’s will for her life.
Please understand that this concept of a virgin birth sounded just as outlandish then as it would if you read an internet article about it happening today. This was shocking news to Mary. And this wasn’t just a startling but minor interruption to her life. This wasn’t simply surprisingly good news like getting a performance bonus at work. This was a life-changing, world-altering interruption from which her life would never return to normal. Things would never be the same again.

Mary could have responded in so many different ways. After all, Mary was going to be put in an extremely embarrassing and difficult position by being pregnant before being married.
I wouldn’t have held it against her if she’d fainted on the spot. She could’ve responded like Moses and begged God to choose someone else. Maybe she could’ve responded like the Prodigal Son in Jesus’s story and said, I’m outta here! Some people would’ve wanted to run to the pharmacy to get a pill to stop the whole thing. But Mary doesn’t cry or complain. She doesn’t rant or rage. In verse 38, she beautifully declares, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Those are words of humble submission.

If you want to turn an interruption from the Lord into a holy moment, respond like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Respond to God in humble submission. Say, yes God.

The next part of Mary’s response that I want to highlight is her trust. She believes God and acts upon it. If we are going to respond to God like Mary, we, too, need to respond in trust.
I love how verse 39 says Mary “hurried” to visit her relative Elizabeth. She believes what the angel told her about herself and Elizabeth, so she acts upon it by hurrying to visit her. She wants to attend the baby shower. She wants to share stories with her relative. After all, there are only so many people who will understand what she’s going through. Why am I so confident this is an act of trust? Because Elizabeth told us so in verse 45—“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

How about you? Will you trust God? Will you believe and act upon what He’s revealed to you? Sometimes it’s not that easy. So many people in the Bible don’t respond like Mary. Check out these contrasting responses to God:

Sarah laughed, Naaman got angry, Job complained, Zechariah doubted, Elijah pouted, King Saul took matters into his own hands, Jonah ran in the opposite direction, Moses made excuses, Gideon tested God, Pharoah rejected God, and the rich young ruler went away sad. As I reflect on that list, and it’s only a partial list of contrary reactions in Scripture, I am struck by how each negative response was a reflection of either an unwillingness to submit to God or a lack of trust in God.

Sarah’s laughter was a lack of trust. Naaman was angry because he didn’t want to submit. Job complained because of a lack of trust, which is also why Zechariah doubted, Elijah pouted, and Gideon tested God. But I think Moses’s excuses might have been a lack of submission, along with Pharoah’s rejection, and the rich young ruler’s sadness. I think King Saul took matters into his own hands because he neither really trusted God nor did he want to submit. But Mary responded to God in submission and trust.

Again, how about you? As God reveals His will to you in your relationships, will you submit to Him and trust Him? How about with your finances, will you submit to and trust Him? In your marriage or your parenting or your career or your entertainment, will submit to Him and trust Him?

Thirdly, Mary responds with praise.

In verses 46-48, Mary recognizes how significant it is the God cares about her and has chosen her for a special task. She humbly acknowledges her need for a savior and that she is just a servant. I think her praise affirms that she has genuinely submitted herself to God’s will for her life.

And then she praises God in anticipation of His goodness, “all generations will call me blessed.” Right now, it’s only Elizabeth that’s calling her blessed. In all likelihood, her peers and the town gossips are going to be calling her a lot of names behind her back, few of which are blessed. But she believes God so much that she can look beyond the short-term ridicule and trust Him for the eventual outcome. So much so that in verses 49-55 she is praising God now as if all His promises have already been fulfilled!

Wow, let’s learn to praise God like that! What an example Mary is for us!

But maybe you’re reading this, and you have regrets because you didn’t respond to God like Mary. You didn’t submit to Him, trust Him, and praise Him. Maybe you are a woman who had an abortion or a guy who slept around. Maybe you’ve wasted years or even decades doing your own thing, not what God wants you to do. I have good news for you. Jesus came for you. That baby Mary gave birth to grew up and taught us about God’s grace and His love. And then He died on the cross to pay the price for our sin, rose from the dead conquering death, and now He offers each of us forgiveness, so that we might have new life in Him. So, how do you respond to Him now? Have you received Jesus as your Savior?

Final Thought: Let’s turn interruptions into holy moments when we respond to God like Mary did—in submission, with trust and praise. Amen.

[Adapted from the 12/10/23 sermon. For the full message, click here.]