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These two events detail the moments when God literally ripped open the veil that obscures His activities and boldly revealed His Son and His salvation plan to mankind!
Such moments are times when the lights come on and we see the things God is doing as clear as day. But even while living through the powerful events we celebrate this time of year; the original participants experienced their share of “silent nights!” There were many night seasons, when the angels weren’t seen or heard, and no words of direction or sources of confirmation were to be found.
It would be goodfor us to come to grips with the fact that periods of darkness and silence, are in a very real sense, the gestation period of the soul. They are part of God’s process that allows for His Words to grow in us while He is equipping us for what is next!
But, when He is silent, we are left clinging to a memory of that which over time our natural minds can begin to obscure and dismantle. Un-renewed, those amazing faith-building glimpses of God’s kingdom can begin to fade through unbelief. And to the degree we allow that to happen, we are likely to experience a crushing sense of loss and disillusionment.
The next verse in Luke’s account (Luke1:39-40) says that she went down to visit Elizabeth (the relative the angel had told her about). That visit resulted in a highly powerful prophetic confirmation (Luke 1:41-55). Afterward, she returned to her house (Luke 1:56). But between her two powerfully confirming experiences, she almost certainly experienced a very significant group of very dark and ominously “silent nights”!
Matthew 1:18-19 condenses what had to be a very dark and silent period of time for Mary and her espoused husband-to-be, Joseph. Her pregnancy was going to be an absolute scandal! We don’t know how long she was able to keep the secret, nor do we know how she must have agonized over how she was going to tell Joseph. The news was almost certainly going to cause him to reject her, end the espousal and refuse to marry her! Her life and the life of her son would be ruined, such was the dictate of her religion and her culture!
It seems reasonable to assume from reading the words of Luke 1:39, where it is written that Mary “went to the hill country with haste”, that her life appeared to be falling apart or that at the very least she was desperately seeking relief from the pressure. I have no doubt that at the very least, she was looking for advice from someone who hopefully could understand!
Joseph was in Nazareth, deeply troubled and grappling with a horrendous decision. Her story (her excuse ) was absurd! He couldn’t imagine, knowing Mary like he did, that she could ever have gotten herself in a situation like this! What a heartbreaking dilemma, he didn’t want to let her shame become public and was apparently leaning toward sending her away secretly. It’s very possible that this trip to see Elizabeth was the result of that decision
Based on the prospects for her future as seen through the eyes of those who knew her, I believe Mary was going through what one author described as “the dark night of the soul.”
When we’ve caught a glimpse of God’s plan for us it’s easy to fall into the naïve assumption that when we are operating in obedience to the Lord’s calling that everything is going to go smoothly and that as long as we are obedient, our initial excitement will continue more or less unabated. But the reality is that when we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we are moving at cross-purposes to the demonically inspired spirit dominating this fallen world! The Apostle Paul referred to this class of experiences as “the fellowship of His sufferings”.
As we view the whole spectrum of Mary’s experience as the mother of Jesus, there were many cycles of breathtaking wonder punctuated by heartbreaking difficulty! It seems pretty obvious to me from scripture, from my own experiences and from the stories of friends and the testimonies of others throughout history, that Mary’s journey is not at all unusual in this respect.
We revere this little lady named Mary for her role in delivering God’s amazing gift to the world. She was a forerunner and prototype for us. She was asked to carry God’s Word to a waiting world.
“And of His fullness have we all received and grace for grace” John 1: 14,16
I know she struggled through many “silent nights” when no angel, no shepherds nor a single wise man showed up. I know there were moments early on when her rational mind and the words of some people very close to her tormented her over the preposterous notion of a “divine impregnation” and how she had totally lost touch with reality due to her insistence on having …”talked to an angel!”
“But Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart.”
In this instance, angels had returned, a lot of them this time, singing about what had happened for an unlikely audience of rural shepherds! She tucked these memories away just to remind her on some “silent night” in the future, that somewhere angels are still singing because she believed and surrendered to Heaven’s plan!
For you and me there’s a lesson to be taken to heart.
Faith in what God has said is a nightlight for the soul!