The photograph is of a watercolour painting by James Tissot entitled “Joseph seeks a lodging in Bethlehem”


“Mary said, ‘… Let it be to me according to your word’”  (Luke 1:38)

Tissot’s remarkable portrayal of Mary and Joseph as they seek a lodging for the birth of Jesus conveys the heart-rending predicament of that little family in a most vivid way. It also speaks volumes about the extent to which God was prepared to go in order to bring us back into full relationship with Himself.

It helps us to enter into their situation in our imagination and, in particular, to meditate upon the faith of Mary, who remained utterly steadfast in her trust in God, despite facing conditions that might well seek to cry out on her behalf: “Surely, this cannot be of God!!”

Nine months earlier, Mary had heard the angel Gabriel say to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Her response was immediate and uncomplicated: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

Yet the word of the Lord that she had heard was subsequently tested in the extreme. The circumstances that Mary and Joseph had to endure seemed to contradict the glorious promises that she had received through the angel all those weeks ago.

I am not seeking here to compare our own lives with that of Mary – not at all – but I would like specifically to draw out one similarity that we share with her. That is, that what the Word of God says about us can often be the polar opposite of our human experience or perceptions.

Pondering Mary’s steadfastness in the face of the severe opposition she received (which was, in fact, opposition to the Word of God) gives us encouragement to hold fast to all that God has spoken over our lives through His Word.

If we believe and trust in Jesus’s death and resurrection on our behalf, the Holy Spirit has indeed come upon us and the power of the Highest has already overshadowed us, for our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

Each one of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and we can rely on the fact that, whatever we face, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Our lives may not look like this or feel like this, but it is the truth about each one of us!  The more we can meditate and ponder these truths, the more we can come into alignment with God’s purposes for us, and the more His fruit can flow through our lives.  It is strengthening – and reassuring – to recall that Jesus tells us: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16).

The Lord desires this for us infinitely more than we can desire it. So, as we contemplate His Word, we can rely on His loving guidance to lead us into all truth and to do the work through us that He has appointed for us to do.

“Let it be to me according to your word.”  Amen.








Ann Shakespeare

Welcome to the Ann Shakespeare blog. Ann, a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, BBC World Service and The Daily Journal, is currently involved in editing and writing on Christian themes. She also ministers in a local ecumenical centre which provides prayer and pastoral support.

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