The Cup of Blessing
I’ve been hanging out with Mary a lot this advent season. And she’s come alive in shocking ways. Maybe it’s all we have in common this year—engagement, excitement, uncertainty.
For so long I thought Mary was tame. She’s always modest, motherly, and seldom speaks at Christmas pageants. But this year she looks different. Radical and humble. Rejoicing and shell-shocked. I’ve ignored this remarkable woman far too long.
As I read Luke’s account of the nativity, it occurred to me that the call to bear Messiah was a call to suffering. It’s the same definition of discipleship Jesus gave in Matthew 16:24. Mary was his first disciple.
This teenage girl—wide-eyed, perceptive, and durable—endured more heartache than any woman imaginable. She bore the stigma of adultery, barely avoided divorce, fled from diabolical political rulers, followed her Son around the countryside, overheard the stabbing insults, felt the sting of betrayal, witnessed the whipping, and wept at Calvary.
The cup of sorrow ran over but so did the blessing. Three times Mary is called blessed upon the news of bearing Messiah (Luke 1:42, 45, 48). If you compare her cups of sorrow and blessing, the later holds twice as much. After all she’s the only person who witnessed Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. She stood at the Upper Room in Acts 2, among the first to receive the promised Holy Spirit.
Mary challenges my preconceived notions of blessing this Christmas. Her greatest blessing wrought her greatest sorrows. And her meanest pain purchased her redemption. She bore the one who bore her sin at Calvary. What a rich picture of God’s redemptive goodness.
So as I prepare for the holiday season this year, I’m pulling out my favorite cups. They’re not fluted, or even sparkly. But these mugs tell stories. We’ve drunk from them every Christmas since childhood. They’ve overheard laughter, and felt dripping hot tears. They’ve been filled with coffee to compliment the sausage and French toast on Christmas morning, and they’ve sat dirty in the sink as we celebrated in the ER instead of at home.
These little mugs remind me that life is hard and hurts. It’s not as it should be. And even the blessings come with cracks that still surprise me.
But I’m learning from Mary to still savor my cup. Because there’s much need of rejoicing. The Messiah came and is coming. The hope of redemption still flickers. In the face of a tumultuous journey, Mary made a choice to rejoice in God’s goodness. I want the same. Will you join me in raising your cup?