Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
The word translated as ‘handmaid’ means, more literally ‘a female slave’ or a ‘bondmaid’. The handmaid is the one who carries out the most menial of tasks. It indicates the depth of Mary’s humility and her willingness to do whatever God requires of her.
And God required her to go through many tribulations. Mary risked being stoned to death for being pregnant outside of marriage. Joseph believed her when she said that she ‘knew not a man’ because he had received an angelic visitor. Others in her family and amongst her neighbours were not blessed with such a heavenly announcement and no doubt Mary suffered from many sidelong glances and dark mutterings. The tender mercies of the Lord provided Mary with a confidante in Elizabeth who was able to provide her with much needed help and support.
In Luke chapter 2, Simeon prophesies future heartache for Mary -‘ Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.’ As well as God’s Beloved Son, Jesus was also Mary’s Beloved Son and her soul and heart must have been pierced many times as she witnessed him being reviled, mocked and finally, killed.
The word translated as handmaid specifically refers to a slave who has been offered her freedom but chooses voluntarily to remain with the family and is branded to signify this relationship. In using this term Mary may have been indicating that she voluntarily accepted God’s will for her and that she would align herself with him forever.
We don’t know how much Mary knew but we do know that she knew enough to accept her assignment humbly and with great faith. Her assent to God’s plan for her made possible God’s plan for all of us.
Behold thy handmaiden, Lord.
Ready now am I,
To live thy word, to teach thy word,
To praise thy name on high.
Behold my hands, O Lord,
Consecrated to thee,
To serve thy daughters, to serve thy sons,
To comfort each one tenderly.
Behold mine eyes, O Lord,
Windows to my soul,
To see thy light, to love thy light,
To know and shape my role.
Behold the handmaiden of the Lord;
Be it unto me according to thy word.
As Mary spoke, so speak I.
Heavenly Father, I will try
To do thy will,
Thy laws fulfill,
In service to magnify thee,
In humility to seek thee,
Always to speak of thee,
Behold thy handmaiden.
Behold my heart, O Lord,
Waiting here before thee,
To feel thy love, to share thy love;
Ever thy child I will be.
(Eloise Bell and Dorothy Nielson)