Mom and I went to the church ornament exchange yesterday morning at our pastor's house. His wife, Julie, hosts it every year and loves Christmas more than just about anyone I've ever met. She has eight trees up this year--each one with a different theme and the ones I saw on the main level were gorgeous. A few weeks ago, Julie asked me to share a short devotional as part of the morning's brunch and gift exchange. I told her I'd be glad to do it and have spent my early mornings thinking and praying and jotting notes in my journal about what to share.
This is the gist of what I came up with and shared yesterday morning:
Both the fiscal and calendar years begin January 1, so we don't often think about the new year and resolutions until after Christmas Day. But the church year and the liturgical calendar begin with Advent, so it's not really too soon to think about it. As we celebrate Advent and Christmas, we are also celebrating the new year.
So often we think of Luke 2 as the beginning of there Christmas story: "In those days, Caeser August issued a decree that all the world should be taxed..so Joseph went to Bethlehem"...and so on and so forth.
However, when we begin with Luke 2, we miss the wonderful things that Luke 1 has to offer--the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and John the Baptist being foretold, not to mention Gabriel's visit to Mary telling her that she would have a baby.
We also find two of the four magnificent hymns that open the Gospel of Luke--Zechariah's Benedictus, an exuberant song of praise that bursts forth after nine months of imposed silence for his unbelief and Mary's own glorious Magnificat in which she praises God for keeping his promises to his people.
In a way, the Advent story really goes all the way back to the very beginning, to Genesis. My pastor recently summarized the whole Bible like this: The story of the Bible begins in the Garden of Eden from which Adam and Eve were removed as the result of their sin in response to lies and temptation and deception; the rest of the Bible is about how to get back there to that place of perfect fellowship with God.
As far back as Genesis 3:15, God promised that the offspring of the woman would one day crush our enemy and make all things right and like they were when we had uninterrupted and perfect fellowship with God in that garden.
My favorite part of Luke 1 and the part I most want to share with you is Luke 1:38:
After Mary asks Gabriel how what he said would be possible—with the wonder and curiosity of the child she still is in many ways, she listens to his answer and responds with what seems to me to be s clear statement of her identity and a determined resolution for her own season of waiting for Jesus to come forth as a baby:
“I am the Lord’s servant. “Let it be to me.”
I think this is a good resolution for us too. For this season of Advent leading up to Christmas and now even for our whole lives, which are also a time of Advent as we wait for Jesus to come again—not as a baby this time, but as a conquering king who is coming to make all things right.
The question before us is this:
Will you--will I--will we be brave like Mary? Will we dare to make her words our own--and actually mean them? I long to be brave and bold, to be stout-hearted and courageous. What about you?Can I be that brave? brave like Mary?Can you?
The thought is scary, because well…What if? What could he do--what might he do--if we say them and mean them?
After all, God asked something really hard of Mary! He asked her to do a job not suited for her age or her experience. After all, how could this girl be a mother when she still needed her own mother so much?
What if he asks something like that of you or of me? What then? How would we deal with it?What if he lets something really hard be to me--an illness or a loss? What might happen to me or the ones I love? Would I survive it? Would you?It seems scary, doesn't it?
I think we have to go back to Gabriel for the answer: Before she makes her incredible statement of trust and submission, Gabriel reminds her of one very important truth we cannot forget: "Nothing is impossible for God."
Nothing. Not even taking me--a scaredy-cat and making me brave and courageous. Not even making me brave enough to take Mary's words for my own, yep--and even mean them--
Nothing is impossible for God
I can be brave because he can make me so.I can Make Mary's words my own because I can trust him.
I am the Lord’s servant—that alone defines me!That is the truest thing about me. I belong to him and my name is engraved on his hands. He keeps me safe.
Let it be to me—nothing is too hard or impossible for him. I am safe because I am his! WE are safe because we are his!
I can make Mary's words my own because I am his and he his mine. Nothing is impossible for him and he can take whatever it is he allows and use it for his glory and my good.
Maybe if we do it together...Take a deep breath! On the count of three. 1..2..3
P.S. See how I said it really quick like that?! Sorta like ripping off a bandaid! ;)