I’d shared in a previous post that it’s taken me a while to get into the spirit of Christmas. I became inundated with all of the depressing news that seemed to surround me at this time. My uncle died. My cousin, at 35 years young, is winning the battle, praise God, against malignant tumors in her brain that have consequently caused her two falls, a broken ankle on one leg, and a broken femur on the other. As the wave of those events, the general business of this season, and everyday life stresses began to overtake me, the memory of my father’s short battle with cancer 15 years ago at this time, before his death in January 1997, was the near-final weight. None of this discussion included one of the most unusual Christmas days I’ve ever spent, when my FIL’s rapid decline health wise became obvious to us all. I talked about my intention to pray, to give, and to remind myself of what this season is really about, and with school out as of last Tuesday, I did just that. We began to enjoy the Christmas story together on Thursday, and it was interesting that our pastor shared this quote on Sunday morning:
“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.”
Norman Vincent Peale
Did you ever think about the level of detail that God put into place for the birth of Jesus to happen as it did?
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledb the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary’s quiet suffering is portrayed well in the 2006 version of “The Nativity Story.” She had no reason to feel favored about her assignment to birth the baby who would become the Savior of mankind. She was young—a girl who might have been just beginning to be curious about boys. She had no man; from the movie, you get the sense that she didn’t even like Joseph in that way, but instead that the marriage was about relieving her family of one more mouth to feed. Moreover, being an unwed mother in a Middle Eastern culture 3000 years ago was far more devastating than the few raised eyebrows that might haunt a young mother in the same plight today. She was ostracized as if she had a highly contagious disease; others in the community wanted nothing to do with her or her family. As if that weren’t enough, the very man who claimed her as his wife had every right to lead in her execution—by stoning. Finally, this was pregnancy and childbirth, with all its discomforts and pains. Yet, her simple response to the angel’s voice was, “May it be as you say.” Wow.
Though Mary didn’t know it at the time, the Lord orchestrated so much on her behalf around that simple act of obedience. I believe that even the moves—first to Bethlehem, then to Egypt—were about giving the couple a fresh start in an area where no one knew their history. We are told later that Jesus could not perform many miracles when he returned to Nazareth; people knew too much of His past and chose not to believe (Mark 6:4-5). But, wise men believed, and even decided not to report back to Herod, but to instead go a different way. Elizabeth believed, and let us not forget the miracle of her own birth and the life purpose of her son John, who was to prepare the way for the Great I Am. Elizabeth was the first encourager of Mary and a friend and relative who spoke confirmation to Mary’s vision:
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
She needed the prayer covering that Elizabeth and others would provide as she returned to Nazareth. The Lord had to deal with Joseph and prepare him to face similar ridicule. He also had to raise a young man even before he became known as the Messiah. Joseph and Mary needed the visitations from above to divinely lead them away from harm.
I would not begin to imply that the gravity of my own circumstances in any way resemble Mary’s trials, but I did experience the God of details this season. Though that post was “heavy” and depressing for me and probably moreso for you to read, it was cathartic and the first step on the road back to normalcy for me. Most importantly, though, I made a decision to focus on Christ and not all the dilemmas that had my attention at the time. And the Lord moved mightily during this time, showing Himself strong in even the minutest areas. I was sharing with my husband, and later with my MIL, how it is to think that, in talking to the Lord about everything, “you worry the Lord.” I’ve actually heard people say that! He wants us to come before Him with the least of our cares. He is honored to be involved in the small things, those items that we are arrogant enough to decide we can handle ourselves and “don’t need Him for that.”
As I move forward and into 2012, this is a quiet time for me. I want to hear from God in the details, to include how to teach the children (both through formal academics and role modeling life lessons), how to minister to my husband and be a good helpmate, and how to develop the products that are mine to create in 2012 for the business. I also have speaking opportunities where I want the Lord to guide my tongue. Nothing I wrote would adequately describe my excitement about the Lord’s handling of my details. I’m praying that you’ll allow Him to step into yours, too.