Today I was hanging out with the girls for Christmas. Ok, not literally. Technically it’s me, Dash Attack, and the big grey cat hanging out in our Brooklyn apartment, whipping up homemade treats, and video chatting by Skype with loved ones for over six hours.
But figuratively, I’ve been with the ladies. And by that I mean Mary and Elizabeth – two women I read about this morning and totally feel like I know way better now than I ever did before. This morning I decided to celebrate my Christmas alone by reading the Christmas story. Just to make it feel a little more like Christmas and just to remind myself what I’m celebrating in the first place even if I’m missing the big meals, big hugs, and big Christmas trees that I wish I was sharing in with the family.
So I turned to Luke chapter 1, where my church had touched down in last week’s service. Something my pastors pointed out really stuck with me and got me to thinking about Christmas on a whole new level. On the day Mary received the good news – that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God – she was confused and disturbed.
Something else stuck out to me. She actually questioned God on his decision, asking “But how can this happen? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34).
And then the angel told her (and I’m paraphrasing here) that not only would she conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit but that her cousin Elizabeth, who should’ve been far beyond her childbearing years, was six months pregnant at that very moment. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).
P.S. Did you hear that ladies? Maybe it won’t be too late for me yet after grad school 😉
What happened next is really what this whole post is about: “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true'” (Luke 1:38). And then she went to visit Elizabeth who welcomes her with open arms and says “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said” (Luke 1:45) and they both praised God.
This is where I’ve been hanging out with the ladies. Mary spent the next three months with Elizabeth. And at first I flew over that sentence and didn’t give it a second glance. But my laziness stopped me from reading any further, and as I was looking back over what I just read I noticed it again.
Mary was confused and disturbed. She just received big news from God Himself. It all seemed impossible, but somehow she agreed to it. And then she went to Elizabeth and stayed there for a long time, and Elizabeth encouraged her in faith.
There were probably a million and one people Mary could’ve talked to who would’ve discouraged her. Who would’ve questioned if she really knew what she was talking about. Or would’ve asked, “God chose you to give birth to the Savior?” skeptical of the whole thing.
Or people who would’ve warned Mary about the consequences of conceiving a child out of wedlock in her day and age or jumped to conclusions as to how she conceived that child in the first place. Or suggested the whole being pregnant out of wedlock thing would make her exactly the kind of person God would choose not to bring his Son into the world by.
But instead she went to Elizabeth who jumped for joy and said “you are blessed because you believe.” She went to the relative who would support her in faith.
Which got me to thinking that this part of the Christmas story that I’d so quickly glanced over before is actually such a big piece of the story. Because Jesus was doing the impossible before He was even conceived in human form. (You know the whole “In the beginning there was the Word” thing.) The very announcement of his conception was impossible. But He broke through the impossibilities to be born of a virgin. And Mary and Elizabeth didn’t need a perfect ten step plan or assurances that everything was going to work out exactly how they wanted. They didn’t need all the answers as to how Elizabeth would be pregnant in her old age and Mary pregnant when she was still a virgin. They didn’t listen to the haters or the nay-sayers or the people who would plant fear in their minds. They just believed, they had faith, they got together and loved and encouraged each other through it, and they praised God for what He was going to do.
Which seems to be what Christmas is all about. Jesus is born. The Son of God. He’s broken through impossibilities in my life. He’s moved mountains to show me His love. He’s healed me when it felt impossible. He’s freed me from anxiety and perfectionism and materialism when they had such a strong hold on my life. He died on the cross so I could be forgiven again and again with a million and one second chances no matter how often I might miss the mark.
And I don’t have to have all the answers or a perfect 10-step plan or know exactly how everything is going to work out. And I’m going to run into haters and nay-sayers and people who will try to put doubts and fears in my mind. But like Mary and Elizabeth, I just have to believe that with Him all things are possible, seek out those who will love and encourage me in the faith, do the same for others, and praise God for what He’s done and going to do.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!
P.P.S. I made the picture above using Picnik.com! Fun, right?