“I don’t even care about buying Christmas gifts this year!”
Even though I couldn’t see my friend’s tears over the phone, I could hear them in her voice. She’s going through a deeply painful trial, and oh, how I wished I could give her a big hug. I wish, for her sake, that it wasn’t December 17–with all of it’s reminders on every street corner and every event on the calendar–that this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
For many, this feels like the worst time of the year. They don’t feel like shopping, decorating, or baking. They feel like throwing a big snotty-nosed, howling fit, before the face of God! Christmas only magnifies the pain, because of the heightened expectations it brings in tow.
On Christmas #1, Mary had some heightened expectations, too. She was planning her wedding. And like every other teenage girl, she was dreaming of her future. Then came a visit from an angel and an unplanned pregnancy.
I imagine that Mary also shed some tears in those weeks and months leading up to the first Christmas. At worst, she could be stoned for being pregnant before the wedding. At best, her baby bump would be misunderstood and misinterpreted. With the eyebrows of the entire community raised, this was surely the most painful season of Mary’s whole life.But instead of throwing a snotty-nosed, howling fit, Mary did the opposite. She said, “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). What beautiful surrender, represented in Mary’s words! And she didn’t just say the words; she lived them. Mary is a lovely picture of ongoing, lifelong surrender (which, by the way, is the ultimate opposite of a Control Girl).
For all of the honor of being chosen for her role in God’s story, there was just as much shame and sacrifice to Mary’s own personal story. But Mary had a certain habit, which I believe propelled her through the stressful, difficult times, and helped her keep saying, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
What was her habit? She would treasure up “God moments”. (Luke 2:19, 51) You know those times in life, when it’s obvious that God is at work? Those experiences that have no other explanation but God? Mary took those experiences, and locked them up in a treasure chest inside her heart.
When we treasure something, we keep it safe so it won’t be lost or ruined. And when it’s a experience that we’re treasuring, we relish the memories–keeping them safe by revisiting them often. That’s what Mary did with these ‘God moments’ of hers.
I’m guessing that first visit from the angel, Gabriel, was one of Mary’s greatest treasures. Here was a heavenly being who stood in the presence of God, sharing his perspective with a teenage girl! Mary must have revisited that conversation hundreds of times in the weeks, months, and years to follow–especially during times of fear and doubt.
Is your Christmas filled with tears this year? Or stress? Fear of being misunderstood? Anxiety over what might happen next?
I invite you to have a “Mary” Christmas–a Christmas full of surrender to God. Below are three little phrases taken from Mary’s conversation with Gabriel (Luke 1: 28-38), which I invite you to store up in your heart, like Mary did. I’ve tucked them into a pretty digital format for you, in hopes that you will treasure them up and take them with you:
The next time that fear creeps in, remind yourself that God is with you; He wants to strengthen and help you! There truly is nothing to fear.
It’s hard to say, “Let it be to me according to your word” (as Mary did) if you are convinced that God is against you. He’s not! He is for you. Even in the most painful seasons of life, God is working all things together for good, for those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28).
Even in the face of impossible odds, God says that there is no need for you to fret or worry. He has everything under control. Nothing is impossible for Him!
So there are my three gifts for you. Please take them with you as you head into Christmas. Feel free to share them on social media, pin them up, or print them out (they are 4×6 size). And print another set out for a friend!
Let these gifts of truth steady your heart with faith. Let them fill your mind with hope. Let them pave the way for a “Mary” Christmas.