Now that I've had four children I look at the Christmas account differently. The reality of the first Christmas was far from the sweet and sentimental, warm and fuzzy feelings that stores and magazines advocate.
Consider the implications of Gabriel's appearance in the life of a godly Jewish woman engaged to marry a godly Jewish man.
His words must have brought excitement to be honored with such a blessing. But how do you tell your parents, neighbors, friends and future husband you're going to have a baby, knowing there's at least a chance some of them won't believe how it came about?
It's often hard to explain the working of God in our life. Who is going to believe that the flower that bloomed in the yard in the dead of fall during the worst week of your year is the sign of God's faithfulness you know it to be? Does anyone else see the significance of your child reciting a Bible passage calling for trust at the very moment you've been doubting?
Now imagine delivering the news that you’ve conceived supernaturally and will be giving birth to the Savior of the world as told to you by an angel. Easy enough, right? Hardly.
Mary must have felt all the things women today who find themselves pregnant and unmarried or in any desperate situation feel: nervous, hesitant, afraid, alone.
Thank God for Elizabeth! Elizabeth was Mary's older relative. Mary went to her when she found out she was pregnant. For three months Mary lived under her roof, enjoying the company of a woman just a few months ahead of her in the pregnancy experience. Elizabeth was supportive, encouraging and kind.
Oh, there would still be plenty of struggles ahead for Mary: a confused fiancé, a long journey, an overcrowded town. But God met each of those struggles with all that was needed at the right time. God spoke to Joseph in a dream, convincing him to take Mary as his wife. God brought Mary through the arduous journey in her last trimester. He provided shelter in a town already bursting at the seams.
Thirty some years later Jesus would teach His disciples to ask their Heavenly Father for their daily bread; for everything they would need to get through each day. This is our comfort through every stage of life. God provides what we need as we need it. He provides through people like Elizabeth who walk beside us to encourage and support. He gives us the strength to get through the hard moments of the journey and to stand when others don't understand what's going on. Sometimes He provides in advance. Other times His provision arrives hour by hour as we need it.
It may not have been a very silent night in Bethlehem. I doubt the streets were still or that radiant beams glowed from anyone's face. But there was something even better. There was a loving Heavenly Father willing to do whatever needed to be done to make sure Jesus came into the world at just the right time and place so His plan of salvation could begin.
Your family may have more dysfunction than function. Whether your situation looks daunting or terrific, a little bit rowdy or a little too still; whether the road ahead looks rough or smooth or you are too weak to look more than a few feet in front of you; whether your house looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens or it’s hard to walk down the hall without tripping over the mess, God sees you and is with you. He will walk you through the storms, the night, the chaos.
We’re told when that first Christmas was over, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She didn’t let the miracles slip by unnoticed or fail to see God’s provision.
I pray you have the same experience this Christmas. May you be filled with wonder as you see all God has done in your life. May you notice the ways He’s provided at just the right time. And may you hold unswervingly onto His promise to be with you whatever comes your way.
With this peace in your own life, help others see the works of God in their lives. Be an encouraging “Elizabeth” to that pregnant relative or that stranger in the checkout line.
Author: Amber Swenson
Amber has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature. She has authored four books; two of them (Bible Moms and The Whisper Theory) are in print and two (The Bread of Angels and Ladies of Legacy) are in various stages of publication. Both her Bible studies and her novels are written in an effort to bring single, married, young and older women to a closer relationship with their Savior Jesus Christ. She also authors a weekly blog found on facebook under "Bible Moms" or at "biblemoms.wordpress.com".
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