“We need a little Christmas right this very minute...” With Advent and Christmas right around the corner, it’s not uncommon to see many people getting ready for that special holiday season a bit early. And if there ever was a year when everybody needed a little bit more cheer, encouragement, reasons to be merry, and opportunities to boost their spirits, 2020 has been that year!
I firmly believe that God created us to enjoy life in all of its goodness, to find reasons to celebrate the good things that He places in our lives, the mountain of blessings that He piles into the landscape of our journey, the overflowing abundance of goodness and healing balm that He pours into the deep wells of our often discouraging circumstances. We were made and designed by God to enjoy life. Whether circumstances are terrible... and they have been, many times, in this world... there is a dauntless spirit embedded deep into the core of every human being that longs for reasons to celebrate. The "joy of every longing heart" (as the line from the hymn "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" goes) may look different than God intends it to, because the object of that joy is meant to be Jesus. But even if a person doesn’t know which direction God intends that impulse to be pointed or where to find the object of that joy, all people, even people who don’t follow Jesus, have that impulse to seek goodness and life and celebration.
Mary certainly knew the focus of her thanks and praise and joy. Drawn into the story of God's people in such a central but unexpected way, with no certainties of the future except that God would guide, direct, and protect her, Mary walks with God through unimaginable circumstances...in the same way that many of us are now during a pandemic. The path for Mary leads to the welcoming arms of her relative Elizabeth, whose recognition of God's plan and the immensity of Mary's honorable position and opportunity to serve Him brings Mary to this moment of realization. After the dizzying announcement by Gabriel and days of wondering how this will be, how it will affect her life, it finally clicks. Mary sees. And her response is an inspiration to us all, especially in these troubled times. Mary celebrates! "And Mary said: 'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy'" (Luke 1:46-49, CSB).
Regardless of their circumstances, Christians through the ages have always celebrated the birth of the Messiah, the King of the world, their Rescuer from sin, death, and the power of the devil, and the One who breaks the darkness of this world with His marvelous light. We celebrate the birth of a Baby, and what’s more, a King. We watch His hero's journey begin with awe and wonder, knowing full well that in a few short months we will look on with a similar reverent awe mixed with ponderous sorrow as He faces the cross. But we will also celebrate with overwhelming joy the actual power in which we find our salvation... Resurrection! Rebirth! Renewal and everlasting life promises! This is a message so good that every human being on the face of the planet needs it. We need a little Christmas, certainly, but we also need a little good Friday and a whole lot of Easter, too.
My prayer for you during this joyous season, which may not feel as enjoyable in its celebrations and family connections as it usually would be, is that you would see God's hand of blessing providing all you need, from a little Christmas to a little cup of holiday cheer. I pray that the tiny Child of Bethlehem, in whom all the power of God dwells, protects you and your loved ones from COVID and all other bits of sin's brokenness that may come your way. May God bless our advent journey to the manger, and find us ready to run with the shepherds and tell everyone about what He has done for us. In Advent, at Christmastime, during COVID, this still holds true...
Adventure is out there!