Ready or not ... here comes Christmas!
We are about to enter the time of year my heart aches for from January to November. There is not a day in the preceding months when my heart doesn't turn to the joy of the season and yearn for the hope and celebration that uniquely belongs to December.
I have learned, over the years of my wonderful life, how to celebrate the heart of Christmas and to focus on all that is eternal about this unmatched season. In order to do that, I must spend time pondering the truth of the Christmas story in the Bible. I must wrap my heart not around the decorations but around the history-changing event that Christmas was and still is and always will be.
Let me invite you to pause from the baking, the shopping and the parties and to spend some time revisiting the story of a young woman whose world was invaded by Christmas.
Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph, a carpenter's son, who was several years older than she was. Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for the darling Mary to grow up! And now that Mary was 13 or 14 years old, it was settled. Mary was to become his wife.
Engagement, or betrothal, at this moment in history held the commitment that marriage does today. Although Mary and Joseph were not living together and would stay pure until their wedding night, the only way out of a betrothal was divorce and the only reason that justified a divorce was adultery.
Mary was in the house one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home, when she sensed someone in the room with her. Conceivably, Mary looked around to see if anyone had joined her.
"The angel came to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you'" (Luke 1:28).
Christmas, for Mary, was the challenge of understanding what the favor of God is truly all about. Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of your dreams will come true. There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored by God—favor means, simply, that God is willing to use you.
God is willing to use the young, the uneducated and the inexperienced in His grand plan for humanity. Just as the favor of God targeted the womb of Mary, I believe that the favor of God is targeting everyone and anyone who is willing to be part of God's strategy at this historical juncture.
Christmas, for Mary, was about discovering the intimacy of the Lord's presence as never before. Mary was about to be confronted with the reality that favor happens when God places a piece of Himself into an earthly life. No longer was God a mere concept or a divine being who never engaged Himself in the affairs of everyday life.
Because of the angel's message, the presence of God Himself had invaded the life of this young girl, who, prior to this moment, had nothing but Joseph, her beloved, on her innocent mind.
Experiencing the favor of God in new ways is one of the best parts of Christmas for me! To think that God would desire to use me at this time in history is a gift that I never imagined I would find under the Christmas tree of life.
Discovering a fresh lifestyle of intimacy in the presence of Jesus is God's life-changing Christmas gift to you this year.
Christmas is proclaiming to your world, "The Lord is with me ... and with you! What a wonderful surprise!"
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, Defiant Joy! and Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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