There’s no wrong time to read Luke’s miraculous account of Christ’s birth, but there is no other time quite like that of Christmas to do so. As lights glisten from garland and shimmer from the tree in my peripheral view, this time of year, the story has a special glow. And, after the year we have all experienced in 2020, the brilliance of this epic narrative is blinding.
Like any good narrative, chapter one grips your heart as the angel, Gabriel, delivers a message of two miraculous births. Typically, when I read Luke’s account, I skim over this chapter but this morning, I held my gaze a bit longer. Astounding things are happening in this chapter. One event builds upon the next and tension rises as we await fulfillment of the angel’s claims; as we await the lowly yet highly favored handmaiden to give birth to the promised one.
Well stricken in years and barren, Elisabeth had likely given up all hope of ever holding her own child in her arms, much less a prophet who would prepare the way for the Messiah. I imagine the many nights she must have spent crying herself to sleep or the number of family gatherings she turned down unable to bear the sight of yet another nursing mother. Perhaps long after it had been lost, at the angel’s news, hope returned.
Mary on the other hand was in the prime of her life. Engaged to be married, no doubt her days were filled with preparations of the upcoming wedding feast. The whole world lay before her and in a split second, everything changed. The parallels of these two narratives for today whisper to my heart. Though it may not have been a child, older woman, you have long been holding a dream inside of you; a secret that God knows for you have frequented his lap and made no shortage of requests there. Perhaps it’s a wayward child, a broken marriage, grief, or the silent hope for it to all be over that’s kept you there. Maybe you’ve grown weary waiting for a promise and the Promised One. Take heart.
Young woman, though your life has taken a turn and may not look at all like what you thought, let Mary’s journey remind you that sometimes-unexpected turns are necessary. Clearly, Mary was walking the straight and narrow for she was highly favored, but I imagine the news Gabriel delivered confirmed that she was God’s vessel and he needed her.
How is your resolve holding up? Has this year made you bitter or better? Have the unanticipated twists of this year caused you to slow down and reflect on the condition of your own heart? Though his silence was forced, perhaps it would be wise for us to be as Zacharias, silent for a time and reflective as we await the promise. Rest assured that as God heard his prayers, so he hears you. The midnight hour may be upon us but there is still a light that guides our way. Our Lord has not and will not leave us or forsake us. At an hour we know not, as our eyes are ever looking and ever trusting, they will surely see him.
My prayer, is that this year would serve to remind us all that we are indeed in the midnight hour. May we do, as the prophet Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord and he will have mercy upon him and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
As 2020, a year seared upon our hearts, comes to a close, let us be like Mary for though she too was scared, she took God at his word. This Christmas, and in the new year, come what may, let us likewise echo her profound declaration, “Lord, be it unto me according to thy word,” as we gaze into the shining light of Christ and await what is to come.