Monday, December 5, 2016

Encouragement from the Christmas Story

December has begun, which means Christmas is coming. Those 3 words entail much - decorating and gifts, cookie baking and candy making, parties and programs and so much more. As our children have been preparing for our church's Christmas program, memories flooded my mind. Back in 2012, our daughter, Joy, was Mary and this year our daughter Jaylyn will have the same role. Seven years ago, I had the part and God taught me much. 

This morning I woke up with something God has had on my heart...something that involves stepping out of my comfort zone and trusting Him. Something I've been wrestling with and at times trying to avoid: I haven't figured it all out (though I've tried) and sometimes it doesn't make much sense. I know God brought this post, and more importantly the Truth it contains, to me for a reason. Friend, I believe the same is true for prayer is He will speak to your heart today.

From 2009 - This past weekend I had the privilege of playing Mary in our Sunday School Christmas program. Six weeks ago when my husband first informed me of the role, I never expected to write the above words. You see acting is not my thing! I'd never been "Mary" as a child and I didn't think now was the time. Honestly, when my husband, one of the Sunday School leaders, told me about this I thought he was joking...

But the following Sunday as the kids were practicing and I was in the nursery with our new little man, I was informed I got the part without having to audition!! I realize being the real life Mom of this year's baby "Jesus" had something to do with it, but still...

Anyway, I agreed, thinking if I don't want my kids to be afraid of this I'd better set a good example. Besides it wasn't like I had that many lines!

So the whole month of December we spent Sunday School time practicing for the play and I was given a new appreciation for those who direct! More than that I began to understand why God had cast me in the role I had never received as a girl. Back then I would have never understood and actually I'm not sure I would have a year ago, but this year there was a reason.

Last January, I was in the midst of editing my book and beginning to make plans to organize a women's retreat. Everything was in the early stages, but still I sensed God was up to something. I was excited, but mostly I felt so undeserving. I can remember sharing some doubts, worries and fears with my husband and basically I told him I wasn't worthy of what God was calling me to do.

He listened, reminded me none of us are deserving of what God gives and then asked, "How do you think Mary felt?" The question had me - back in the day when all of us Sunday School girls wanted to be Mary, I would have answered the question rather quickly, "Lucky, Blessed, Special...," but now as an adult I pondered the question a little longer.

Really I even thought about it in a different way and the idea of "why me?" came to mind. I look at her situation and wonder if she felt the same and another question comes to mind, one Scripture shows she asked, "How can this be?" (Luke 1:34) The angel answered her question - "the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon her" (Luke 1:35) and she was reminded that with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

So the character my husband pointed me to last January became a bit of a study the whole year through. As God continued to call me out of my comfort zone time and time again, thoughts would often go back to Mary, the one who said, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." (Luke 1:38) I always knew she was the mother of Jesus, but in 2009 I've looked at her story in a whole new way.

In today's world we often glamorize the story, the beautiful nativity scenes are nice, but it was more than that. When I stop and think about the reality of it all, wow, I cannot imagine. How does a virgin girl explain this situation to her soon to be husband? Have you ever thought about traveling to Bethlehem by donkey when your nine months pregnant? (I thought the 20 miles to Grandma's by car was bumpy and long at times!!) And then there's a baby born in a stable...what a contrast to our sanitary, state of the art delivery rooms today!

All of these questions and more have crossed my mind, but what's really been on my heart throughout the year was Mary's response. The angel gave her a glimpse of what was to come, but still there was some unknown just like there is for me. What would have I done? What would I have said? I'm afraid to say my words would not have been the same. I look back on my life and just as my calling is different than Mary's my response has been as well.

I tend to be an analyzer and in my head I try to play out how things will unfold. I often find myself wondering how it will all work and what people will think. I believe in a way those thoughts had to cross Mary's mind as well. Did the unknown stop her? No! How about fear of what others would think? No! Maybe the thought of "Why me? I don't deserve to be the mother of the Savior of the world" never crossed her mind, but if it did she didn't allow the feelings she had about herself trump what God said.

She humbled herself and accepted what God wanted to give. I've often thought humbling myself meant stepping aside, playing the behind the scenes role and letting someone else stand in the spotlight. In a way that understanding is correct - there is only One who should be under the light and take center stage, but my recent acting debut has shown me that sometimes Christ does that through people, even me.

Mary didn't question the role God had for her, well maybe in her mind she did, but she didn't question the One who gave it to her. She responded with some words I've come to know quite well, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." My prayer as the new year begins is that God moves me from simply knowing Mary's words and saying them at our Christmas program to living in a way that her words become mine everyday of the year.

Me, Mary? Initially it was a role I didn't want to play, but now has become a desire of my heart. And the thing is there isn't just room for one, I believe God will take as many Marys as He can find, so will you join me today and audition for the role as well? Trust me, it will look different than you expect, but with God as the director we know the final result will be blessed and beautiful.

Friend, have you ever sensed God calling you to something that is crazy and beyond you? Do you ever feel unworthy or unqualified? Do you respond like Mary or feel more like me? What advice do you have for the one who wants to be a Mary, but feels more like doubting Thomas' sister? 

May this Christmas be one where we seek Him and say the words Mary said...

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this Advent season, fill us with your Spirit and joy as we prepare to celebrate your birth. As we reflect on the Christmas story, encourage us to be like Mary - may we trust you with the unknown, join you in your work and see your perfect plan unfold. Lord, humble our hearts and use us as your servants. In Jesus' Name I pray...Amen

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