Advent is a season of celebrating God's presence here on earth, but it's easy to forget about that when holiday dishes are stacked to the ceiling and wrapping paper is strewn all over the floor. This collection features advice and encouragement from four women who have learned to integrate lessons from Advent into their daily routines of marriage, parenting, and personal spiritual development.
All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary kept these things in her heart and thought about them often (Luke 2:18-19, NLT).
Twelve years ago this December, I had an encounter with God I'll never forget. I was in the thick of a personal crisis so frightening to me, I literally couldn't function. With desperate, convulsive sobs, I cried out to God, pleading for his help.
Then--in the thick of my hysteria—the Lord spoke directly to me with four commonplace, yet powerful, words: Everything will be OK. I vividly remember the undeniable strength, unquestionable authority, and incomparable compassion in God's voice. I'd never experienced anything like it before—and have not since. In that single moment, joy and inexplicable peace surged through my spirit. I couldn't believe the Almighty God of the universe had actually looked down on my distress, in all its ignoble basket-case glory, and had responded so intimately to my pleas. As I composed myself, wiping away my tears, I felt hopeful, knowing without a doubt God saw, cared, and, yes, controlled my family's future.
Lest you think I'm the type of woman who regularly claims to hear God "speak," the reality is, I can count on one hand the times God's communicated to me in ways other than through his Word. But God knew I needed immediate rescue from my emotional Chernobyl. So he graciously provided something big and irrefutable, something special and dramatic and supernatural, to tuck away in my heart. Then, whenever fears and doubts would creep back into my mind, I could relive this experience again and again.
I think Jesus' mother, Mary, and I have that in common. As I read the first few chapters in Luke's Gospel during this Advent season, I'm moved by the fact God inspired Luke to reveal how Mary soaked up all the marvelous messengers and mysterious prophecies that surrounded her son's birth. Mary was obviously an incredible young woman—modeling the type of faith and trust and obedience I aspire to. Yet at the same time, being human, she too probably found comfort in having something big and dramatic to hang onto.
The fearsome angel who announced Mary's unprecedented pregnancy. The glorious heavenly choir and guiding star. The wise men with their gifts. The divine dreams that protected them from destruction. Even the prophecies of Simeon and Anna at the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary "thought about [these things] often" (italics mine). Perhaps pondering these supernatural events eased Mary through mundane moments of mothering. Or erased any niggling doubts about whether her boy would one day really become Messiah. Or gave her patience while she waited for Jesus' ministry to jump-start.
I like to think one reason God provided Mary with these encounters was because he knew one day she'd see her Son, this Child of Promise, nailed to the cross. But in any moment of need or worry or desperation, Mary could relive memories of miracles to find the assurance God was at work to fulfill his purposes for a world so desperately in need of rescue. These frequent remembrances created in her a stronger faith, a deeper trust, and a firmer belief in God who sees, cares, and is in control.
Whenever I feel stilted in worship or steeped in worry, I think back to my mysterious encounter with God 12 years ago. I recall the awesome sense of his presence, the unexpected way he met me, the unequivocal sense of his inexpressible completeness and authority. I journal about it, chew on it, relive it to remind myself how personal, how compassionate, how incredibly awesome my God is. This and other special memories of God's work in my life are treasures in my heart, just as Mary's were in hers.
What wondrous things has God done for you? Do you think of them often, as Mary did about the events surrounding Jesus' birth? How does that bring you comfort and assurance of God's care?
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