The title of my pastor’s latest sermon series was “Be Christmas”. Rather than simply celebrate Christmas this year, he encouraged us to “Be Christmas”. At first I was a little perplexed. How do you “Be Christmas”? By nature, I am a “doing” kind of girl. In the past when I am told to “be” something, my first thought is usually, “how to you do that”?
This Christmas I thought a lot about Mary and baby Jesus. When I look at Mary, she was all about being. Honestly, I picture her as sweet and cool on the outside with an interior tough as nails. That girl did NOT mess around! She raised the Son of God for goodness sake!
She was courageous, willing and faithful when the angel met her.
She was trusting of God’s plan for her.
She was determined and diligent in her trip and time with her cousin Elizabeth.
She was patient, hopeful and strong on her way to Bethlehem and while finding a place to have her baby, God’s baby.
She was loving and protective of her baby Jesus.
She was humble, trusting and open in raising Jesus.
She was devastated and grieved by her son’s death.
The Bible focuses on Mary’s state of being much more than what she did. She was a model of the fruits of the spirit long before Galatians was a twinkle in Paul’s eye. She has showed me that I can hope and trust in God even when His plans seem so whacky, chaotic and just plain unexplainable and incomprehensible. She has showed me how an “ordinary” girl can do extraordinary things for God just by being open and willing. She has showed me that God ALWAYS makes a way.
At a women’s retreat a few years ago, I saw a great plaque that I continue to remember from time to time.
“God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called”.
Mary was called and she answered it whole heartedly. She didn’t shirk away from the gravity and implications of having a baby out of wedlock by divine conception. Instead she stepped up to the plate with faith and conviction. I love her response to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38).
Honestly, what female, a teenager none the less, would respond like that? That blows me away! I have a hard enough time fully giving myself to God in the small things, let alone what Mary was called to do. She inspires me to completely surrender all that I am to God because His plans and purposes go way beyond my wildest imagination.
In addition to Mary, I spent a lot of time reflecting on baby Jesus this Christmas season. One of my greatest joys is holding and snuggling babies. The warm bundle in my arms nestled against my body brings me so much comfort and peace. A few times during worship at church this month, God gave me the gift of holding baby Jesus in my arms. These were precious moments. Not only was I holding a baby, I was holding The Baby. The baby that saved the world. Holding him against me and feeling the rise and fall of his breath was like no other experience I have ever had. I was experiencing Jesus in a whole new way and it brought me to tears.
The innocence, gentleness and humility of a baby is like no other. I always experience Jesus as gentle and kind but it was completely different cradling him in my arms compared to allowing him to hold me or grabbing his collar and bringing my face to his as I often do. This was something new which opened the door to developing a completely new aspect of my connection with my Lord.
The other night I was lying in bed overrun by anxiety. I closed my eyes and breathed a silent prayer, “help”. Jesus scooped me up in his arms to comfort me while at the same time gave me the precious little baby to snuggle up to. My heart flooded with his pleas, “rest in me” and “let me rest in you”. As I focused on the simplicity of those words, my breathing slowed and the flopping in my stomach calmed.
“Rest in me”. Jesus was beckoning me to lean into him with the trust and faith of a child; to completely abandon myself to him. I couldn’t rest in him while my insides were flipping like hot cakes, I had to slow my breathing and thinking while focusing on the protection and comfort of my Savior. My body began to relax.
“Let me rest in you”. This one threw me for a loop as it is contrary to my instinctual thinking. It is natural for me go to a resting place in Jesus when I am troubled. I generally don’t think about the Lord of Lords and King of Kings needing or wanting to rest in me. But then I felt the warmth of the baby’s presence against my side and I got it. A baby cannot rest next to a mom who is tossing and turning all night. The baby needs calm stillness in order to settle down and experience his mom’s heartbeat, to feel the comfort of her peace.
Mother & Son
This experience got me thinking about what it was like for Mary to hold baby Jesus knowing she was the mom to the Son of God. This wasn’t just any baby, this was the baby of all babies. The baby that defied the laws of conception and would eventually save the entire world. I can’t imagine the awe and wonder Mary must have experienced whenever she held her precious son.
I wonder what it was like to raise Jesus as he grew. Although the Bible doesn’t talk much about Jesus’ growing up years, I’m sure Mary struggled with many of the challenges that moms face today (minus the smartphones).
In the scriptures, Mary shows her humility and grace a few times when she “kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19, 51) regarding her son. She knew that she couldn’t comprehend everything, but she had faith in God’s plan.
This year as I focus more on being, I will look to Mary as a model. I hope to “Be Christmas” all year round, not just in December.
What are you aspiring to be in 2019?