In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,
a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph,
a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said,
“Rejoice, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”
Points to Ponder:
(Our Scripture for this fourth and final week of Advent 2016 will involve passages from Luke 1.)
Have you ever heard a person lament after Thanksgiving that “I just wish I could go to sleep now and wake up when Christmas is over?” Maybe some of us have wished that exact wish for ourselves at some joyless point in time. Actually, the pre-Christmas routine with its crazed crowding, gift grabbers and traffic trials has the potential to dampen the most joyous joy of the season. Add to these woes the persistent planning associated with a to-do list that seems unending and that dampening can turn into a downright drenching.
The reality, then, is that in a fast-paced, highly commercialized culture that accelerates at a dizzying rate of speed during the weeks just prior to Christmas Day, the act of rejoicing can pose a challenge to many of us. Factor in the concerns that often plague us in everyday life and the challenge can threaten to overwhelm us.
Is this lack of true joy, however, the reality that God intends His children to experience during the Advent season or, for that matter, on a day-to-day basis? If Scripture gives any reliable indication – and we know that it does – this isn’t His intention at all. God makes clear in Scripture that as Christians we are called always to rejoice in Him…regardless of circumstance. There are even passages that call us to rejoice in specific circumstances (see Psalm 5:11, Habakkuk 3:17-19, James 1:2-4and 1 Peter 1:6-7). Additionally, Psalm 118:24states that this is the day the LORD has made and calls us to rejoice and be glad in it. The writers of Christmas carols and hymns, further urge us as followers of Christ not only to smile dutifully in Christ’s birth, sacrifice and gift of salvation, but to rejoice in the miracle the He is – to relish these things with all of our beings and faculties with the spiritual joy described in scriptural truths like
Think back a few days to our discussion of Mary, the mother of Jesus – the young, unmarried, engaged virgin who would bear the Son of God by immaculate conception. Talk about an overwhelming to-do list…the angel flops one squarely across Mary’s sweet shoulders in the span of just a few verses.
And yet the first instruction Mary receives in today’s passage of Scripture, according to Luke, is to rejoice over the coming. This particular and weighty command to this particular young woman in this particular situation holds a particular and weighty implication for every person who has committed to following Christ since that time.
Like Mary, we are called to rejoice even in the face of chaos. And like Mary, we can deliberately answer that call by fixing our attention squarely upon her Son as the object of identification. Jesus Christ, who came to earth to be born as a baby wrapped in flesh, to die as a sacrifice for our own sin and to rise as the Ultimate Overcomer of death, He represents both the source and object of Christian – and Christmas – joy. This truth becomes reality when we actively choose to find our delight in Him.
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
Generally speaking, what is your primary reaction to each of the following circumstances when you encounter them during the Christmas season?
Does God’s call for Mary to “rejoice” in her circumstance (as reported in Luke 1:26-33) in any way shape or reshape your pursuit of spiritual as you wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming? How so?
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