Advent Series Introduction
I started wondering how it’s all going to fit together this year. How do I check off all the must’s, but balance them with all of the maybe’s that are such a reality this season — and still embrace the miracle of Christmas?
Maybe we’re thinking about it wrong.
Maybe, if we didn’t work toward Christmas like it's a deadline, we could see the miracle embedded in the must’s and maybe’s? That the miracle lives in the thrill of hope we carry with us every day?
That’s what this Advent series is about. To stay centered around the thrill of our hope, and to stay mindful of the miracle every day, let's look to the choices we find in the Christmas story.
In the middle of her own worries and cares, Mary chose to be open to God’s plans.
In the middle of chaos, the innkeeper chose to be present.
In the middle of their must’s, the shepherds chose to be still.
This Advent, let’s follow their lead and not miss the miracle. Let’s chase the thrill of hope by choosing to be open, to be present, and to be still.
Week 1: Be Open
Week One: Be Open
There might have been a couple of days over Thanksgiving break when I reveled in wearing pajama pants too long, and binged on Hallmark movies. But as December 1 arrived, my turkey stupor faded and my growing list for the next three weeks came out of its fog. Things to do, things to plan, things to buy — oh, and new this year, things to fret about. The march towards Christmas just picked up its pace, and nestled right next to the big sales! and shiny things! are my nagging thoughts of smaller gatherings and the looming likelihood of ever-changing plans.
And I wonder: how does it all fit together this year? How do I check off all the must’s, but balance them with the maybe’s — yet still hold onto the thrill of hope? Maybe part of that answer lies in being open to what God’s doing in the middle of those must’s and maybe’s?
Here she is, promised to Joseph, preparing to wed and leave her family. Lots to plan, I'm sure. Add to that the constant, unsettled hum of the Roman rule, and our girl Mary has a lot on her mind. Then Gabriel appears and blows up her to-do list with a divine, very unplanned baby.
It feels a little familiar, maybe? Maybe not the angel or the baby part, but here we are, preparing for this Christmas season of celebration, while feeling the very real unrest of our world in heavy ways. We’re carrying a lot this year. Our to-do lists and expectations have been a bit blown up, too. We’re weary in a way that helps us understand the weary world of that first Christmas. So it becomes clearer how remarkable that, in that hard season, Mary remained open to God’s plans.
“And Gabriel came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:28-38, ESV).
I’ve often wondered how much time rested between Mary’s inquiry of “How?” and her response, “Let it be to me according to your word.” Minutes? Maybe less even? The fraction of time that passed before Mary’s “yes” offers powerful evidence of the connection Mary felt with God. She knew Him. She trusted Him. She loved Him.
There were so many things she didn't know. She had no way of knowing how this one “yes” would impact her: A scandalous wedding. A lengthy exile-type stay with her cousin. A difficult journey for a census late in her pregnancy. Labor and childbirth far from home, without help from her family. She certainly didn’t fully know how this one “yes” would launch into motion a change for all of history — and usher in the very deliverance she and her people longed for. She had no idea how this one “yes” would lead to our thrill of hope, here, today, in 2020. Our joy and anticipation in Advent. Our miracle of Christ. Our entire month of December, and all the days in between every December, radiate from what was set in motion with her simple “yes” to Jesus.
No, she didn't know these things — but she knew God, and she knew her “yes” mattered.
Bob Goff, author and founder of Love Does, said, “I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” As we prepare to welcome Jesus, God is looking for our openness. He’s looking for hearts ready to make room. He’s looking for our yes. Let’s start by saying to God, “Let it be with me just as you say,” (Luke 1:38, MSG).
Tucked inside that “yes” is the thrill of hope.
What can “being open to God” look like this season?
How can you create a new rhythm this season that makes room for God?
Are you sensing God asking you to be open to something new?
Do you need to make more room for God by taking something off your list?
Do you need to add something that God has put on your heart?
Am I open to God’s plans for my life?
If I’m not open to God right now, is there something I’m afraid of? What might that be?
Do I recognize when He’s asking something of me?
Is there a specific place where I feel ready to say, let it be to me according to your word?