A Mary Christmas Example: 365 Days to Thank You Week 4

Ah, the Holidays! I love them and I also find them exceedingly uncomfortable (think 13 hour road trip, four dogs and five kid cousins). But I know that I am not alone in that feeling here at the end of the year; we’re all in the same festively decorated, joyful, sinking ship filled with sugar cookies and candy canes.

But here we can learn a little more about Thankfulness. How to stop in the middle of our imploding plans and Thank God.

We learned the first week about what can happen to the meaning of a word or phrase when it is over used or miss-used. We evaluated our use of the words for Thankfulness and then last week we evaluated examples of Thankfulness around us. This week I would like to explore an example of Thankfulness from the Bible.

I don’t know about everyone, but I have a couple of really good plans for my life, well, I thought they were good. Apparently there are bigger things than me going on in the world because my plans rarely go exactly as I expected. But this is minor compared to the person we are looking at today.

Mary was a young woman with a plan. The Bible doesn’t say if it was her plan to marry Joseph or her parent’s plan or the cultural plan, but it was obviously THE PLAN. But God had a bigger plan. One that started in the garden when he said to the serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

A little back story for those of you who may not be as familiar: Mary was a young, unmarried woman, probably an early teen considering the culture she grew up in. She was engaged to a young carpenter and well on her way to being a good Jewish housewife. She had a knowledge of Scripture (what we know as the Old Testament) and she knew that her God had promised a Savior to deliver His people from the consequences of their sin.

And back story on the people: we messed up, a lot, literally from the beginning of our existence, and God put a plan into place to pay our consequences, which were, well, death.

So back to what we can learn about Thanksgiving.

Mary was going about her chores for a normal day when an Angel appeared. We say that so often that it has lost some of it’s impact. So take a minute to see it. Her home is filled with a light she has never seen before with her eyes. A voice that shakes her whole body says:

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28

He proceeded to tell her that everything that she and her people had been looking forward to was beginning here and now. It was beginning in her womb.

Her next actions are understandable. She went to her cousin’s house. Just so happens (not really because God has everything planned) that her cousin is pregnant with the prophet that will prepare the way for the Savior. It is what her cousin says that seems to drive home the power of what has happened to her:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Luke1:42

and Mary begins to sing a song of praise.

This song is alternatively called “Mary’s Song” and “The Magnificat” and has inspired other prayers and songs for ages. We have, as we are apt to do, twisted and misunderstood the meaning, using it for our own agendas, but the meaning is still the same and very powerful.

Magnificat sounds like a high church word, and it is, but it simply means to magnify. She was scared and excited and unsure of how this was going to change her own plans, but she magnified the Lord. That is what I want you to learn about Thankfulness.

Your plans may change. You may be in a place that you did not want to be in. You may be in a situation that seems very scary. But Praise God. Magnify God. This is when you will feel what it means to be Thankful. In this type of Thankfulness we are Thankful without seeing the reward. We are Thankful in Faith.

I’ve been all over the internet trying to see what impact Mary’s Song has had on the world today and why it continues to speak to people and I have found many and varied responses. So when I thought of sharing it with you today as an example of true Thankfulness, I wasn’t sure how I could do it without distorting the meaning even more. So I’ve decided to give you the background and context in which I want you to read it and now I am going to put it in print on this page. I want you to read it, reflect on it. Then I want you to write your own song of Thankfulness about any situation in your life that you truly did not or do not understand.

 "And Mary said,
'My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble
estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all
generations will call me
blessed;
for he who is mighty has done
great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who
fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty
from their thrones
and exalted those of humble
estate;
he has filled the hungry with
good things,
and the rich he has sent away
empty.
He has helped his servant Isreal,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring
forever.'"
Luke 1: 46-55 

Mary was following the example of others in Scripture when she wrote this (see Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and that is a good place to start for us as well. We will follow her example in crafting our own prayers, songs, of Thankfulness to our Lord.

Merry Christmas,

Ronda

A Fall Controversy

It is November and our country is faced with one of the worst controversies we have ever known. It causes the most heated debates on all forums and has split families. What is this controversy you say?

Christmas music and decoration – when does it start?

I myself listen, secretly, from somewhere around June 1st.  Well, that may be an ever so slight exaggeration, but the point is that I fall pretty securely within the “Christmas as early and as long as possible” camp.

But there are those who vehemently disagree (within my own family). They are wrong of course. Just kidding. I can see their point. We don’t want to dilute the specialness (is that a word?) of the season or distract from the many other meaningful celebrations going on during this time of year. But for the sake of adult, mature debate (something sadly missing lately); let me point out a few of my reasons for Christmas love.

First, of course, is the general happiness that seems to come with the season.

My birthday lies just one week before Christmas. I have every reason to put off the carols, tree and lights in order to more appropriately celebrate myself. But that’s just it: I don’t want to just celebrate myself. There isn’t enough to celebrate with just little old me. The joy I find in the worldwide celebration of Christmas is a birthday present beyond compare! When I see someone smiling at a Christmas song or decorations, I can tell they are deep in a memory and a joy that is deeply personal yet so contagious.

Secondly, in addition to happiness, really the joy, there is also an acknowledgement of our losses.

This shared mourning can be a wonderful thing. I know it is a difficult time for some, but if we remember that there is pain and address it, and embrace it with warmth, there will be healing. Christmas is such a good time to begin healing from any disappointment or pain we may have felt through the year. We can find a warm, safe place to face the loss when we are surrounded by the light and warmth of Christmas and when we remember to surround others. What we learn in this season will help us find the hope and love we need to do whatever comes next.

My third and strongest reason for loving the celebration of Christmas is the name of Jesus Christ.

It is only in the Christmas season that you so often hear the name of Jesus proclaimed in places we humans have banned him. It warms my heart to hear the hope in His name coming from a speaker in a grocery store or mall. It’s like the rocks are crying out in places where we no longer speak the name of Jesus. Also, always remember, there is a reason that it gives us chills to hear “Oh Holy Night” or “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him” sung by someone who spends the rest of the year bringing attention to their own antics. This is what it sounds like to hear the voice of the redeemed (even if the singer is not yet aware of the power of which they sing). It is a glimpse of what it will be like to hear every voice in the world declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ and begin to joyfully follow Him.

You may think I’m crazy on that last point, and really, I wouldn’t blame you. It sounds crazy to say that Christmas music sung by some otherwise worldly artists is going to begin to save a world running as hard as it can away from Christ. But I do have a reason to believe that this will happen, and no it is not Kanye (though I have to say Praise God for the redeemed). It is something Jesus said to John when John came to him concerned that someone “not following us” was casting out demons in Jesus name.

Mark 9:39

“But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.’”

So, here is my argument, in a nutshell, for the early and often application of Christmas trappings and music: Love, Joy, Healing and most and best of all Jesus Christ proclaimed for all to hear.

Love you all,

Ronda