The Holiday season can be a very difficult time of year. While it serves to bring up wonderful memories of times past for most folks, it works the opposite in others. For them it opens up old scars from past hurts, rejections or losses. The past few Christmases have not been easy for me either. As my wife and I watched a holiday movie last night, I suddenly found myself lost in thought of past Christmas seasons celebrated with my vibrant and joyful partner in life. In particular, I saw myself seated next to Piper on another couch some forty five years ago in my folk’s living room.
It was our first Christmas together and we were exchanging our gifts. We were like giddy school kids as we sat on that red couch giggling and blushing with excitement… probably because we WERE young school kids! But the vision quickly went up in smoke as the stark reality of the situation concerning my wife’s health came back into view.
My immediate thought though, was “Thank you Papa God for your Word!” His Word has been the ONLY thing that has kept us going strong over these last few years. We’ve received many words from fellow Believer’s over this time from encouraging me that “You just need to let go of Piper,” or “there’s nothing you can do,” to the insensitive question early in our journey of: “Have you thought about how you’re going to support yourself after she’s gone?” But we have allowed none of these words to move us. Our cry and our stand has been like the young teenage girl in our story today. When faced with a seemingly impossible life changing situation, she simply replied “be it done unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38 KJV)
To me, that is the whole story of Christmas. The Word became flesh and with It, Papa God has given us the choice to live life on our own or according to the faithfulness, loving-kindness and expectation of an abundant life as found through that Word. What decision have or will you make this Christmas season?
The Teenage Years
Wednesday, the first week of Advent
Today’s Reading: Isaiah 7:14 / Luke 1:26-38
Today’s society tends to look at the teenage years as a time to fear. To many it is looked upon as “The Rebellious Years,” or as a time of experimentation. It is the one phase of the child rearing years that many parents dread and pray that they have the endurance to make it through with their kids. As one who has had the honor of working closely with and ministering to youth in the local church throughout my life, as well as actively participating in the upbringing of our own four kids, I look at those experiencing life as a 12 to 18 year old with a different set of glasses!
I see these youth as older kids who suddenly find themselves in an in-between time where they are no longer children, but yet not quite adults. Their bodies are changing, and they are beginning to have the capabilities to think about and comprehend the world and everything they have ever known with a whole new set of comprehensive and abstract tools. Then on top of everything else, their emotions seem to be on a rollercoaster ride as they are going through this physical, mental, spiritual and emotional upheaval! With everything happening in them, it is no surprise for me to see some of our youth dressed in black from head to toe, with hair in multicolored shades of red or blue, with a new vocabulary that seems to only include about half a dozen words, or with body piercing and/or tattoos in a wide array of locations on their bodies!
Yes, they are experimenting and testing the waters of life. Yes, they are looking to find out who they really are and what they really believe and yes, they are testing those around them, those they love and befriend to find out just how really loved and accepted they are to them. In my experience, I have come to realize that our youth are a product of the environment that they have been raised in, and underneath it all, that they are looking for the same securities that we adults seek in our lives.
In our story today, we see the angel Gabriel coming on the scene again as he appears to a young teenage girl with a message that could turn her world upside down! It is interesting for me to see that there is no record of her physical features or dress. The only description that is given is that she was “a virgin” who was “highly favored.” (Luke 1:26-28) Have you ever thought about Mary’s appearance? What if she wore a nose ring like Rachel the revered wife of Isaac who was one of the Patriarchs of her Jewish faith? (See Genesis 24:22) It would seem that God only looked upon the qualities of her heart and not on the sight of how she dressed, her hair style or the jewelry she might have worn.
What we do see as our story unfolds though, is that this young girl, who was most likely between the ages of 12–15, knew the scriptures, knew the faithfulness of her God, and was very confident and yet humble to accept and pursue whatever responsibility was given to her from Him. When Gabriel appeared to her she was not overtaken with fear as we saw with her uncle’s experience six months previous to this event. I believe that the reaction that caused her to be “startled by what the angel said” and her question “How can this be?” (Luke 1:29 & 34) was simply the inquisitive request of an innocent young girl wanting to know how it would happen. She did not ask for a sign and never doubted that it was from God, or that she could handle the calling! Her reply to the angel’s explanation was a straight forward affirmation of: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word…” (Luke 1:38 KJV)
Nowhere do we find any recorded thoughts of “Can I do this? Am I good enough or able to accomplish this task? What if I fail?” or “What will my family, friends and relatives think?” and maybe most importantly, “What will my husband to be think?” I am positive that Mary’s home environment perfectly prepared her for this all important role in God’s plan for our salvation. She never flinched, but jumped whole heartedly into this sudden and totally unexpected turn in her life!
Once again, how would you respond to such a dramatic turn of events in your life? Would you have the same simple confidence, zeal and freedom to let go and let God as this young teenage girl exemplified? This short story has many things for us to consider this Christmas season. For instance, how we look at others and how we look at ourselves. It implores us to examine the depth of our unyielding trust in our heavenly Father, and maybe even the difference between how God looks at teenagers compared to how we view them. This could be an advantageous time to grab a sheet of blank paper and begin to jot down some personal notes as thoughts on these questions arise within you. It might just be the beginnings of a whole new way you look at life’s assignments, at other people and at yourself!
Have a Super day! Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”