This time of year is so precious to me. It is a time when the world slows down and we remember when God came down from heaven to earth as a baby to bring light and life to this weary world. As we stare into the brilliant Christmas lights and listen to the soft carols in the background, we revel in the miracle of Jesus and God’s amazing love that went to such great lengths to be with us.
As I read the Christmas story again this year with my family, I am drawn to Mary’s story of how she experienced the unfolding events of God’s miraculous work in her life.
Before that first Christmas, Mary’s people, the Israelites, had been waiting for over 700 years for the prophesied Messiah to come and rescue them–to bring freedom and hope. Mary lived in a world where her people were oppressed by the Romans and hadn’t heard a word from God through the prophets in over 400 years. They felt forgotten and helpless to escape the broken world of oppression, poverty and corruption.
Then one ordinary day, a messenger came to Mary and that ordinary day became one of the most extraordinary days of her life. The messenger told her that she, a virgin, would give birth to a son and he would be named Jesus.
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means “God with us).” Isaiah 7:14
The long-awaited day prophesied so long ago had finally arrived and it had come to Mary. She would have the joy of bringing the Messiah into the world. What an awe-inspiring miracle that God would come to earth and draw near to us as a little baby born in a manger!
In her excitement over the news, Mary hurries to visit her cousin Elizabeth who also is pregnant with her own miracle child, John. Even as Mary arrives, Elizabeth proclaims the good news!
“She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’”
I’m sure Mary couldn’t help but be in wonder over this terrifying, wonderful realization that she is right in the middle of God’s work in the world. She begins to realize the enormity of what is happening and the joy of getting to a part of a moment of history when the world will never be the same. It is in this moment of overwhelming joy that Mary breaks into a prayer of praise:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
What worth Mary must have felt to have been chosen to be a beautiful part of God’s plan to rescue humanity. God gave her a glimpse of the kingdom work He was about to do, and invited her into the story.
As I look back on that first Christmas through God’s Word, I can’t help but treasure up in my heart all that this season means and thank God for the glorious gift of His son. My heart swells with joy as I am reminded of my favorite line in the song O Holy Night, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining. ‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
For so long humanity was stuck and lost in a world of darkness, lost to the error of our ways, in need of someone to rescue us. We were helpless to help ourselves. Maybe we didn’t even know we needed rescuing. But then, He appeared and our soul now knew its worth. Jesus didn’t just appear that first Christmas but continues to appear in each of our lives to bring hope and joy and love to this broken world.
It’s in the moment that Jesus appears that the world now knows what true life and light look like. It’s in the moment that Jesus appears that we now know who we are meant to be. It is in God’s immense love for us that we now find our worth. It is in Christ that God is revealed and we find our purpose. How can we not be filled with overflowing joy at the thought of it!
It is my prayer that this Christmas you will remember the day that God appeared not just in this world but in your life as well. He draws near to each of us to bring us life and show us His deep and abiding love for us. He invites you into His story and work of redemption in this world. May you feel your worth in Christ as His beloved one, whom He came to save!