Let it be to me as you have said…
This week we are going to be reading through the first chapter of the biography of Jesus written by Luke.
Luke was a Gentile – not a Jew – and probably from a Greek background. This means that before Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection he would’ve been considered an outsider. Someone who wasn’t one of God’s chosen people. Someone unclean and not a recipient of God’s promises. Maybe even an enemy.
Yet – because of Jesus – 2 of the most beautiful and detailed accounts of his impact (Jesus’ biography and the establishment of the church recorded in the book of Acts) are in our hands through the observations of an educated outsider who “carefully investigated everything from the beginning… so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)
So join me this week with open eyes and ears and hearts to the often familiar story of Jesus’ birth – and ask the Lord to show you something new, something fresh, something that you can apply or contemplate or celebrate each day with certainty and joy.
Day 1: A typical reaction
This past Sunday we talked about 3 typical reactions we have when things don’t go according to plan.
We can often clench (try to take back control), or resist (argue or refuse the new reality), or deny (go into hiding) when we are faced with circumstances that either take us off guard, or when something tries to mess with what we’ve got going on.
And today I get to use Zechariah as my case study.
Zechariah the priest. Luke described him as “upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.”(v.6)
So Zechariah was a good guy (probably an understatement).
And yet things were not going according to plan. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were old and barren and I think it would be fair to assume that this would be a source of shame and frustration for them. They probably heard the whispers and felt the stares of those who seemed to be getting blessed with kids – the unspoken accusations that they must’ve been doing something wrong to be overlooked by God.
That they didn’t pray enough. That they had hidden sin or a weak faith.
But after countless prayers and years of disappointment Zechariah was confronted by an angel and told that finally, Elizabeth was pregnant. Praise the Lord, right? This thing he’d been praying…even begging for…for years and years is finally going to take place and how does he react?
He simply couldn’t believe it. So he needed more details.
I mean, the man is having a conversation with. An. ANGEL. and he decides he needs to ask for a little more proof.
Because he’s stuck with what he sees before him. The reality that he and his wife are old.
So, he resists. He argues. He questions. Even though its the answer he’s always wanted.
And I can’t help but giggle when I read the rebuke from the angel and the discipline Zechariah receives – probably because that would be the worst possible punishment for me. Not being able to speak?!? Not being able to tell the world the good news! No being able to throw the accusations back into the faces of the whisperers?!?!?
It says that “he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.”(v.22) I like to imagine what that sign language looked like.
All jokes aside, Zechariah’s resistance to the plan tainted the celebration he could’ve had. The gift wasn’t taken away, but could you imagine how hard it must have been for Zechariah to have to hold all his words, all of his happiness and relief and excitement, for at least 9 whole months?
What joy could we be missing out on because of our own typical reactions?
1. In regards to adversity /changes of plans/ personal control what is your typical reaction?
Are you a clencher? A resister? A deny-er?
2. Think about a specific situation that is happening right now that feels out of control. What joy could you be missing out on by employing your typical reaction?
Pray: Talk to God about all of this. Ask Him to help you find joy in the midst of adversity.
Day 2: Release
Read: Luke 1:24-38
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (NIV)
And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (KJV)
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (ESV)
Then Mary responded, saying, “Yes! I will be a mother for the Lord! As his servant, I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.” (The Passion Translation)
Mary could release her grip on control because she was secure in her identity.
Every single version of scripture I could find recorded Mary’s reaction as stemming from her assertion that she was a servant of God.
She was loved and favoured – yes! – but she also belonged to the Lord and was therefore safe and secure in this crazy plan the angel was sharing with her.
- Do you believe that you belong to God? Don’t just say yes because you know that’s the answer I’m looking for. Deep within your soul – do you believe that you are safe and secure because the all-powerful, always-present, never-ending, unrivalled, completely loving God is YOUR Father? YOUR protector? YOUR provider?
- The situation that you are worried about, the one you thought about yesterday. How does understanding and owning your identity as God’s beloved allow you to release your grip today?
Pray: Talk to God about all of this. Ask Him for what you need to accept your identity and His will in whatever situation(s) you are facing.
Day 3: Support Systems
Read Luke 1:39-45
Maybe this example is only relatable to women – but stick with me, guys. I promise this applies – probably even more so, to you.
I hate change rooms.
They are hot and stuffy and dry and the lighting is terrible and sometimes the stupid curtain doesn’t close the entire way and so I’m anxious about the entire store witnessing me struggle to get into a new pair of jeans. Needless to say I try to avoid them (thank you, online shopping and free returns)
But I had to go in one the other day and it didn’t go great.
I couldn’t find what I was looking for and all the new styles were better suited for people not quite like me (ie. 20 years younger and 20lbs lighter) so I left feeling pretty down.
My old go-to would’ve been an internal spiral of negative self-talk and new resolutions as I left the mall.
But this time, I texted a friend.
A truth-teller friend.
Someone who doesn’t just say what I want to hear, but what I need to hear.
And she did it again.
She reminded of the truth – some good (I don’t need to lose 20lbs), some not so good (that I am not in my 20’s anymore), and what is truly important.
Who I am. How much I am loved. Where my value actually is. Things I knew but needed to be reminded of.
And as I started my car I felt so thankful I didn’t use my usual m.o. of keeping all this to myself. Of being embarrassed and ashamed or prideful.
Because instead I was able to bounce back a million times quicker and healthier than I would’ve otherwise.
So whether its change rooms, or difficult workplaces, or parenting struggles, or learning disabilities, or family dynamics, or health challenges –
stop trying to navigate it alone. Just stop. Please.
You aren’t meant to.
Reach out – to God in prayer, yes. For sure.
But often we need someone’s audible voice to point us to Him as well.
Someone to encourage and exhort and pray and laugh and cry with us.
That was Elizabeth’s role for Mary. What a friend! What a safe space for Mary to wrestle with the call on her life.
Sometimes we’re the Mary.
But we also need to be the Elizabeth.
To be the voice, the presence that points our friends to God.
To who they are. How much they are loved. And where their value actually lies.
- Are you a Mary right now? Do you need to share your struggles/worries/difficulties with someone who can help get you out of a negative spiral?
- Are you an Elizabeth for someone? Who can you pour into? Encourage? Walk alongside?
Spend some time thanking God for dear friends in your life. If you’ve never had a friend like Elizabeth, talk to God about that. Ask for one. Listen for what He says in response.
And ask for who you need to be an Elizabeth to in this season.
Day 4: Mary’s Song
Read: Luke 1:46-56
Emmanuel. God with us.
God. With. Us.
God – the one who spoke the world into existence through the Holy Spirit – a helpless baby born to a 13-year old virgin girl in a backwater town.
To be with us.
To be known by us. To know us.
More tangibly, more accessibly, more deeply than ever before.
This is good news.
Actually, the best news.
That brings great joy. For all people.
For you. For me.
Let’s sit in that. In the greatest news of all time. And let our hearts and minds respond in praise and adoration and thanksgiving.
Let your “soul glorify the Lord and rejoice in God your Savior”.(v.47)
Listen to “Light of the World”.
Respond with gratitude all the ways Jesus’ birth has brought light into your life.
Day 5: Promise fulfilled.
Read: Luke 1:57-80
We’re back to Zechariah.
Dude hadn’t spoken for months and months. I bet he wondered if he ever would again.
But when Zechariah bestowed the name “John” on his beloved son, as the angel of the Lord had instructed him to, he was able to speak.
And not only speak. It seems to me he exploded with praise and prophecy and an infilling of the Holy Spirit that very few had ever experienced.
Earlier in the chapter the angel promised that John would “be a joy and delight to” his parents and that “many will rejoice because of his birth”. (v.14)
And did they!
Our reading today says that neighbours were filled with awe and that people all through Judea were talking and wondering about who John was and what God was going to do in and through him.
The joy of a fulfilled promise.
What promises do you want to see God fulfill in your life this season? Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas – maybe it does.
Here are some promises that God makes to you through His word:
God promises to strengthen you. (Eph 3:14-16)
God promises to give you rest. (Matt 11:28-30)
God promises to take care of all your needs. (Phil 4:19)
God promises to answer your prayers. (Matt 7:7)
God promises to be with you (Josh 1:5)
God promises to protect you. (Ps 91:2)
God promises freedom from sin. (1 John 1:9)
God promises that nothing can separate you from Him. (Rom 8:38-39)
God promises you everlasting life. (John 3:16)
How have you seen God fulfill these promises to you over this past year? If you can, make a list!
Talk to God about how you can find joy in his fulfilled promises and thank Him for anything you may have forgotten/overlooked this year.