Take a moment in the days leading up to Christmas to light a candle and pause. I know you don’t have time. Could taking a moment of quietly being present in this season could provide the endurance needed to continue your own journey into the Christmas season? This is the marathon and not the sprint.
Maybe there’s no candle handy. Can you picture a dark room with a small flame dipping and weaving in the gentle night’s breeze while Joseph sleeps nearby?
Imagine Mary gazing up at an inky sky. One by one the stars shine brighter and brighter. The world is about to change forever. Labor will start soon, and a new baby will be born.
Does she need a moment to catch up to all she has been carrying?
Did Mary cry out to God that night amid the dark uncertainty while bearing the weight of the savior of the world? She might be a frightened teenager and displaced person. God chose a vulnerable young woman utterly dependent upon the goodwill of her husband, and one who is fully experiencing the discomfort of the final month of pregnancy. Did her feet swell? Did her back ache? Road tripping on a donkey may not have been ideal.
Bethlehem was not her hometown, and these were not her people. A Roman census has commanded these two to travel to Joseph’s hometown to be counted. The timing is hard, and yet by following a government mandate these two fulfill what scripture promised. However, Mary’s mother lives miles away in Nazareth. There must have been a sense of isolation. Where will Mary find peace in this dark night?
In Psalm 46 the psalmist cries out to God as a refuge and strength. Did Mary do the same?
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah Psalm 46:1-3 ESV
What causes mountains to move into the sea or tremble? Earthquakes
Did Mary feel her life was experiencing an earthquake of sorts? Her identity was changing, and she was about to become the mother of the savior of the world. Labor would be hard. Her body would be changed forever. Months earlier she had surrendered to God all her own plans and dreams. She had praised God for it all. But now, in the dark night, just before the dawn of a new reality, did she have doubts? Was she still so very certain?
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Psalm 46:4-7 ESV
While the nations rage, the kingdoms totter, and doubts assail even the most faithful, but God is near during it all. His presence makes all the difference and provides the fortress of protection. While this doesn’t guarantee the absence of suffering, God’s company in all of it makes it bearable. Mary must have had her moments of overwhelm and frustration.
On this eve of Christmas Eve, will you invite the Lord into your places of uncertainty? Can you keep company with Him even when it is hard to believe?
This time of year can be hard for everyone. The expectations stack up. Endless pressure builds to do and be more. Distractions steal our peace. Can I choose to listen for God’s still small voice even in the chaos?
The Psalmist continues. 8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah Psalm 46:8-11 ESV
What happens when I choose to behold the works of the Lord?
It changes my focus.
What happens when I choose to be still, even for a moment?
In the stillness of God’s presence, I find peace.
When I gaze upon what God is doing, the things of the world pale in comparison.
What happens when God burns the chariots or breaks the bow and shatters the spear?
This marks the permanent end of war. It points to the ultimate reconciliation between God and man. Someday God will reign for ever and ever on His throne. It’s a now and not yet reality because while we catch a glimpse of it from time to time, permanent peace will not be achieved until Jesus returns once and for all. We live in that tension between Jesus’ arrival on earth as a baby and before He returns in a final victory.
So, on this Christmas Eve night or in the days just before, we sit perched waiting like Mary might have. Looking skyward at those incredible stars and wondering when will that ultimate peace come? Verse 11 says, “the Lord of Hosts is with us.” This name of God means, the victor. The King of glory, who commands the armies of heaven and will eventually defeat all His enemies in this world once and for all.
Will you keep watch with me tonight?