Everyone was sleeping at 4:40 am - except me!
That's two days in a row now and I'm not exactly wild about it. Instead of laying there with my eyes squeezed shut hoping for sleep to come back, I get up. I turn the lights on four Christmas trees (yes, I know I have a problem), find some instrumental Christmas music to listen to (is it me or does this become more pleasing as we get older?), brew my favorite Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, warm up a corn bag (Have I mentioned I am obsessed with corn bags? I can't sleep without a few of them in the bed. I even warm them up during the day when I'm cold just to put on my lap for comfort.), light a candle or two, and settle on the comfy couch to be still and listen knowing I won't be disturbed by another human being for hours.
I've got about four different Advent books going. Two for the morning, one for afternoon if I have time and one to read before I sleep. Being completely preoccupied and absorbed by the Biblical account of Jesus' human birth is one of the greatest joys of Christmas. Don't believe me? I dare you to try it.
When approached by the angel who brought her the news that she is God's chosen one to be His Son's mother, "with heart pounding, with uncertainty, fear and confusion, Mary's response was clear: 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord.'
|Mary from Peru|
As we consider that moment of decision for Mary, we see in her a witness and example of how we are meant to live. Her mission reminds us that God's call is sometimes difficult. It may lead us to set aside our own plans. It may mean giving up hopes and dreams we have cherished for a lifetime. It may mean risks. It may be frightening.
|Mary from Kenya|
Sometimes God asks us to be with people we don't want to be with, to go to places we don't want to go to, and to do things we don't want to do. This is part of what Mary's story teaches us. Mary is twice said to be favored by God, and yet God's favor meant not a life of bliss, but a life of risk. It must have been hard to imagine that this was what it meant to be favored by God.
|Mary from Panama|
|Mary from Kenya|
As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we remember the little town of Nazareth and God's choice of a young woman from this humble village through whom He would do His greatest work. This season brings us an invitation as surely as Gabriel brought Mary an invitation.
Part of the invitation of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, is to offer ourselves wholly to God just as Mary did. Christmas is not about how much you buy or what you eat or whom you visit. It is about your willingness to say, with Mary, 'Here am I, Lord. Use me according to your will.'"
|Mary from Dominican Republic|
I ask myself a few questions. Has God asked me to be with people I don't want to be with? Yes.
Has God asked me to go to places I don't want to go? Yes.
Has God asked me to do things I don't want to do? Yes.
Has God's call on my life proven to be difficult sometimes? Yes.
Have I had to lay aside some of my own plans? Yes.
Have I given up some hopes and dreams I've had for a lifetime? Yes, on occasion.
Have there been risks? Yes. Have I been frightened? Oh yes.
Can you see where this is going? Perhaps, I too, am favored by God. No, I'm not comparing myself to Mary in virtue and purity. Heaven's no! That ship sailed a long time ago.
|Mary from America|
So, am I favored by the Lord? Yes and by the way, you are too.
|Mary from the Holy Land|
So take heart! A difficult life, multiple opportunities to surrender your will and endless invitations to experience God's power and wonder are exactly what characterizes a life blessed by God. Talk about good news great joy!
As this year, 2014, draws to a close and I am weary from a hard year with few answers, I am delighted by this truth today. I hope it hits you the same way.
I love Advent and it's only Day 11. So much more to come. I'll be waiting and watching....
Excerpt from The Journey by Adam Hamilton