A Thrill of Hope : Christmas Eve

Oh Dear Waiting in Hope community, We know this season is even Harder for us. This warm and fuzzy season is hard for those grieving. Who hurt for all the reminders of "what they don't have" and "what they lost." We are the weary world, I've been the weary world, Do you feel weary? Weary of not being "with child" perhaps even of hearing about the one "with child" and talking all about THE CHILD. I challenge you to read the post below by our Tyler GROUP leader, Amanda Nicholson and instead choose to take the time to deeply reflect on Mary and how she felt. Reflect on her Child, even if it hurts. I promise THIS Child (Jesus Christ the King) is our only hope, our Thrill of Hope... in a Weary World! - WiH

"A thrill of hope... the weary world rejoices."

Weary. A word so fitting for souls who know the daily struggle of infertility and loss. How do you articulate the encompassing ups and downs, trials and victories, grace and tears, good days and really bad days? It is an unhinged roller coaster. Unpredictable. Exhausting. Just so wearisome.

In a season that is meant to bring joy and good cheer, the world gets a little louder, a little brighter and a little more chaotic. The frenzy of Christmas attempts to cover pain, but the number of stockings hanging over the glowing fireplace can be the constant reminder of a hope unmet.

Every year during Advent, we read slowly through the Christmas story. I have become so intrigued with Mary. This story is far from our 21st century reality, but put yourself there. Let’s walk along the dusty roads of Nazareth with her. In Luke chapter 1:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. (verses 26-29)

Mary was shocked and afraid. (OF COURSE SHE IS.) Way too little detail here for my appreciation, but take just a second and try to imagine that. She obviously thinks this whole thing is crazy because she is trying to make sense of it. Don’t her feelings of fear and anxiety humanize her? I already love her because we are the same.

So, the angel tells her not be afraid and then gets right to it:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (verses 30-33)

The Mary in my mind subconsciously lifts her head and says, “I’m sorry. Wait. What did you say? You lost me at ‘conceive’...”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (verses 34-35)

We know that Mary is a thinker since she asked a question to clarify how this would happen. We can assume that her mind ran wild with thoughts of confusion… all the logistics. How will she ever explain this to Joseph? Would he ever believe her?? She could be stoned to death. If he was gracious, he would just divorce her. What then? What does this mean for the life that she thought was hers? This changes everything. These thoughts, shifting to thoughts of mothering... Who am I to care for the Son of God? Why me? These, then, mingled with hope in the remembrance of who her God is and what He’s promised. She finds peace in Him, and she clings to it in her response:

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (verse 38)

I imagine a teary-eyed, overwhelmed, trembling young woman. Sitting alone. The weight of the world on her shoulders, having been called to the seemingly impossible. Believing... and wondering how God would orchestrate the details.

See, for many of us, the story of Jesus’ conception and birth have been told so many times that we know this passage by heart. We know how it ends. Mary, however, was staring into the unknown. All she knew was what the angel told her. Go back and read it…  there are not nearly enough details to rest her head on. Yet, she trusted her God. She humbled herself before His story and accepted each unfolding detail as it came. Her response is completely open handed: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

I am so overwhelmed by her words. What beautiful, sincere faith. Could she have fathomed her legacy in the story of redemption? Does that not leave you speechless? God took a young, inadequate, regular girl and used her life to bring forth the Hope of the world.

For those of us who struggle with fertility issues… It’s just comical really… that the hope for our pain of wanting children and remaining without, comes in the form of a pregnant virgin. Seriously!? An unlikely pair we are, yet we have so much to learn from Mary.

God’s redemptive story is what sent Mary’s life into the realm of all things unplanned. Just as we would never have chosen this bitter journey through infertility and loss, I imagine that Mary would have never chosen the unchartered waters that God had in store for her… unwed and pregnant with a son who belonged to Someone other than Joseph.

That’s complicated. Her cousin, Elizabeth, encourages her faith when she says:

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord. (verse 45)

God has a plan of brilliance. We can look back on history in its fullness and see it. But, to trust that the future holds brilliance, when the way is unclear and the road is mucky, is an act of faith. My affection for Him has grown as I’ve learned, through infertility and loss, that God’s plan is not at our expense. His plan is FOR US. He loves us tenderly and our faith can grow profound roots in the depths hardship and grief.

Though Mary found favor with God, her life was far from perfect and easy.  At best, she traveled more than 70 miles on a donkey while pregnant and then gave birth in a stable. But I imagine there was much more. We do not and cannot know all of the details of how God provided for her in the process of pregnancy and birth, but my favorite provision is that He sent an angel to Joseph so that Mary was not “alone” in this journey of faith. It would even seem that God forgot to make a provision for her delivery.  The Son of God… born in a filthy stable because there was no room in the Inn. Did sovereign God overlook this detail in preparation of his Son’s birth? Or was it an intentional detail that Hope was born in the most unlikely place?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

Our promise of hope is that He takes the lifeless and breathes life into them. He sustains the weary. He has good in store. May we be so challenged by Mary to open up our clenched hands, full of hopes and dreams and plans. May we sift them through our true Hope and by God’s grace have the faith to say “I am a servant of the Lord: may it be to me according to your word”.

A thrill of hope… the weary world rejoices.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

- Thanks to our writer Amanda Nicholson, WiH Tyler leader for sharing her beautiful insight into Mary and baby Jesus. She is an East Texas native who is married to TJ, who is on full-time staff with Pine Cove Christian Camps. They are busy living the camp life year-round and raising their 2 hoped for children, Adley Jo (4mo) and Jace (4).

-Waiting in HOPE- A Thrill of Hope : Christmas Eve