Has it ever occurred to you that so many traditions of Christmas are actually sterilized versions of historical truth?
There are the lights and decorations; the smell of cookies, pies, and freshly cut Christmas trees; the music of choirs and carolers. The air is filled with the joy of the season.
It’s beautiful imagery that, in almost every way, stands in stark contrast to the dark, difficult circumstances surrounding the very first Christmas.
Case in point, let’s consider the lives of three women who lived it:
Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna.
The central figure to Jesus’ birth is, of course, Mary. You might imagine her as a grown adult with the wisdom of an older woman who enjoyed the respect of the community.
But as you know, that wasn’t the case.
Mary was a young, unmarried, teenage girl who became pregnant under scandalous conditions.
Her story of an angel’s visit and a baby conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit would have been unbelievable to everyone around her. Not only would she have been ridiculed, she would’ve been considered an adulteress, and according to the Mosaic Law, Joseph – her husband-to-be – could have had her stoned to death.
Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, faced difficulty as well.
Elizabeth was the wife of a priest, and she and Zacharias were righteous in the sight of God. Yet, despite Elizabeth’s years of dedication and commitment to the Lord, she remained barren.
At the time, infertility was a tremendous stigma in that culture.
Then there’s Anna.
Anna had lost her husband as a younger woman, and endured as a widow for decades. By the age of 84, she was continually present in the temple – serving the Lord, fasting regularly, and praying day and night.
So, just think about it.
A young girl, a middle-aged woman, and an elderly woman.
All three endured tremendous difficulty and had plenty of reason to lose hope or to question God’s faithfulness.
But as the angel Gabriel assured Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV).
The Lord knew what He was going to do for Mary, for Elizabeth, and for Anna. It all hinged on trust, timing, and tenacity.
Mary’s trust in God was crucial. She was very young, she was poor, and while she had heard from an angel, nobody else in town had. To whom could she have turned? Even Joseph doubted her until an angel appeared to him. Her only recourse was to throw herself at the Lord’s feet and say, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Elizabeth’s struggle teaches us that God’s timing is always perfect.
No doubt Elizabeth had longed for a child for years and years. But she couldn’t have given birth to her son – who would become John the Baptist and lead the way for Jesus – 10 or 20 years earlier. He had to be born at that moment in time to fulfill God’s purposes.
Then there’s Anna’s faithful tenacity. She was elderly and had spent most of her life without her husband or a family. But at the age of 84, she was still passionate about serving the Lord and seeking His will, and she was rewarded for her faithfulness with the opportunity to see the long-awaited Messiah.
Does any of this resonate with you in your current state in life?
If so, today’s radio broadcast with author Liz Curtis Higgs is for you. On the program, Liz talks with us about seeing Christmas through the eyes of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna.
She reminds us that regardless of your circumstances, God knows what He wants to do in your life.
Perhaps money is tight this Christmas. Or maybe you’re estranged from members of your family, or you’re struggling because you have no family. Or there could be an unexpected pregnancy, unemployment, or a serious illness that has you concerned.
If right now there is a desire in your heart for something specific, put your trust in Christ, wait for His timing, and cling tenaciously to the belief that He will do what is best for you. We usually don’t know what God will bring about in our lives, but we can live with the peace that He loves us, and we can trust Him.
Rest in your relationship with Christ. Trust Him. Don’t let the challenges you face obscure your ability to see the true meaning of Christmas.
In fact, remember what the first Christmas was all about. It wasn’t about hot cocoa and mistletoe. It was about the Son of God entering into our pain and struggle to bring hope and eternal salvation.
If you’re having an especially rough time this Christmas season and hope is hard for you to come by, know that we’re here for you. We have counselors who are waiting to talk with you. Call us and let us know what’s happening in your life. Let us pray with you and offer some resources that can help.
Our number is 800-A-FAMILY (232-6459). Or you can visit our website to find a variety of helpful materials as well as a referral tool if you’d like to speak to a counselor in your area.