Courage for Christmas

December 2016          

Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you. – Luke 1:28

Right around now, life can get a bit squirrely. You’re probably more organized; I seem to pick up the pace, make long to-do lists, collect stuff, and then try to remember where I put it.

But, that’s not really what Advent is about. Advent is not about squeezing Christmas into a busy life. It’s not about fitting Christmas into a time of sadness.

Advent is about allowing the fact of Christmas to re-shape life. God has come to us! God has come to reshape our sadness, our hope and our joy. That’s what it was about for Mary; and that’s what it is really about for us.

“The Lord is with you, Mary. Don’t be afraid!”

Mary has a lot on her mind. She’s preparing to get married. She has responsibilities at home. No doubt there are issues. Suddenly, an angel appears, announcing: “You are highly favoured. The Lord is with you!” And Mary is greatly troubled.

The message that God favours her, that God is here with her, is a disturbing experience for Mary. Really? Why? Perhaps most of us, most of the time, don’t really expect to hear from God. It’s one thing to say we want to draw near to God – but perhaps we don’t expect him to show up.

Maybe we’re just as glad if he doesn’t. Because when God shows up, we can’t control the outcome. Our plans might have to change. When God shows up, he asks us to meet him with courage. Most of all, he asks us to trust him. To make ourselves available.

That can be tough for us, because we get confused about our purpose.

We like the idea that God will helps us in what we set out to do—finding a good job, raising a family, enjoying retirement. But we’re not convinced about God’s agenda. What if God’s plans are different from ours? We forget that God created us, not just so he could participate in our plans, but so that we could participate in his. God calls us to be available.

At first Mary is troubled. But she makes herself available. “I’m the Lord’s servant,” she says. “Here I am.” Wow. Buckle up, everybody. Because we’re no longer in this alone.

At every stage of our life God shows up, assuring us of his favour and his nearness. He invites us to trust him. To be available. To engage in his work among our colleagues, our neighbours, and in the world. It’s true when we are 20; it’s just as true when we are 60 or 80 or 90.

When we trust God, he gives us courage. In fact, the Lord becomes our courage. He enables us to do things we never imagined we’d do. Like serve as an elder. Or reach out to a neighbour. Or volunteer at a shelter. Or invite someone to church. Or tell a colleague that God loves them.

The Lord is with you. You are highly favoured. Don’t be afraid.

Merry Christmas!