I don’t think there’s anything sadder in life than to feel trapped in an unsatisfactory existence with no hope of changing. I’m sure everyone experiences this feeling at some point in life. It’s a very sad time to feel unhappy and question whether things will ever change. It can feel hopeless. The greatest thing we can do during these times is to step back and look at life through the lens of God’s love to try to envision something different for our lives. It may feel impossible and you may not have a clue how things could possibly change, but imagining positive change opens your heart to hear God speak. God often comes when we least expect it and in the most unexpected ways.
The Christmas Story is a beautiful example of God coming in an unexpected way!
The angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, “You have found favor with God and you have been chosen to bear a son and you will name him Jesus.” I believe there are three important things we can apply in our own lives when we look at this story of the angel bringing Mary the news that she would have a son.
#1 Saying yes to God
Mary had not been praying for a baby, this was very much a surprise to her! The Bible tells us that the angel Gabriel tried to comfort her. I also think it’s important to note that Gabriel waited for Mary to answer. What would have happened if Mary had told the angel, no? God was asking so much from her. Her whole world was going to change. Initially, it would cause problems with Joseph; they would be the talk of the town and then a baby and this long trip to Bethlehem. There would be great joy and unimaginable pain as she would eventually have to watch Him die. As soon as she said yes, her life would never be the same. Saying yes to God would turn her world upside down. I truly don’t believe it was something she had to do. That’s not how God works in our lives. God draws near in love and gives us those grace moments and opportunities, but we still have to choose whether we will say yes or no.
Mary could have said no, but instead she said, “I am a handmaid of the Lord.” It was a statement of faith. “I am a handmaid of the Lord. Do unto me as you have spoken.” From that point on she would look at her life through eyes of love, through the eyes of God’s love. In good times and hard times, she would always see the possibilities because she could see things through the lens of God’s love.
#2 You have found favor with God
What a wonderful announcement! You have been chosen; you have found favor with God. It’s something all of us want to feel special, chosen, as though you have found favor with God. Mary wasn’t the richest, the brightest, the most beautiful or the most popular, but God chose her anyways. She was an ordinary woman, engaged to marry a carpenter and set to lead a normal life. Christmas can be a time for each of us to remember that God chooses us, too. You are chosen, you have found favor with God, not because of how good you are or because of what you have done or not done, but just for being you.
#3 But, how?
And third, when Mary heard the announcement, she immediately said, “How can this be? I have no husband.” Have you ever wondered the same thing? How can this be happening to me? I didn’t do anything to cause this? So often, in hindsight we are able to see how our struggles in life often come as blessings in disguise. At the same time, there are those moments in our lives when doors seem to open wide, filled with opportunities. It’s not as if we did anything to cause this either, but I believe these moments are gifts from God. God’s love comes on a regular basis. To see God moving in our lives and to see the opportunity before us. Looking at the season through the eyes of love is what Christmas is about.