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Entries in Mary (2)

Tuesday
Dec042018

Advent Preparation According to Mary

Gail Goolsby, an educator and life coach, encourages women to learn how to live well. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she explains how Mary, mother of Jesus, lived wisely and well—and she encourages us to do the same during the tradition of Advent.

“Recently I read Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James,” Gail said.

“I discovered an expanded image of Jesus’ mother, Mary, beyond the virginal blue headscarf of Christmas nativity scenes.”

I (Dawn) am so glad Gail wrote on this topic. I think many Christ-followers misunderstand Mary—who she was and how the Lord called her into something hard yet beautiful. Beautiful beyond her imagination.

Gail continues . . .

Custis James described how Mary prepared for the COMING of her baby, the Messiah, and how she prepared for LOSING Him.

Through His painful sacrifice, she lost her son, yes, but gained eternal salvation and peace with God.

Mary’s model of heart preparation for all that was coming to her life motivated me to enhance my own Advent season of worship and reflection.

Advent Tradition

The word Advent means coming, derived from the Latin word adventus. Modern day Christians recognize the four weeks before Christmas as the Advent season to celebrate the wonderous arrival of Jesus the God-man.

For centuries this coming preparation did not focus on Christ’s birth but His second coming as King and Redeemer. Only during the Middle Ages did Christians begin to explicitly link the Advent season to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.

Today we combine the two targets of Advent.

  • We anticipate the glorious reappearance of the judge of the world through the clouds.
  • We remember the tender birth of a baby to a young mother in a humble shelter.

The first two Advent Sundays look forward to Christ’s second coming with songs like O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

The last two Sundays look backward to recount His first coming and lead us to Christmas Day. We rejoice with the angels and shepherds, singing the carols we love like Hark the Herald and Silent Night.

Advent Public Preparation

Historically, Christians prepared for Advent in similar ways to Easter, with prayer and fasting.

During a month of traditional parties and feasts, fasting can be challenging, yet can help center us on the reason for the season.

  • The addition of Advent scriptures and prayers by congregant families in the weekly church worship service points us to the future and past comings of our Lord.
  • Devotionals and special readings at home with family members gives reflection time direction and meaning.
  • Parents often add a count-down calendar or place daily ornament-symbols on a holiday tree with their children while teaching Old and New Testament verses about Christ.
  • Advent wreaths with four to five candles in significant colors set among greenery with blood-red berries are popular decorations in churches and homes. Each candle depicts a piece of the waiting and remembering story of Christ’s two comings.

Mary’s Personal Preparation

In Custis James’ presentation of Mary, I found THREE POSTURES that can prepare our hearts for welcoming the person and deity of Christ in our Advent practices.

1. Lose ourselves

As Mary agreed to take on the role of mother to Jesus, she lost

  • her reputation,
  • her engagement/marriage in cultural acceptance,
  • her personal dreams and goals, and for a time
  • the trust of her fiancé and family.

When her unthinkable situation became public, she lost

  • personal safety and
  • community tolerance.

Mary laid down her full earthly identity to become God’s servant.

Custis James wrote (page 167),

Mary got lost in the very place where ultimately she was found—in her relationship with her son.”

2. Let go and let Jesus be Jesus

Beginning with the story of twelve-year-old Jesus remaining behind in Jerusalem after celebrating Passover, Mary and Joseph had to release their son to live out His destiny. Jesus shifted His authority allegiance from his parents to His Father in heaven.

Several times in scripture we see Him explaining this obedience to God versus His earthly family (Luke 2: 48-49; John 2:4; Luke 8:19-21).

Like Mary and Joseph and his brothers, we must relinquish our human ideals of relating to Jesus and discover Him as He truly is—fully God and fully man.

3. Embrace our destiny

Just as Mary’s fullest calling was not serving as the birth vehicle for Jesus, we must recognize our greatest identity is found in following Christ.

If Mary had not embraced her son’s spiritual teachings, her supernatural motherhood would have meant little.

An unnamed woman cried out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27 NIV).

Jesus replied in Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Custis James wrote (page 180), “Mary was the first to believe and lay down her life for the gospel. She was the first to leave all to follow Jesus, first to love him and minister to his body, first to hear and treasure his words, the first to share in his sufferings.”

The promise for each of us and the world is Jesus Christ.

He has come, and He will come again.

This is the essence of Advent.

How will you prepare yourself? Follow the model of Mary.

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, ACC is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan, and credentialed life coach with the International Coach Federation. Gail and her pastor husband of 40 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.

Monday
Nov272017

Three Women Can Prepare Your 'Christmas Heart'

In this Christmas-season UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to re-read the Christmas story from a fresh perspective, through the stories of three women.

I’ve read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke over and over again, but what struck me this year was the three women God used in the story of our Messiah’s coming and childhood.

I received the examples of these women as a gift, and their stories can help you prepare your own “Christmas heart.” Allow the Spirit of God to cultivate a heart that respond to and worships the Lord with fresh wonder.

Here are the lessons I unwrapped from these godly ladies.

1. Elizabeth - Learning to Hope in God’s Promises (Luke 1:5-25, 36-80)

The cousin of Jesus’ mother, Elizabeth played an important role of encouragement. As the wife of a Jewish priest, Zechariah, she no doubt encouraged her husband in the ministry. They were both spiritually mature, called righteous and blameless before God and obedient to His commands. But the Jewish people were getting impatient for their Messiah to come.

The Bible says Elizabeth was barren, and when we are introduced to her she was “advanced in years”—past child-bearing age. Yet God was about to do a miracle! While Zechariah served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave them not only a pregnancy announcement, but a name for their soon-to-be son: John. The child would fulfill a special prophecy; John would be the “messenger” of God, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Zechariah doubted God’s messenger and the angel imposed a penalty for his unbelief; but at John’s birth, Zechariah showed he had grown in faith. Perhaps Elizabeth’s faith grew to a higher level too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, Mary heard the good news and went to visit her cousin. Mary—also pregnant at that time—experienced the wonder of her own child leaping in her womb as the cousins embraced; and old Elizabeth declared her joy about Mary’s pregnancy even before Mary mentioned it!  

Ever the hope-giver, Elizabeth encouraged young Mary for her own journey.

In due time, Elizabeth’s son grew to minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) and she indeed saw the wonder of God’s promise.

This Christmas, I want to help people see the wonder of God’s promises, fulfilled in John the Baptist and our Savior, Jesus!

2. Mary - Learning to Trust God with our Future (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52)

Young and likely still living with her parents, Mary is an example of a woman who surrendered to God’s will and trusted Him for her future. She is described as “highly favored” in scripture, meaning she fully received God’s grace; but she acknowledged her need for a Savior. An ordinary Jewish girl, God chose to use her in an extraordinary way.

She was engaged to, and later married, a carpenter named Joseph. As a virgin, she gave birth to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. She and Joseph had no sexual union until after the birth of Jesus. (They had other children later—Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters.)

Mary is an example to us of trusting God with our future, no matter how uncertain or painful.

She knew God would do a mighty work through her son, God’s “only-begotten” Son, the One who made possible the believer’s sure hope for eternal life.

Mary never received worship, adoration or prayers herself, but she pointed all glory to God alone (Luke 1:46-49).

This Christmas, I want to worship and adore the Lord, and remember my loving Father in heaven has all my tomorrows firmly in His hands.

3. Anna - Learning to Pray until the Answers Come (Luke 2:36-38)

There are only three verses in scripture about Anna, but they are rich in truth.

Like Miriam, Deborah and only a few other women in scripture, Anna was a prophetess. She was also an elder widow dedicated to the Lord. Scholars debate whether she was 84-years-old or 104 when she met Jesus.

Regardless of her age, she never left the temple after her husband’s death. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

God's people were waiting and waiting for the Promised One, the coming Messiah.

Anna prayerfully waited too. And her prayers of faith were richly rewarded.

Simeon was a fellow-servant in the temple (verses 22-35). Simeon set the stage for an important response by Anna. After he saw Jesus and said his eyes had seen God’s “salvation”—the one who would enlighten the Gentiles and bring glory to God’s people, Israel—Anna spoke up.

The Bible says she came to the place where Jesus was being dedicated in the temple that very moment and began to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Her prayers, all Israel’s prayers, had been answered. The Messiah had finally come!

This Christmas, I want to thank my Father God for the Messiah’s coming, and recognize Him afresh as the Promised One ... MY Promised Savior.

Join with me this Christmas:

  • Hope in God’s promises.
  • Trust God for your future.
  • Pray with confidence and expectancy.

And rejoice! The Redeemer has come!

Do you need hope, faith, a more expectant spirit? How can the example of these three godly women encourage your heart today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic of Mary and Elizabeth, a painting by Sebastiano Del Piombo.