The Miracle of Christmas

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

As we prepare for Christmas amidst the cacophony of Christmas parties, decorations, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, all in the name of “getting ready for the holidays,’ let’s not forget the simple, powerful story of a poor young woman and her example of radical faith and obedience to God.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him 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 ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.”

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

The angel said to 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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

The real message of Christmas
The message of Christianity is not a message of humanity’s ability to find God, or reach God. The message of Christianity is that God finds us. God found Mary. God’s initiative, not ours.

Prayer: God in heaven, once again I’m struck with your awesome power today. Not only did you create all things, but you sustain them right up to the present moment. My next breath and next heartbeat depend on you. Not only that, my most difficult problems disappear when you act. Nothing is impossible with you. May I live today with that belief firmly in mind. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Why we make excuses and what to do about them

Hiking near the mountains of desert canyons in UtahPhoto by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt (Exodus 2:10).

As much as Moses was a great leader, he was far from a perfect leader. He did something many of us do when intimidated by a task–make excuses. Why do we make excuses?

We make excuses…

  1. To avoid being responsible for the task.
  2. To delay and procrastinate.
  3. To mask the growing fear inside of us
  4. To save ourselves from the perceived pain and shame of failure. 

It is possible these were some of the reasons Moses offered excuses to God. He did not feel adequate. The magnitude of the task seemed greater than his abilities. Have you ever felt that way?

The truth is, no one is ever adequate for the task of leading God’s people. Adequacy for leadership comes through time spent in God’s presence and through a process of trial and error. So it is understandable at the outset that Moses would question his ability to lead–hence his excuses.

I know this sounds weird, but it is a good thing to lose confidence in one’s abilities but gain confidence in God’s ability to work through us.

The messages of our culture invite us to think positive, invoke powerful mantras, “I am somebody! I am strong. I am a leader. I am smart, creative, today is the best day of my life,” and other such banal platitudes. Unfortunately, such practices turn the spotlight on the leader and fail to recognize the frailty inherent in every leader. Moses had no mantras that day. He was halting, uncertain and filled with excuses. What were some of his excuses?

First Excuse: “No one will believe me that you and I met in the desert.” Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.” (Exodus 4:1 ESV)

Second Excuse: Lord, remember that I have a speech impediment. I no longer speak with any fluency. Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
(Exodus 4:10 ESV)

Third excuse: I am busy, send someone else. But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13 ESV)

What to do
Feelings of inadequacy are natural. 
The burning bush encounter with God is an important event for fear-filled Moses. For Moses, the feelings would dissipate as he grew stronger through intimate times with God. From this day forward, Moses would walk with God and filter every challenge, every victory and every decision through his friendship with God.

Excuses lose their power over us when we remember this truth:

If God calls us to a task, he will empower us to do the task.

What are some of the common excuses you tend to make?