Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel {Chapter 6}

Noel Nights 4

The meanderings of a promise can sometimes look like being lost and forgotten. When the sight of your long-held prayer is so far gone that you barely remember to hope. When the dust of empty years overshadows the glimmer of your dream, the air now filled with the stench of doubt and expectations lowered to mere survival. Here is where God bursts through the night sky with choirs of Angels and brilliant stars. Here is where Heaven comes to earth.

Here in the messy, dingy, lowliest place of broken humanity, is the place of promise fulfilled. Every detail wrought in majestic perfection.

Your hope is not forgotten dear friend, you cannot see it yet, but your joy and peace are not lost.

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To read more, come join me over at Meredith Bernard’s farmhouse table as we ponder the beauty of the Nativity. How Holy and Faithful is our God to redeem every broken part of our vulnerable selves. I’ll bring the coffee – you bring the love!

This post is part of a Christmas Series through The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. You can read previous posts here, here and here!

Love Labors, Love Bears, Love Lives {Chapter 5}

Noel Nights 4

Today’s Post is written by a very dear friend of mine, Meredith Bernard! Oh, she has made me giggle and we have shared us some Holy Spirit tears. Her pictures captivate me and her words give music to my soul, because in them all is a glimpse of Holy love. Someday, I hope you have the pleasure of standing in line for coffee with her, or better yet, get lost with her in a Southern rain in search of a warm bowl of soup! She has blessed me oh-so-much! Please welcome Meredith!

~

“In Christ our barren lives become rich and full, our sorrows grow dim in the light of his promises, and the shame of our sin is banished forever.  An even greater miracle than the birth of a child. An even greater cause for joy.”
- Liz Curtis Higgs, The Women of Christmas

In those last days, more than anything, I just wanted it to be over. While forty weeks may not have been near long enough to prepare for a baby, it was more than long enough to grow one. If every inch of my swollen body didn’t prove that, a few minutes alone with me would.

What I didn’t get then, that I’m only starting to get now, is how beautiful and necessary the preparation for bearing new life is.

In Chapter Five of “The Women of Christmas,” author Liz Curtis Higgs beautifully portrays “Heart and Soul and Voice” surrounding the circumstances of both John and Jesus’ birth.

“There is nothing romantic about the birthing process,” she says. Can I get a witness? Amen, Liz. Amen.

Her reminder that “God was laboring with her (Elizabeth),” reminds me that He is laboring with us before, during and after whatever birthing process He brings us to and ultimately delivers us through.

Just as Elizabeth was not too old to bear a Son with God’s grace and mercy, neither are we ever too old, used up or ill fit to birth something beautiful for God, by God and through God.

Chances are great the process leading to new life will be messy, hard and sacrificial, but the end result is always worth the price it took to get there.

God didn’t choose standout women to bear His God-child son and predecessor, He chose stand-up women.

Elizabeth boldly proclaimed the name of her son John in the wake of the people’s questioning. Mary’s “Yes” to God signaled the end of her un-stained reputation.

As the book points out, Elizabeth’s shame came from having “a husband but no baby” and Mary’s shame stemmed from having “a baby but no husband.”

The glorious difference in Elizabeth and Mary from so many other women (especially the one whose skin I wear) is that their shame didn’t stop them from following God’s call on their life. Nor did the men in their lives.

Joseph could have easily had Mary killed or at the least, as he originally planned, divorced her quietly. This would have left Mary with no chance to marry and forever marked an adulteress.

BUT GOD.

Instead the woman, who could have been defined by a scarlet letter, bore the Child whose blood would save all mankind.

Elizabeth and Zechariah had given up on having a child. The priest who “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Luke 1:67), had no son heir.

BUT GOD.

What shame threatens to kill, God gives life.

Elizabeth and Mary may have been isolated, but they were never alone. They may have been outcasts, but they were seen and loved by the one true God in whom all things are made possible.

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What was the deciding difference in these souls?

“When the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth, he changed her forever,” Liz says so perfectly well. This woman who never expected to have a child, was given a son (a son!) that would be the second greatest to the Christ-child, her cousin Mary would bear. All this was “a fitting legacy for a woman who lived at full tilt for God.”

Oh, that we Daughters of the King would live full tilt for God! What beautiful blessings could He birth through even a small group of women living wholly devoted to Him? Only God knows.

How can we? How can we let go of the shame, the fear and the disappointments to allow God in so He alone can be our overflow?

“Love. That’s what is written across our hearts and throughout this story,” Liz says.

Love is the answer. Love is, has been and will always be the answer to this story, your story and my story. Just love. And thank God He loved us this much…

Sweet sister, what can you do to be more like the original Women of Christmas today?

~

new-1Meredith is a perfectly imperfect thirty-something Daughter of the King, who is a hot mess most days. She answers to Mama (hundreds of times a day) from her three-year old cowgirl and six-year old cowboy. When she is not chasing littles, she follows her Cattle Man around fields raking hay on her tractor or on an ATV rounding up cows. After 10 years in corporate sales, she recently quit to pursue motherhood, homeschooling and God’s unavoidable call on her heart to glorify Him through her Pen and her Lens. She lives in daily awe that Jesus would rescue and redeem a soul as wretched as hers, and she longs for others to know the same sweet release. Meredith’s love language is all things food and she would love for you to follow along with her kitchen mishaps, farm life wonders and blunders, with a dose of encouragement for anyone who shares her same imperfect tendencies. Find her blogging at meredithbernard.com and follow her through Facebook, Twitter and IG.

We are spending this advent with Mary, Elizabeth and Anna through Liz Curtis Higgs’ book: The Women of Christmas . You can find other posts in this series here and here.

The Great Comforter {Chapter 4}

Noel Nights 4

For centuries it had appeared that God had stepped back from the planet. No remarkable headlines floated amongst His people about His workings or presence. Centuries.

And then one starry night THE archangel stands before a tender teenager in a “no-where” village. He gives her the gift that generations had been searching for, the fulfillment of a promise given centuries before. Her mother’s mother’s mother had been dreaming of this day. Whispered hopes hovered around the well year after year after year, daydreaming of Isaiah’s prophecy. The wait was over, but now she must carry the weight.

The Messenger leaves and she ponders. The words settle in her heart and the thoughts swarm in her soul. I bet she couldn’t sleep under those winds of wonder. Visions of past conversations had over dinner about this very prophesy flashed to questions for Joseph and their marriage; what if’s, what thens. The enormity of God’s word being proven true – after all these years… after all these centuries. She needed to talk it out, to process all of this wonder. As her eyes paced back and forth searching for who, I bet a slight grin lifted her head as she realized the Angel had already given her her next step. Elizabeth.

Have you ever held on to a dream, a promise, a long-awaited blessing and at it’s arrival find yourself bursting to share it with someone, not just anyone but a trusted someone who’d get it?! Me too, except I have also made the mistake and shared it with the wrong person. Only then finding myself swimming in doubt afterwards; doubt that the dream, the blessing, was actually true and real. Fear crept in easy through those doubt-filled words of naysayers.

Mary, with a beautiful promise tucked deep in her soul, traveled for at least a week, only discussing the weather, the road conditions and the stubborn donkey at the back of the line. Watching her feet go one in front of the other, thoughts still swirled around her. Admiring and worshiping for the beauty of the land around her, yet still having to silence the threatening whispers of doubt and fear. Perhaps like the terrain, her mind climbed heights of faith and sometimes stumbled down cliffs of uncertainty.


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Finally arriving at her relative’s door, with hope pounding in her chest and fear pulling at her sleeves. Would Elizabeth believe her? What would Zechariah say? Would the neighbors hear?

She calls with a “Hello!”

Like a rushing wind and a burst of radiant sunlight the heavens open up and shower her with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth greets her with more than a response; Mary is met with confirmation, encouragement and pure love. The love of her Holy God radiates through the moment and settles all of those fears and doubts.

This moment has tears pouring down my face. I get it. I long for that release too. The kiss from heaven that says: “I see you, I have called you. Don’t fear for I am with you, wholeheartedly. You are never alone and I knew you needed this confirmation, this understanding.”

There was no way Elizabeth could have known other than through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. And even Mary wouldn’t have had many symptoms confirming her pregnancy… she needed this encounter. God knew. And with all of the love of a Sovereign Lord for His people He greeted her with confirmation. He wasn’t going to leave her to this journey all alone, just like He won’t leave you all alone either.

The Great Comforter, The Great Advocate, The tangible presence of the Lord surrounds you always. He sees you and your promise, your dream, your hope. Don’t fear.

“Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me.” *

The magnitude of the sovereign power of the Lord God of Israel was not too vast to cradle the tender seed of faith blossoming in the heart of a young woman. It was in those sacred moments where the belief of a mother’s heart and the echo of a tiny heart beat melded faith into a glorious resolve.

And so it is with you, my dear friend. This is His gift to you. 

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*Lyrics from Keith Green’s “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful

This post is part of an Advent Series! We are finding ourselves on our knees before a manger beholding our savior in deeper ways through Liz Curtis Higg’s book: The Women of Christmas .

You can find the other posts in this series here: Noel Nights. Next week we’ll have a guest!

~ We are also linking up with Meredith Bernard’s Women to Women Wednesdays. :) Such a good day!!

Breath of Heaven ~Chapter 3

Noel Nights 4

This moment is one in all of history that holds my heart captive. The scene of young innocence standing before the Angel Gabriel with arms humbly open to receive the greatest gift.

Oh, the weight of this moment.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:28-35

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After the angel left and the normalcy of her day returned I wonder what she did next. Did she collapse on the floor in desperate prayer? Did she sit in frozen awe as the enormity of the word settled around her? Was she stunned that she, of all women ever, was chosen for this place in history?

I have always put Mary in the group of superheroes. She is deemed immortal and in that, I think I mistake her testimony as untouchable. She must have carried a mark that said she was doing something perfect. Perhaps she was utterly beautiful, not in her physique but in the appearance of her heart before the Lord. To be chosen for this place in the Kingdom story she must have done something to deserve it, right?

Liz says on the bottom of page 43 “Mary, I suspect, was rather plain in appearance. Certainly in her dress and speech, perhaps also in her face and figure, she was unremarkable.”

Unremarkable.

That pulls her from super celebrity status to my level ground. Unremarkable, kind of like me.

Liz goes on to say, “God didn’t choose Mary because she was unique. Mary was unique because God chose her.” “What made Mary worthy of her calling was not her virtue. It was God’s virtue.”

Oh, the grace of this moment.

Mary knew there was no way she alone could be worthy of this, there was nothing she’d done or anything she could do that earned her this honor. This honor prophesied about centuries before and dreamt about by all young women. Her only expectation was the last words Gabriel said to her:

“For no word from God will ever fail.”  Luke 1:37

The wonder of this moment is not in the humanity but the miraculous. Mary, in all her ordinary life, responded with worship to an extraordinary God.

She responded with a simple sacrifice of worship, regardless of the fear and uncertainty the circumstances beckoned. She answered the angel with a heart of service and an attitude of surrender.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”  Luke 1:38

Oh, the wonder.

“Mary carried Jesus in her body. By the same Holy Spirit, we carry the risen Lord in our hearts.”*

Let the breath of Heaven fill your soul afresh with hope, with life. Give Him room.

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(This post is part of a series we are doing this Advent. We are beholding afresh the wonder of this season through Liz Curtis Higgs’ book: Women of Christmas) Catch up here on the Introduction or Chap. 1, or Chap. 2.

* Liz Curtis Higgs (pg. 54)

Women of Christmas ~ Keeping Silence

Noel Nights 4

Nine whole months or 270 days (give or take a few) of not speaking a word or of not being able to hear the sounds of life bustling about. That is a long time to be quiet, a long silence. {We are in Luke 1:19-25 today, Chapter 2 of Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. Here was Chapter 1}

My man, bless his heart, cannot keep quiet about a surprise to save his soul. Many a Christmas gift has been given early because he just could not contain the excitement. It has caught me off guard a handful of times but we’ve learned and now try to shop as close to Christmas as possible. I have to confess though, it is absolutely one of the things I adore about him. I also love talking through life with him. He is my best friend. Dark nights are spent sharing fears and dreams, long dreadful days are places to exchange words of love and support, joyful moments aren’t fully celebrated until we can rejoice and praise God together. I can only going through an entire pregnancy without being able to talk with him; let alone a pregnancy that had been prayed for – hoped for – longed for – for decades, without the sound of his voice.

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Elizabeth and Zechariah knew the struggle, the agonizing nights of prayer and the endless months and months of waiting. I bet Zechariah’s heart ached for his wife every morning as she walked to the well where he knew all the women would be chatting about her failure to produce. I wonder if he ever had to defend her honor amongst his friends who all had sons. The silent tears shed that he witnessed her brush away with each new cycle must have tortured him. They knew this struggle, they were in it together.

And now they couldn’t talk about it and they’d just been given the biggest faith boost of their married life.

And then the miracle happens, she gets pregnant! I wonder what that conversation looked like, the gestures she used between the tears streaming down her face. I wonder how Zechariah encouraged her through all the morning sickness. I wonder if she counted every day with tenuous caution. I wonder if she noted every symptom. The Bible never says that Elizabeth doubted, but I wonder if she hesitated in bursting down her best girlfriend’s door, just in case “this wasn’t it.” After all, she didn’t have Pregnancy Test Kits or an OBGYN to run to for an ultrasound.

She didn’t have to keep silent. The Lord only closed Zechariah’s ears and mouth. But she chose to hold their faith seed silently in her heart away from everyone for half of her pregnancy. Five months bears witness to a season change, maybe even a holiday or two. There had to have been knocks on the door, friends trying to make contact and send messages. Perhaps neighbors tried bringing meals over. Yet she shored up her heart and tucked it inside in silence.

Silence is a holy place. With each growing symptom and each passing day with life still in her belly she was able to simply glorify the faithfulness of God.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

In those quiet moments Elizabeth was able to let faith take deeper root. In those weeks of solitude and stillness she could sit and revel in His holy presence. There was no room for doubters, fear talkers or naysayers. The frenzied talk of others wouldn’t have opportunity to break her. There was no substance to feed the thoughts and feelings of fear and doubt. When the only one in her space was the presence of God, she could only strengthen her belief in his faithfulness. In those quiet days and nights there was room for God to whisper about this babe to his momma’s heart. She began to know more intimately the character of the God who sees broken hearts, the God who redeems long-awaited dreams.

In that space between the spoken promise and the fruit of promise is the silence, the waiting of faith.

What promise has God revealed to you? What dream is secretly growing in your soul? What hope are you anticipating to break through in your life? Perhaps keeping silent will protect it from the harsh exposure of others’ doubts and fears. Let it sit safely in the deep places of your heart where God can breathe life over it. There is safe keeping in the silence. And when it’s revealed for all to see, it will radiate His glory.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: … a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,6

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

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Linking up today with Meredith Bernard for Women to Women Wednesdays, and Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart.

 

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