The Greatest Gift of All
I don’t know about y’all, but I am an absolute sucker for all things sentimental and tradition – just ask anyone who knows me. And on top of that, I am absolutely obsessed with all things Christmas – decorating, matching stockings, childhood ornaments, holiday parties, peppermint, hot chocolate, gift wrapping, twinkly lights, Christmas toys for Red (our puppy) – you name it! My sweet husband and I have been decorating our house this year for our first married Christmas and it has definitely been a very special memory for us, and we have been soaking in every moment.
We even started some of our own new traditions this year, like taking Wes’ Grandpa’s old red truck (that He passed down to Him when he passed away) to get our very first Christmas tree together, as well as continuing our yearly tradition to go to the Biltmore House (up in Asheville, NC) to spend a day enjoying the beautiful Christmas Decorations.
But beyond all of the magic and beauty that Christmas season brings into our lives, it is even more special to reflect on the true meaning of this wonderful time of the year. With Christmas being only 4 days away, I know so many of us are filled with such a childlike expectancy and sense of wonder. I love this time of year because of the sense of awe it creates in children and adults alike, as we prepare to celebrate the greatest gift this world has ever been given – the birth of our one and only King – Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the light – and when we journey through life in His presence, His glory brightens the world around us.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…” // John 1: 9-10
This year in particular, I have really been moved by the story of Mary. I have always heard and known the story of Jesus being born in a little manger in Bethlehem and of Joseph and Mary having to travel a long ways to get there. But, until this year, it had never really hit me just how scared, lonely, and misunderstood they must have felt. After all, Mary had been given the greatest gift of all – becoming the mother of God’s one and only Son – Jesus Christ – our Savior and King.
A few weeks ago at church, our Pastor spoke about Mary in a way that I have never heard before. He talked about how God loves to use little people to do big things through, like for example, Mary in the Bible. Mary was a humble, everyday girl whom God chose to give the greatest mission of all – bringing Jesus Christ into the world. Of course she was fearful, scared, and felt unqualified for the mission God had given her. Being a virgin, Mary’s story could only be explained as a “God thing,” not a human thing. And our Pastor explained how God takes delight in doing things through His people that can’t be explained in earthly terms.
After being particularly moved by this sermon due to these past few crazy years of my life – being called to marry my husband Wes after a particularly humbling time in my life (when I felt the least deserving of this amazing man), moving overseas to Uganda at the same time, and feeling misunderstood by others while choosing to trust God’s plan and redemption through it all (even when it made absolutely no sense to anyone in earthly terms) – I just burst into tears. And to top it all off, a dear friend and mentor at church (whom I look up to and adore with all of my heart), came up to me at the end of the service and hugged me, whispering in my ear, “You are my Mary.” So of course, I burst into tears again. To say it was a moving morning for me would be an extreme understatement.
And then later that week, I read the most moving devotional in The Bible App about Mary that read:
“The task assigned to her would likely bring judgement and shame from almost everyone she knew. Who was going to believe Mary was a virgin? Her own fiancé needed the reassurance of an angel to believe her story. Two thousand years later, many still question her claim of virginity. Knowing this would be the case, Mary focused on the blessing of being chosen by God for such an important purpose. She knew that those who would believe in her Son would honor her and trust God’s Word about her integrity. She didn’t dwell on the difficulties she might face in society or within her family. She didn’t need to defend herself. Mary chose to trust God rather than resist her calling, even if it meant a lifetime of being misunderstood. Whatever God has asked you to do, don’t let any potential persecution or judgement of others keep you from obedience. We aren’t called to be comfortable, accepted or understood. We’re called to make a difference!”
I am going to get really deep here…but if we are being completely honest, I have felt misunderstood by the world ever since I started following Jesus. And I’m sure you have, too. But these past few years, God has called me to follow Him places that I never dreamed or imagined of going. And as I prepared to leave my fiancé and head to Uganda at such a young age (all happening at once), I faced so much anxiety and insecurity as I battled with trusting His plans or going my own way. And with that tension came a lot of growing and separating myself from people and things that distracted me from what God wanted for me, as He sought to redeem and restore so many broken places and pieces of my heart. And at the same time, I felt (and sometimes still do) feel constantly misunderstood. Over and over again, God has truly “called me higher” and shown me that, even though the path is never clear to me (or anyone else) at the time, HE has a plan…and it is way better than anything I could ever dream up or imagine on my own. He is a God who never settles for anything less than His very best, and He never lets us just “stay where we are.” While my natural tendency and earthly nature tells me to “play it safe,” “fit in,” and stay in my comfort zone, I constantly hear God “calling me higher," wanting to make me more and more like Him - whatever that may look like. It makes me think of that C.S. Lewis quote about Aslan (the great lion) in the Chronicles of Narnia that says,
“Safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
God never promises that the road will be easy, but He does promise that it will be good. Time and time again in my life, when He has called me to hard things – like transferring schools, battling autoimmune/nerve issues all through college, leaving all of my loved ones and fiancé to serve Him overseas, and moving to a new place upon getting married – He has never let me down.
He has great plans for you, friend, and His ways are always better than our own. Only you know what He is calling you to – big or small – but like Mary, I pray that we will always choose the road less traveled – to follow a King who loves you and never, ever leaves your side. Just like He never left Mary’s side in the great mission he had given her, He will never leave your side, either. When everyone and everything else fails and disappoints you, HE never will. He will never, ever leave you to fight your battles alone. He is the one great King. One that I hope and pray you will choose to live your life for and follow all of your days. He is worth it.
Jesus Christ came to Earth to die for our sins and save us all. This is such an indescribable gift from God that can we can never truly comprehend. Through Jesus, we have been given life – both now and forever! Praise be to God!
“Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” // Psalm 117
So while we soak in and enjoy this Christmas season and all of the joy that it brings because of time with family and loved ones, I pray that we will never forget the true meaning of it all. Because of Mary’s trust, courage, and faithfulness to God, our Savior and King – Jesus Christ – was born in a little manger. He was and is the greatest gift of all – both now and forevermore. Glory be to God!