Hey y’all-can you believe that Christmas is less than a week away? I went to my last Christmas event of the season a couple nights ago. Now I’m looking forward to spending the next few nights cozied up by my Christmas tree! This down time will be a very welcome change of pace from the hectic schedule I’ve had over the past few months. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle & bustle of the holidays and forget to truly reflect on what the Christmas season is all about. However, the moments I have taken to be still this season have blessed me immensely. I’m no devotional writer, but I want to share a few nuggets of encouragement I’ve garnered this Advent season. I hope they will bless and encourage y’all.
(Hand-lettered ornament by Written & Rooted)
A Season of Waiting
As a kid, I would get extremely impatient in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I couldn’t wait for Christmas Day to arrive so I could see what presents I got, aka what new outfits and accessories I would get for my American Girl dolls. Christmas morning could never get here fast enough! Now as an adult, I actually savor the weeks leading up to Christmas. I look at them as a fun opportunity to do all the festive things I enjoy.
Although I no longer struggle with waiting for Christmas morning, I struggle with waiting in other areas of my life. There’s one particular desire of my heart that I’ve had for years that has yet to be fulfilled. While God is starting to open my eyes to some of the reasons and benefits of this long wait, it is still hard and painful. I go through seasons of intense discouragement, and wonder why God won’t open doors already. He’s done it for other people, so why not me? And as much as I love the Christmas season, it can also exacerbate my unfulfilled longings.
Advent as a Time of Waiting
However, when I take a step back and really reflect on Scripture, I find great comfort because Advent is all about waiting. God’s chosen people of Israel waited more than two thousand years for a Savior to rescue them from a fallen world. Multiple Old Testament prophets foretold Jesus’ first coming. My favorite Old Testament verses promising the Messiah come from Isaiah 9:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
These verses were written roughly 700 years before Jesus was born. When I think about how long Israel waited for their Messiah, that really puts my wait into perspective! God was more than faithful and fulfilled His promises, but He did it in His perfect way and time! Advent is a perfect time to remember this!
The Story of Elizabeth & Zechariah
As much as I love the Christmas story in Luke 2, the Advent story of Elizabeth & Zechariah in Luke 1 is extra special to me. I have been spending some time reflecting on that over the past couple weeks. It has brought my weary soul great comfort and encouragement. Luke 1:6-7 says the following about Elizabeth & Zechariah:
“Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.”
Although many still struggle with the pain of infertility today, it doesn’t carry the cultural stigma that infertile women in first century Israel faced. Also, it’s important to note that even though God’s favor was upon Elizabeth & Zechariah, they were still unable to have children. So often, it’s easy for me to believe the lie from the Enemy that the Lord hasn’t fulfilled the desires of my heart because I’m not a “good enough” Christian, because I’m too much of an emotional trainwreck, etc. These verses from Luke remain me that isn’t true!
However, after many years of barrenness, an angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah and tells him:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord . . He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (Luke 1:13-16)
The angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to tell her she will have Jesus is obviously very special and important. However, we must not forget that before Gabriel went to Mary, he also went to Zechariah to predict the birth of another special baby who will play an important supporting role in God’s story.
Sorrow to Joy
My new Candace Cameron Bure (in)courage Devotional Bible from DaySpring features charts that provide character profiles for important women in the Bible. The book of Luke includes one on Elizabeth. Her character profile emphasizes that the Lord unexpectedly blessed her with a son even though she was well past her childbearing years. It says “her years of empty sorrow were filled with much rejoicing.”
This short little quote from my devotional Bible has been such a blessing to me over the past few weeks, and given me glimmers of hope when I grow weary in my waiting. It reminds me that enduring a long season of painful waiting sweetens the rejoicing when the wait is over. And most importantly, it reminds me not to underestimate God and put Him in a box. He already has a perfect plan in place. And he’s working behind the scenes to orchestrate in ways my limited human perspective can’t fathom! Plus, the fact that I share my name with Elizabeth makes this encouragement even sweeter.
Waiting on the Lord
If you find yourself waiting on something this Christmas season, know that you are in good company! My pastor has been preaching from Deuteronomy this Advent. These sermons have reminded us that the Israelites also went through a period of waiting. They experienced a 40-year detour in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. One of the things that stuck out to me the most in this past Sunday’s sermon was when my pastor encouraged us to look ahead with hope, not envy. It’s so easy for me to be envious and resentful of people who already have what I’m waiting for. This reminded me to view the blessings of others as examples of God’s faithfulness rather than my lack. Natalie Lewis, one of my favorite bloggers + awesome Beautycounter mentor, touches on this some in her Wholeheartedly Devoted devotional.
I was feeling very weary at the beginning of the month. But thanks to God speaking to me through His Word and others, I am in a better place as we enter into Christmas week. And if you find yourself feeling weary in your wait right now, cling to these lyrics from “O Holy Night.” They’re some of my favorites:
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
Know that God came down to this broken world as a little baby that first Christmas two thousand years ago to give hope and everlasting life to weary people like you and me!
“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)