Advent is one of my favorite times of the year - mostly because, here in South Africa, it is the beginning of our long summer holiday. So Christmas means sun, the beach and relaxing with friends and family. But more than that – it is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I love watching the nativity plays that the children put on at this time of year. My favourite part is always when the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that she is going to have a child. Mary’s faith and readiness to accept the Lord’s will always amazes me. I mean – an angel tells you that you are going to have a child (while unmarried and still a virgin) and He will be the Son of God. That is wild! What is even more amazing to me is that Mary’s question for the angel is, “How will this be?” She does not question that it will happen, she just wants to know HOW it will happen. What wonderful faith!
I think that my response might have been more like Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. He too had an angel visit him to tell him that his wife would bear a son – but he questioned the news. You see, Zechariah and his wife had been barren their whole life and they are now past their child-bearing years. They believed for a child their whole life and never received it from the Lord. In fact, the scripture intimates that they no longer even pray for a child any more (John 1:13). No wonder that Zechariah struggles to accept and believe the angel’s announcement of a son.
Both of these people were visited by an angel announcing a miracle in their lives. One received the news joyfully, the other does not know whether he is able to believe it.
How would you respond? Sometimes it seems hard to believe the word of God. Sometimes we have just experienced too many disappointments or too many delays to be able to keep believing God will do what He has said in His Word. Maybe that is you this Christmas season. Maybe you have been believing for a miracle and it has not come to pass. Maybe you have even stopped praying for it. Maybe, like Zechariah, you just do not believe that God will even do it for you…
Well – God had heard Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers. He just chose to answer them in the fullness of time, rather than in their time. And that’s what I love about Christmas. It’s the time when God rekindles our hope and expectation in Him. He came when things in Israel seemed dark, desperate and beyond hope. He came to a people that were earnestly expecting Him, yet He did it in a way that no one was expecting.
That is the wonder of Christmas. A time to stir up your hope and expectation. God has not forgotten you, nor has He dismissed your prayers. Even the ones that you no longer pray. He is God and He will come in the fullness of time to make His Word flesh in your life. Christmas is the promise of that!
Christmas is the time to remember that God is with us. He is Immanuel. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is constantly present in power, peace and joy. Immanuel - the ever-living hope of glory. He did come and He IS coming again!
This Christmas season, take time to remember the miracle of God coming to earth. As you do, remember that He is Immanuel. Right with you wherever you find yourself. Then let His love, joy, peace and hope saturate your life and fill you with expectancy for the unexpected!