I just returned from the Amazon jungle where I taught at Justice & Mercy International’s Annual Jungle Pastors Conference. Ninety-four indigenous men and women gathered for a week of Bible teaching and renewal. Many traveled by boat and bus for several days to...
The holiday season is upon us and so are all the impossible expectations. (Is this too Grinch-ish for the beginning of a devotional?) During this season our joys and sorrows are magnified. Not to mention, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s each bring with them a frenzy of activity, an assortment of relatives, and often complicated situations. This is not to dismiss the season’s sentimental qualities or potential for cherished memories to be made. But for most of us, the holidays are a mixed bag and it’s important to decide at the top how we’re going to approach them. We have a choice to either succumb to cultural expectations or determine to put our expectation and hope in Christ, no matter our circumstances.
This time of year, I like to revisit Elizabeth’s story in Luke 1. Elizabeth was too old to bear children and was barren on top of her age. Imagine her immeasurable joy when after years of what she would refer to as her “disgrace among the people,” the angel Gabriel announced that Elizabeth would soon become pregnant with a son. And while any son would have been a blessing, John the Baptist would be the forerunner of the Messiah. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah would bring into the world one of the most important figures in Christendom.
At the peak of Elizabeth’s glory, a much younger and arguably less deserving woman stepped through the front door bearing a child greater than Elizabeth’s. Her name was Mary and was already pregnant with Jesus, the Christ. If Elizabeth had been given to comparisons and holiday ideals, her expectations would have been dashed before the first Christmas had even come. But Elizabeth wasn’t caught up in comparisons or jealousy.
Her focus was on Jesus and His presence with her: "How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43.), she exclaimed! Her words reveal a secret we desperately need this time of year: Elizabeth’s hope was not in an ideal but in a person, the person of Jesus.
Where are your hopes this holiday season? Are they in achieving the perfect Thanksgiving table or Christmas gathering? Are they in who will be at your house or at whose house you will be? Are your hopes rising and falling on your finances or health or job to pull off a “good Christmas?” These are all important questions and they matter deeply to the heart of Christ. You matter to Him, and He knows how much we all long to be with loved ones and have a joyful season of celebration. But, ultimately, our hope must be in Jesus.
He must be the longing of our hearts. I read this morning in Ephesians Paul’s prayer for us to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge so we can be filled with all the fullness of God. Both Mary and Elizabeth experienced the fulness of Christ’s love despite their circumstances. I am deciding today that Jesus will be my hope and focus this season. As a result, I am always a much more delightful person to be around—when I’m giving out of what He has given to me.
This season, let’s not mistake the holiday ideal for our Savior, Jesus Christ.