Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Shipping Presence
Preacher: Jenniffer Ogden
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 1:26-45 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Reflect for a moment on what you think of when you consider the label “the greatest of all time.”
If your mind went to sports, you likely saw flashes of Jordan, Brady, Ruth, Pele, Serena, Ali, Tiger, and Gretsky. If it was movies, you likely recalled stars like Hanks, DiCaprio, Streep, Denzel, Day-Lewis, and Brando. These icons have brought us countless scenes and top plays that will forever grace our memories. These people are the best in their respective fields and have worked tirelessly in order to gain the title of “the greatest.” But how did they get there? How is that of all the actors and all the athletes, these are the names that hang in the halls of fame and not others?
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers: The Story of Success that in order to reach the status of “phenom” on par with Kobe and Oprah, you need to log ten thousand hours in your craft. Assuredly, everyone on the lists you cultivated in your head have accomplished the ten thousand hours of practice to get where they are today. And their hard work has paid off if for no other reason than someone in the world this random Tuesday morning thought about them when pondering the best of the best.
Somehow, without logging a single second of existence on this planet, without moving a single muscle, and without even being conceived, Gabriel crowns the Great One in his conversation with Mary beginning in Luke 1:32:
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
Greatest of all time without even arriving on the scene and without a single highlight reel!
Mary finds a way to avoid asking the question we all pose when someone puts together the Mount Rushmore of Athletes and doesn’t dispute any of the credentials of the accolades listed. (Assuredly, someone out there is limping through this post while still trying to figure out how I wrote Brady instead of Montana.) Instead, Mary asks how any of this could be possible while she is still a virgin. For Mary, God is good all the time, but Mary doesn’t see herself in the same boat with the G.O.A.T.
Fortunately, she doesn’t need to. Her credentials are not on the line and she has already been judged acceptable in the eyes of the Lord. Without 10,000 hours under her belt, Mary will now be remembered in the annals of history in association with the Greatest.
While it’s recommended that you reach the summit of training before you can be called a phenom, it’s not a requirement for your position in the Kingdom. Right now, today, you can be crowned by the King with no experience required. All it takes is a little faith in the one who is already Great and a willingness to listen when He comes calling.
Recalibrate: What are you training to become great at? How can you use your skills to glorify God? How might God already be manifesting glory in your life beyond the training you are receiving?
Respond: Pray that you will walk in the Light of God’s Spirit in you, and remind others that God loves them as they are, right now, without any dispute.
Research: Read What Does it Mean to Be Great?
Remember: “Gabriel answered, ‘The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread His shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! This is why the child born to you will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35, TPT).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
With your child, make some decorations to hang on a tree. These can be as simple as tying a bow to the end of a branch or as ornate as making an angel. Encourage your child to make theirs and you make yours. Decorate your tree together. When we travel, we collect Christmas decorations from the places we go. While they are all different and somewhat tacky—ranging from New York taxis to Alaskan sled dogs—when they are on the tree together these decorations look awesome. With the presence of Jesus, we too can be awesome in His name and beautiful in God’s sight.
Yesterday we thought of ways we can practice being with Jesus in our everyday lives. Today I want you to try some of these ways out. Think of the things that you do each day. Who do you do them with and how can you help? Get really good at seeing and hearing and doing what needs to be done. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone older to help you out with a few ideas. The more you do this the better you will be at seeing where you can help out. I wonder what Mary was like when she was your age. Do you think she was ready to help out too?
So imagine Mary, going about her day and having met an angel. The text tells us she was scared; the angel told her to not be afraid because she had found good favor with the Lord, and also that she was going to have a child. Not just any child, but Jesus who will rule forever. And finally, not only had she been chosen for this honor but her cousin Elizabeth had been chosen for a special kind of motherhood also. Major news. One of the first thoughts that could’ve come to Mary’s mind? “That is impossible.” And well, it possibly was from her perspective—but the angel Gabriel was clear in Verse 37: nothing is impossible with God. This was all part of God’s plan that was promised from the beginning. Be assured that God keeps His promises.
OK—we’re big boys and girls here and we can be honest. This thing theologians have called “The Incarnation” is more than any of us will ever be able to comprehend. God becoming mortal and finite and limited and helpless and two cells inside a woman—are you kidding me? (C.S. Lewis said trying to get a grasp on this is like “trying to explain dry to a fish.”) We are incapable of really understanding the miracle that Mary was willing to accept. If it were me I’d have been incredibly claustrophobic, but that just shows that I don’t know what I’m talking about. If Jesus really became one of us He was no more aware of His surroundings during the nine months than you were when you were in the same position. God became a fetus. God became oblivious. God had tiny toes and a tiny nose and sucked His thumb. Martin Luther said that unless you see God at Mary’s breast, totally powerless, you do not understand. Astounding. Breathtaking . . . for you. Deal with that!
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.