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 New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel does two things to reassure Mary that her task is well within reach. The first is that she is not in her situation alone. Gabriel spends a significant amount of time telling her that God will be literally inside her and will not leave her for (at minimum) nine months. But, in case carrying the presence of the Lord in her womb is not enough, he reveals that her cousin is currently six months into a similar situation with her son John—this, despite being considered barren and past child-bearing age. Second, Gabriel leaves space for Mary to respond to what she has heard. In that space, Mary tells the Lord that she is willing to follow Him as requested.
God will reshape the future through a woman filled with His Spirit. It is only after Mary is gifted with these two promises that Gabriel departs and leaves her to transmit all she has seen, heard, and felt to everyone who will assuredly ask about the changing of her body now that she is carrying this child. When faced with immense challenges, Mary will have to rely on these two promises in conjunction with the reality that she was chosen for her character by a God who helped her craft it. While Gabriel may have departed, she stands in the glory of God with her cousin and her conviction to carry out her calling.
True conviction never stands strongest on the merits of untested evidence. Conviction, when bolstered with unwavering proof and measured experience is a powerful thing that is not easily challenged. Because of these two elements in Mary’s life, despite all of the demands that will be made on her in the form of judgments and accusations, she will find herself standing tall and fortified by her relationships with God and family.
As it was with Mary, it is with us today. You are not alone. Nothing is impossible with God. And with your consent, God will do providential things to you and through you in the name of His Kingdom.
Recalibrate: Where could you use additional reinforcement? How might you go about seeking God’s blessing in order to strengthen your resolve? Who or what might already be present in your life, as sent by God to support you in your time of need?
Respond: Pray that God might find favor with you as you address your challenges, knowing that despite your doubts and fears, nothing is impossible with God.
Research: Read Relying on God’s Faithfulness When Life is Hard.
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.
Make a list of all that you have to do today with your child. Talk about what you can do together and help each other with. There are some things our children can’t help us with but they can encourage us as we get those chores done. Together we are better. Over the past year, you have been asked to do this several times. It’s not because we have run out of things to write; it’s because we always need to be reminded that God’s plan is to do life with us—abundant, full, love-filled life. Through this, the world will see His love, His life in us.
Watch Christmas According to Kids. Who are the people in this story? How do they help? Luke 1:39 tells of how Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was having a baby that she hadn’t planned for. Elizabeth was very old. The video doesn’t tell this part of the story but you will find it in Luke 1:39-45. When Mary met Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s tummy jumped and kicked. Elizabeth’s baby was excited to hear the voice of Mary. Elizabeth was excited too because the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, was overflowing in her and told her that the baby in Mary’s tummy was Jesus the Son of God. Let’s pray together that God’s Holy Spirit will overflow in us and that when God speaks we will recognize his voice and know He loves us.
After Mary had the conversation with the angel, she traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. In their conversation, Elizabeth takes time to bless Mary. She could’ve felt jealous and compared herself and thought, “Well, why did she get selected to be the mother of Jesus and I didn’t?” Instead, she was so happy that Mary arrived and even felt privileged by the visit. How often do you compare yourself to your siblings, classmates, or maybe even strangers? Comparing ourselves can make us miserable but when we are focused on the good of each other like Elizabeth was, we will find that we are happier. We get the chance to see the goodness that God does in others’ lives and it makes us more thankful.
Mary accepts the offer of Heaven and has to leave her village because the whole thing is so scandalous. She heads down south to visit an old lady relative she knew will be gentle with her even if everyone else might only gossip behind her back. So Mary went to Elizabeth because she knew Elizabeth wouldn’t reject her and she knew she could share the pregnancy journey with the elderly woman, for Gabriel had told her of the miracle of the old couple. In church history this moment is called, “The Visitation.” There’s a lot of great art that portrays the moment of their meeting—each one feeling the other’s swelling belly. The text tells us that Mary knew of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, but it doesn’t really tell us if Elizabeth knew of Mary’s at first. I kind of hope she didn’t. I hope that Elizabeth didn’t have a clue when her baby began to dance inside her. I kind of hope that the Holy Spirit whispered, “Elizabeth, notice this glow about Mary?” And her unborn child, the “prophet-yet-to-be” made His first prophecy. Heaven ratified the miracle inside of Mary by using the miracle inside Elizabeth. You can’t make this stuff up!
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.