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 English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Immediately following Mary’s interaction with Gabriel, she is said to have set off for her cousin Elizabeth’s home in Judea. The Bible doesn’t explain where Mary went immediately after she spoke with Gabriel, and we don’t get the details about how her first conversation with Joseph or her parents went before we hear that she is on a road trip. Upon first read of this section where Mary visits Elizabeth, one could surmise that Mary is having considerable doubts about her experience and is looking for some justification from her family rather than on relying on the Word of the Lord brought to her by an angel. But if you read through the entire story and land on Verse 45, you see a distinct use of the past tense for the word “believe” which negates that narrative.
After Mary greets Elizabeth, the child Elizabeth is carrying is said to have immediately leapt in her womb. This reaction triggers an experience of the Holy Spirit that fills Elizabeth entirely. Mary doesn’t have to say another word as somehow this sudden rush of God’s presence in Elizabeth’s life filled in any blanks Mary might have offered. Elizabeth knows Mary is pregnant; she is aware of the circumstances of her conversation with God, and is experiencing the evidence that she is in the company of the mother of the Lord. Mary has only said hello, and yet the story has been revealed in bright detail to Elizabeth.
When faced with the task of sharing the Good News, there can be significant apprehension. Often we can feel as though we are unworthy to tell the story of how God is working in the world for us and through us. In this story, we find that the Gospel is encapsulated in more than mere words. Mary, the evangelist, enters into a place overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, speaks a greeting, and overwhelms the room with God’s love and Truth.
In Verse 45, Elizabeth explains how this is possible as she reveals the present truth that she who believed the Lord, even though what was spoken was entirely difficult to swallow, is the catalyst to carrying a blessing beyond measure. Mary may have set out to find answers and quickly escaped to check the Lord’s math, but in her potential doubt, we find that the source of her concern is not disbelief at all. On the contrary, she has brought with her the ineffable glow of the presence of God.
It can be difficult to know when God is speaking to us. But when our activity in this world begins with belief, our orientation towards Truth is sharpened as our senses become heightened to the work of the Lord in everything we do. Step one in following in Mary’s footsteps of faith begins with belief. Which leaves only one question: Are you ready to step out into faith?
Recalibrate: Where are hearing God’s voice? Do you know how to respond when you hear it? How can you prepare yourself to tune into what God is doing so you can make the Gospel seen, felt, and heard to those who need to experience it most?
Respond: Pray that God will use you in a marvelous way and will give you the words to speak when the time comes to spread the Gospel.
Research: Read How to Recognize God’s Voice.
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.
Listen to Do You Hear What I Hear? with your little one, just like we did at the start of the week. I love that while our babies are in the womb they can hear us. They know our voices when they finally arrive. They have been listening to us from the very beginning. Whom are you listening to? Know that God speaks life and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Listen for these and hear God speaking. Pray that you will hear and listen to His voice and speak His words over and in your family today.
Do you have someone you run to when you need help or when you want to share some good news? I had an older cousin I would run to at school. Elizabeth was Mary’s older cousin. Elizabeth was having a baby too, just like Mary. Do you feel better when you have someone to share things with? Mary had someone to share with about what the angel Gabriel had said to her. Elizabeth was able to share the same story of the angel Gabriel bringing Good News to her too. Mary had Good News to share, Elizabeth had Good News to share and so do we. Good News that Jesus has come. Jesus loves us and lives for us. His Holy Spirit lives in us so we can share the Good News of never having to be alone. We can always be with Jesus wherever we go.
While this week we are focusing up until Verse 45, I think the most important aspect of this story is in Verses 46-56. Mary praises God! Mary could’ve let her status as the chosen one go to her head, but she took the time to give the honor back to God. If you read her song closely, you will see that she was praising how He had extended grace to people in the past. God was going to keep His promise and redeem the world from sin.
Yes, that “annunciation” episode is more momentous than any of us will ever comprehend. Heaven approached a simple girl with the most astounding and horrifying proposition. God had already found what/whom He was looking for; there was just one thing left unanswered: was Mary willing? Willingness. That’s all God demands of any of us. He can and will take care of everything else, but He can’t do a thing without our willingness. (As the honored Jan Paulsen once said, “God can work with anything but unwillingness. When we are unwilling we draw a line in the sand over which God will never cross.” Classic!) We only know of that maid of Galilee because of one thing—she was willing. It was glorious and it was horrifying. And God offers each of us the same kind of proposition, though probably not with the same magnitude. He wanted Jesus to dwell in her. In a lesser but no less real sense He wants Jesus to dwell in you. He has a life charted for you. It is potentially scary but it’s also guaranteed to be glorious when all is said and done. The only question that lingers is regarding your willingness.
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.