God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
— C.S. Lewis
It’s just a few days before Christmas, and I find myself wide awake at 5 a.m. This is unusual for me. I’m not a morning person, and I’ve never been one of those “I love my early morning quiet time” people. But jet lag from a recent trip is clearly dominating my desire to be sound asleep. My mind fills with to-do lists, and suddenly I’m pondering the length of the line at the post office. I try to quiet myself. Easier said than done. More items are rushing on to my mental list. I grab my phone and add a note. That helps clear some head space.
Silence. I take a deep breath. I want to abide, to draw from the One who dwells within. All that is required is to simply be. Another breath. There in the stillness, the words come. But they aren’t my words. They belong to a pregnant teenage girl.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Luke 1:46-47)
Such simplicity. Such beauty. Mary’s faith is astounding. She doesn’t ask for all the answers. She doesn’t demand a blueprint of the next nine months. The explanation given to her by the angel Gabriel is enough. Her life has just been turned upside down; and yet, her spirit rejoices. Later, after the birth of her child, scripture tells us that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) You see, she had made space for what God was doing.
How do we respond when our lives are turned upside down? For many of us, 2020 has given us a glimpse. Canceled plans, job losses, health scares, isolation, homeschooling, political turmoil. We’ve sure had to deal with some challenging times…and it doesn’t seem to end. So where does this leave us? Are we clamoring for solutions? Begging for answers? Or are we making space in our hearts?
Please, don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to offer platitudes in the midst of pain. I’m not going to tell you to put on a happy face or “choose joy” when that well is completely dry. I’m not going to tell you to “just trust God” and everything will be fine. Neither will I suggest you should be floating in a river of peace because God is in control.
Mary’s reaction to the upheaval in her life was not the result of some strength of will. It wasn’t just a choice she made, although she did have a choice. It didn’t come from saying the right prayer or knowing the right scripture. It flowed from something she had become. As Mary was overcome by the Holy Spirit and filled with love incarnate, she became the Christ-bearer.
In this season, we are reminded that God chose to fill us with himself so that we may overflow with his love. We, too, are Christ-bearers. Like Mary, we can accept or reject this gift; but once it is accepted, God’s fullness begins to take up residence within our heart. Fear is replaced by peace. Sorrow is replaced with joy. Restlessness is replaced with contentment. It’s important to understand that we aren’t producing these things ourselves, they can only come from the heart of God. They must be received.
Is your heart prepared to receive what God has for you this Christmas and beyond? I know mine sure wasn’t as I counted the errands I need to run and the presents I need to wrap. And it would be easy to let the post-travel Covid test I need to take today fill up a lot of heart space. But there is a better way. As I embrace the stillness, the voice of love begins to speak. My heart makes room for him, and I am changed.
I pray that today you may find stillness and stay there, simply waiting. Don’t run on to the next urgent thing. Be where you are. Breathe. Listen. Make space in your heart for the Prince of Peace. May your spirit rejoice!
Top photo: Arteida Mjeshtri, Second photo: Tim Mossholder