Even that most awful first day I swallowed tears as I made phone calls and airline reservations and asked for help from those I knew would lend it.
But sometimes the weight of grief and life and stress and pain is simply too much to bear.
So falling apart is really the only option.
And that’s OK.
I can let go and let the tears flow.
I can hide under the covers or inside the house and not answer the phone.
I don’t have anything to prove.
Because I know the One who will hold me until I feel strong enough to pick up the pieces and carry on.
And when you are old, I will still be there, carrying you. When your limbs grow tired, your eyes are weak,And your hair a silvery gray, I will carry you as I always have. I will carry you and save you.
A few times in my life I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by an outpouring of God’s grace and mercy.
And like David who danced before the Lord when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem, I simply can’t contain myself. I want to move my body in response to the rhythm of the good news.
So I understand Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s blessing:
And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened— I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. Luke 1:46-56 MSG
Known as The Magnificat, Mary’s heartfelt response to the work God was doing in and through her is a perfect introduction into the upside down Kingdom Christ came to establish.
The Jews were under occupation, under the thumb of a pagan Roman government where might made right and the outcast poor had no hope for justice.
But the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary how very great was this Good News-no longer would evil reign nor the wicked rule. God’s mercy would be supreme! His people would be blessed and every single promise of the Lord would be fulfilled.
So she danced to the tune of salvation. Even though the music was faint and far away.
I’m invited to dance to the same song because God’s promises are sure.
Sometimes I have to strain to hear the music.
But if I lean in and listen closely, it’s there.
Have you ever experienced a moment when you were utterly overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness and faithful love? How did it make you feel?
Mary’s song emphasizes the truth that God will not allow injustice to reign. He will make every single thing right. But it can be hard to wait sometimes. Does this promise make waiting any easier for your heart? Why or why not?
Sometimes we look around and think, “What’s the point of trying to live a righteous life? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!” Do you think that there is an eternal reward that outweighs any temporal inequity?
Music and dancing go hand in hand. God has created us to be physical and sensual beings. Have you ever been so moved by truth (especially when presented in musical form) that you could not help by responding with your whole body?
Father God, You never fail. Your purposes are sure and cannot be thwarted. You will not allow injustice to rule forever. You sent your Son to set the record straight, to pay the price and to squash evil tyranny.
It’s true that He has not yet established His Kingdom in its fullness. But the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The devil is on the defensive and we are guaranteed victory.
Help me hold on to the fullness of the gospel message-not only that my eternal hope is secure (and those I love who have received salvation through Christ) but that You are working in and through your people to restore justice and equity in the world right now.
Make me an instrument of your peace. Give me words of hope to share with a frightened and confused world. Let me lead others in the dance of my Savior.
Today’s verses may seem an odd choice as a stand-alone source for an Advent devotional.
But when you dig a little deeper, they are a beautiful affirmation of how God used ordinary people to bring about His extraordinary purposes.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were two humble and obedient Jews living their lives according to the Law. As a priest, Zechariah was responsible to serve in the Temple two weeks of every year. He’d been faithfully doing his duty for years. Elizabeth had done hers too.
But they were fruitless. Elizabeth was barren. And barren women (in those days) were considered cursed.
And then something amazing happened.
Zechariah, chosen by lot, seemingly random, is given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to burn incense before the Lord. A sacred trust, a holy encounter representing the prayers of all Israel and especially those positioned outside in the temple courtyard.
“5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.”
Luke 1: 5-10 NIV
We will stop here for today although I’m sure most of you know where our story is going.
I’m glad to take things a little slow. Because when I race through verses full of detail I tend to miss important insights. And there are several in these words that help my heart.
Doing my daily duty can be pretty boring.
Living a life of faithful obedience sometimes becomes a burden. And when obedience doesn’t lead to blessing but perhaps even to pain I can lose heart.
Luke reminds me that being precisely where God wants me to be doing exactly what He’s called me to do may lead to unimagined and unanticipated blessing.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had no idea that their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem would change everything.
But it did.
And that was just the beginning.
Do you ever tire of daily routine, regular responsibility? Does this passage challenge that attitude?
Scripture teaches that God is in control even when it seems like chance rules. Is that a comforting thought? Why or why not?
Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story echoes that of Abraham and Sarah. An old couple, past the age of childbearing whom God blesses with not just any child but a child of promise. How does their story once again that God is the God of the impossible and improbable?
Prayer is likened to incense throughout the Bible. I sometimes like to light a scented candle in the still dark early morning hours when I talk to God. Do you have any physical representations that help your heart connect with the Father?
I admit it-sometimes I’m just flat out tired of doing what’s expected of me. Dishes and laundry and ordinary work are dull and hardly rewarding. Obedience takes self-control. I’m not always interested in being who I ought to be especially when I feel like maybe there’s no upside to sacrificing fun for duty.
Even worse, I feel cheated when I’ve been a “good girl” and still not received the desire of my heart. In fact, the desire of my heart has been snatched away.
Help me feel Your Presence speaking courage and strength to my soul when I grow weary of doing well. Help me show up every time and everywhere You want me to be. Let the truth that there is no better place to be than in the center of Your will sink deep into my spirit.
You have a plan and You work through perfectly ordinary people to bring it to life. Who knows? It might be me doing my daily duty that impacts eternity. Thank You for inviting me to be part of the Eternal Story.
If you find your heart limping through Scripture instead of gaining strength, may I suggest you try a different Bible translation for a bit? Sometimes familiar words-even the words of God or His prophets-just fall flat.
I can read them and not digest them at all.
So lately I’ve been reading and copying from the VOICE translation and it has helped me see old passages in a new light.
Here’s one of them. I think those of us walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death have a lot in common with Jeremiah.
I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.
It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.
Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.