Somewhere between November and December I often get cold feet; not because it’s cold outside (I live in sunny California), but because it’s cold inside: I have little strength for celebration. I am depressed. I am anxious. I am sick. I am definitely not in the mood to celebrate. The miraculous and only thing that begins to heal all that negativity is the warmth my heart and mind find in realizing the reason for the holidays. They are all Holy Days, not meant for just once a year, but for all time.
But, there are those days we wonder if there is good reason to celebrate when the everyday of life is challenging. I am learning that you and I can celebrate Christ every single day of the year and therefore make a Holy day (or holiday) in the midst of our routine. Whether you feel like it or not – no matter what the situation – we have reason to celebrate.
Let’s walk together through Luke chapters 1 and 2 and see how these familiar Christmas story participants nurtured a heart of celebration in the midst of their everyday challenging, difficult lives.
1. A Reason to Celebrate: Elisabeth’s Response
The thing that strikes me about Elisabeth is that she realized the presence of the Lord was in her midst. She knew she was in the company of something Holy. The baby leaped within her, and she was also filled with something Holy – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks into our lives too; teaching us and pointing us to Christ; so that we will recognize the presence of Christ in our midst. If you desire to know the presence of Christ near you and with you during this season, you must ask Him for ears to hear Him whisper and eyes to see Him right there within you. Jesus said when He left the earth that He didn’t leave us alone. He sent His Spirit to dwell in us. It was a good thing worth celebrating. It still is.
During these next two months of holidays, ask God to fill you with His Spirit like He did Elisabeth. Each day can be holy because He is in it and He is in us. We can say confidently with Elisabeth,
And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things, which were told her from the Lord. – Luke 1:45
2. A Reason to Celebrate: Mary’s Response
Mary was an unmarried, virgin woman pledged to marry Joseph, a descendant of David. Was she a scholar, or of royalty, that she was chosen to be the earthly mother of Someone so holy? She seemed to be an ordinary young woman, much like us. She may not have been highly favored by man, but she was definitely highly favored by God. Why did God choose Mary, someone who seemed to be one of the least likely, to have a son that was worthy to be King?
Could it be that God chose Mary because she was willing to do whatever God asked of her, regardless of the fact that the personal cost would be great? When Mary heard that incredulous news about giving birth to a son even though she was, in fact, a virgin, she was able to disregard her circumstances and believe in God’s plan. Her response,
Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word. – Luke 1:38
Am I willing to do whatever God asks of me? I really want my response to copy Mary’s. I want to pray, “Lord, be it unto me according to Your Word. Be it unto me according to Your purpose – according to the history You are writing for me; whether life or death, joy or sorrow, trial or triumph – let it be to me as You have ordained for me.”
God called Mary to do such a mighty work because she was willing to give up her reputation – even her own well-planned life for Him. Mary was given an impossible scenario, but God revealed to her that He could do all things. Mary was willing to give up not only Her reputation, but her expectations of a “normal” life for her God. She chose a heart of obedience above all that this life might offer.
What do I choose? What am I willing to give up for Him: my own expectations, my reputation? What about that simple ideal vision of a perfect home, that perfect husband, that picture-perfect outward celebration we are hoping for? If we put all that aside and focus on obeying and worshiping Christ, we might just have a holy day worth celebrating.
Mary knew her God. She saw Him and heard Him and worshiped Him. God’s whisper in her life was Holy. And, she was sensitive to that whisper of God. We have the same God who whispers. Have we become to distracted and busy to hear Him? His whisper will bring celebration to our hearts. It’s a celebration that disregards the impossible circumstances and prays, “Be it unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38). I think this prayer might be another reason it is said that Mary “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Just listen to her rejoicing in the certainty of God in the very midst of her own uncertain future:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud with the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his offspring forever. – Luke 1:46 – 55
A yielded, obedient heart coupled with the knowledge of God and a heart of worship, begins to change the way we live each ordinary day. Out of the abundance of that heart will flow the things we say, the way we view our own life, and the way we live each day.
3. A Reason to Celebrate: Zechariah’s Response
What kind of response do we see from Elisabeth’s husband, Zechariah, as we continue in Luke 1? His relatives and neighbor’s didn’t understand what God had planned, but Zechariah knew his God – which is very evident in his Mary-like prayer which burst forth when his speechlessness turned into worship:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our day. And you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. – Luke 1:68 – 79
Zechariah not only points back to what God has done before his time, but points to the present in how “to serve Him, without fear in holiness and righteousness,” and then points forward to a certain future with God’s deliverance in it. He sees God in all of time and history, a view we desperately need. We need to understand like Zechariah that God redeems our past, empowers our present, and orchestrates our future . . . which gives us great reason to celebrate!
4. A Reason to Celebrate: Simeon’s Response
Simeon prayed to see the salvation of God before he died. (I have to ask myself if I pray those same faith-filled prayers of hope.) He prayed that the answer for his nation and people would be revealed. And, his God allowed him to see the answer to his earnest prayers . . . in baby form. Celebrate the answer to your people and problems – even if it looks like a small beginning. Continue to be faithful in fervent and hopeful prayer for as long as it takes – then you can celebrate with Simeon whose very eyes saw the salvation of all mankind. The prologue to this miraculous even was that Simeon was righteous, devout and waited with expectation. We would do well to do the same if we desire miraculous celebration in our own lives.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child to Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. – Luke 2:25-32
May my heart be like Simeon’s; that I would take Christ up in my own arms and bless God, celebrating the fact that I have seen the salvation of the Lord, not just on one special day, but every ordinary day!
5. A Reason to Celebrate: Anna’s Reponse
Anna fasted and prayed in the temple. She led a life devoted to her God. And God favored her with a revelation of His Son. A reason to celebrate: God has favored you with a revelation of His Son.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel. – Luke 2:36 – 38
I would love a life like Anna who worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day so that at the moment she saw Jesus, she knew exactly who He was! I don’t want to become so busy with lesser things that I don’t know who He is. I don’t want to miss Him this holiday season by being too busy to worship; I want to recognize Him. It is especially essential in the midst of weakness, or emotional upheavals, or trials, or depression, or the misunderstanding of friends and family, that I recognize Him in my midst. Anna’s response to this revelation was to first give thanks to God, and then to speak of Him to all who were waiting for redemption. May that be my response, too!
6. A Reason to Celebrate: Our Response
The response of all these normal, everyday kinds of people was worship and celebration. Our response to the life God has given us should be no less. We have seen the King! We know Him! He speaks to us! He lives in us! We will see Him again!
A yielded, expectant, obedient heart that worships will change the way we live and view our lives. This is how we can have the response of joyful celebration – whether it happens to be any ordinary day, a difficult day, a joyful day, and especially a holiday.
7. A Reason to Celebrate: Jesus is Born!
The common denominator in these people responding with a heart of worship and celebration is that they all encountered the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you encountered Him? He will change your heart from ordinary, tired, and heavy, to a heart of celebration as you celebrate your encounter with Him. Jesus has been born in your heart!
Jesus is born! The hope of the nations! My hope! We sing “Come Thou Long Expected-Jesus” and He has come. He has come into your heart and wants to come into your home, too. Celebrate him!
He is high and lifted up and worthy of our praise and worship. Bow before Him in worship, and then rise in celebration. Don’t you feel like celebrating the holidays with a Holy Day heart now? I pray you do. God is whispering to you to celebrate Him. Seasons of our life will change, but He will never change. He is worthy of celebration. Oh, and don’t forget to take your kids with you on this journey through Luke as you show them the real reason we can celebrate with a holiday heart whether we feel like it or not.
Copyright 2013, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.