Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nothing Can Take the Joy of Christmas Away

This is my devotional that will be published in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of the Upper Room.

Suggested Bible Reading: Luke 1:46-55

Key Verse: “And Mary said, ‘my soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden’.” (Luke 1:46-48a, RSV)

A couple of weeks before my mother's last Christmas, she attended a worship service I was leading. When I opened the floor for prayer concerns, she boldly announced "Even though I have been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and the prognosis is not very good, I want everybody to know that nothing can take the joy of my Christmas away!"

Her carefully chosen words are etched in my memory. I was to sing a solo after that, and I barely managed to sing through my tears. Mom had left me with a powerful gift.

Reading Mary's Magnificat each year reminds me that no matter what troubles come, there is a bigger picture to behold. Mary had plenty to pout about, having gotten pregnant as an unwed teenager only to have others assume the worst. She would soon take a long, uncomfortable trek on a donkey's back to find that poverty and lack of connections would lead to giving birth in a messy old barn. Yet for Mary, there was a song to sing because she knew God was doing something. God’s blessing in the midst of her lowly situation reflected a larger movement of mercy from generation to generation.

Claiming Mary's and Mom's magnificent spiritualities would mean that no matter what happens to us, we can’t help but sing. Nothing can steal the joy of Christmas away.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, even when we are aware of life’s struggles during the holidays, may we find that they are indeed holy days. Let nothing distract us from the joy that the incarnation brings. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thought for the Day: Trials put us in touch with the bigger picture of God’s grace.

Prayer Focus: Those who struggle with cancer