“How are you?” I asked.
“It’s DECEMBER, you know,” she replied.
I nodded knowingly.
I wish the reality of my response had instead been confusion, and “Oh? What do you mean?”
But the truth is, I’m trying to recover from about a decade of not handling December well. The last three, maybe even four years have been great – I’ve enjoyed Christmas, but unfortunately, my family’s perception is, “Mom doesn’t like Christmas.”
It IS true that I still struggle somewhat with the whole gift-giving notion. Christ gives me this awesome gift of eternal life, so in celebration of His birthday, I buy you a drill set?
God comes to earth, humbling Himself in human form and I am supposed to light up the outside and inside of my house?
Um, okay… sorry, I don’t get it.
I have a TREE inside my house… with crystal and glass hanging all over it, and it’s draped with electric lights.
I think explaining Christmas to an alien with all this stuff would make him/her think we were nuts.
“Well, Jesus came to earth to save us, and He is God’s gift to us, so we put these socks over the fireplace.”
And if I could redesign the holiday, I’d have us spend daily time in worship, and then giving gifts to Christ Himself by loving His people well, things that don’t require wrapping paper or tags. Things that feed people, dress them warmly, pay their electric bills, build them a fresh water well, help them tangibly, and help them emotionally, like studying and practicing conflict resolution skills…but instead our culture is all about gluttony in decoration, gifts, cookies, appetizers, parties, Santa.
But no one asked for my help.
So there’s that.
But I do like Christmas now – especially since I’ve changed my focus from what I want (to create this spectacular secularly inspired experience) to what I can give (love). Sometimes it looks the same, but my heart is different, if that makes sense.
I got a few eye rolls from family members this year when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas this year. I asked for chickens for families in other countries. World Vision will give gifts of livestock to third world people.
I do, however, recognize that not everyone buys into this. I also fondly remember the “magic” of the season, the warm feeling as a child when listening to O Holy Night.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices
And I still do like stuff. And I like to delight people with gifts they enjoy.
But this year, as we did last year, and the year before, we’re focusing on how less is so much more. How He is so much more, He’s everything.
We’re spending the holiday being together, and with our church family, and as imperfect as we all are, it’s wonderful.
And I’m asking for help instead of frying my hands with too much cooking, cleaning, wrapping, etc.
And in the middle of these things, I received a lovely gift from His Word, one I’d like to bless you with. Net Bible puts it this way as the angel, Gabriel, shares with Mary:
1:36 “And look, your relative, Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age – although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month! 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 1:38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servantof the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Don’t miss the first gift – that of community. Mary is finding out she’s going to have both blessing and trial, and Gabriel reveals Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Why did he do that?
1:39 In those days Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah, 1:40 and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
So she wouldn’t feel alone. God knew she’d need the wisdom of an older woman (what we refer to as “Titus 2 women” now) and He sent her to the prophetess, Elizabeth. She hauled it three days to her.
Loosely translated, God knew she would need some girl time.
The second gift, however, is also worth taking notice of.
The second gift is recognition that we are not slaves of our husbands, but rather Christ.
I know the word, “slave” is an unpopular term. It connotes all sorts of negatives in our culture, but nonetheless, it has great meaning. Paul considered Himself a slave (check Romans 1:1) and so should we – and it is a gift to have the right perspective about this, because we are not slaves to other humans. That matters.
The gift is contained within Mary’s own response to Gabriel, where she calls herself a bondservant.
From Net Bible:
Traditionally, “handmaid”; Grk “slave woman.” Though δούλη (doulh) is normally translated “woman servant,” the word does not bear the connotation of a free woman serving another. BDAG notes that “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times… in normal usage at the present time the two words are carefully distinguished” (BDAG 260 s.v. δοῦλος). The most accurate translation is “bondservant,” sometimes found in the ASV for δοῦλος (doulos), in that it often indicates one who sells himself or herself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force.
It’s a permanent situation of servitude, one’s will being all-consumed by another – a devotion that disregards one’s own interests. That’s what this “bondservant” (slave) is about.
That’s how we are supposed to be with Jesus.
And I did some checking today…there’s no commandment for wives or husbands to be slaves to each other – or for wives to be slaves of their husbands. In 1 Peter 3:1-6, although it begins with “Likewise,” in reference to the passages about how we are to respond to authorities:
2:13 Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether to a king as supreme 2:14 or to governors as those he commissions to punish wrongdoers and praise those who do good. 2:15 For God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 2:16 Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves. 2:17 Honor all people, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.
2:18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are perverse. 2:19 For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. 2:20 For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. 2:21 For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. 2:22 He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. 2:23 When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly.
Some women are married to perverse and unjust men. Some of us are under authorities who are corrupt. We are to do good, regardless. Notice it doesn’t say, “don’t tell the truth,” and yes, He was maligned and did not answer back – but He also told the Truth when they asked Him who He was… “I am” – style.
In other words, know the whole bible, and know what Jesus said and did, because He spoke Truth, confronted sin, loved gently, loved boldly, and silenced many by doing good, regardless of His critics. He was good. He wasn’t a doormat.
Neither are we.
No where in the Bible is being a wife equated with being a bondservant, with the exception of Mary, who was servant to Christ, not to Joseph.
And hold on, I’m not telling you to stop serving your family. Love done well isn’t about you – marriage isn’t about you – it’s the context through which God teaches us to 1) love Him and 2) love others “Greatest Commandment” -style.
Sometimes the pain we feel is our pride being chipped away. Today I’m praying for a new depth of faith, that of a 16 year-old girl in a small town in Galilee, called Nazareth. She knew enough to be “troubled” when Gabriel let her know she had favor with the Lord, yet her faith was strong enough to face the coming blessing (and trouble) with great strength.
I wonder if she wondered about Him when she changed His diapers. I wonder if she wondered about His deity when He learned to walk. I wonder if she cried herself to sleep at night under the scorn of her friends and parents when He was a 25 year-old, and He hadn’t done anything yet. I wonder if she ever doubted. But there was this conversation in John when He was older:
2:1 Now on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2:2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. 2:3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine left.” 2:4 Jesus replied, “Woman, why are you saying this to me? My time has not yet come.” 2:5 His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”
Notice He knew her intent when she said, “They have no wine left.”
Bottom line? She knew God. She knew what Jesus was capable of, Who He really was. I think early on, and perhaps throughout Jesus’ uneventful first three decades of life, she took her doubts to the Father, who assured her through His relationship with her and with Him.
Dare you today to pursue Him so you can know Him like that. So you can stand firm in your faith for 33 years or longer waiting for God to do what you believe He said He was going to do.
The Respect Dare will help you with your marriage, that is true, but more than that, it will improve your relationship with God, so yeah, we’re daring you to link arms in a small community in your world and do the dare with them. If you email us at information(at)GreaterImpact.org, we’ll send you a copy of the small group guide for free.
Dare you to know Him MORE each day – takes effort on our part, but we’re not alone in this pursuit.
And the real gift this time of year? Him.
And He is more than enough, regardless of what we are going through.
Glad you are on the journey with us.
Love to you,