This is cross-posted to www.eastsideexperiment.com – our local community expression that we’re experimenting with. We’ll be discussing it in person on Sunday morning if you’re local and interested!
It’s the season of Advent. A season of expectation and waiting. In the ancient text about Jesus written by Luke, we have two songs of expectation. One from a young woman, and another from an old man, both glorifying God for His goodness, His restoration, His power.
But imagine if you will, the voices of these two people. Mary – a young Jewish woman, found pregnant before marriage. Formerly known for her faithfulness and devotion to the Lord, now she is seen as ruined, tainted. Joseph, her betrothed, most likely was encouraged to set her aside, and he even considers doing so, but refrains because of a message from an angel. What kind of expectations could such a woman have? Scorn, ridicule, pain, or suffering? Yet it says that Mary treasures the announcement and is filled with excitement and expectation for the Goodness of God. How often do we see the Goodness of God in the midst of news that is troubling or disconcerting? How often do we treasure the word of Life that is given to us, even as we know it will bring us struggle and heartache? Mary shines as an example of a young woman who trusts, who lives knowing the Heart of the Father, trusting that His Goodness will triumph over any circumstance.
Contrast that with Zechariah – an old Jewish priest, tasked with serving the Lord, held in honor and esteem, and given even more when his wife becomes pregnant miraculously after decades of waiting without any seeming life. Now, Elizabeth is preparing to give birth. Yet, Zechariah’s response was clouded with doubt. Even with all the trappings of a religious faith to convince him that the angel spoke rightly, he still doubts God’s goodness. He knows that if true, it will create honor and fulfillment for his family – the opposite of what the announcement foreshadows for Mary. Yet, he cannot bring himself to believe that God is FOR him, that God’s GOODNESS will triumph. And so, in consequence, while Mary rejoices and sings with expectation, Zechariah is given nine months of silence to ponder and come to terms with God’s word coming to fulfillment.
As time moves forward, however, expectation grows, and both Mary and Zechariah move deeper into an understanding of God’s Goodness and promise. They see it from unique perspectives, however. Mary’s perspective reflects the oppressed, the suffering, the poor in spirit – the very people her son Jesus will bless in His Beatitudes later in life. She sees the promise in store for these people and foreshadows the coming blessing of God for all people. Zechariah sees the light of tender mercy dawning as well, realizing that God’s perfect Love casts out fear and doubt, allowing him to serve God and be a minister of His Goodness.
Let’s look at two portions of the text:
From Mary – From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him. God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity. The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
From Zechariah – He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live…Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Both Zechariah and Mary know the promises of God and His Goodness for their people, and claim them for the future.
As we enter a season of Advent, we are invited to remember and participate in God’s Goodness, His mercy, His Kindness, His Faithfulness to all generations. Even as God was faithful to Mary and Zechariah in their circumstances, bringing restoration and redemption, God is eager to be faithful to us in this season of our lives. He is eager to be faithful as we are expectant for not only the return of the King, but the restoration and renewal of all things. God desires for us to partner with Him and trust in His Goodness. He longs for us to treasure our promises and allow our expectation to move our spirits to rejoice and proclaim the good things He has done, is doing, and will continue to do.
Some questions for reflection:
* What promises have you received from the Lord that remain unfulfilled? Have you held them with expectation or with doubt?
* In what ways have you seen God’s Goodness manifest, even when times are hard – and seeming to get harder?
* How can you partner with God this holiday season to see His Goodness made manifest to other people?
* What would you like to hear from God in this season? Take a moment and journal out some questions that you would like to have answered.
I’m not sure how to describe this amazing woman in only 300 words. To put it simply, she saved my life. I first met her on a visit to one of my dearest friends in Portland, Oregon. They were roommates. I was in a not-so-healthy relationship. Well, by not-so-healthy I mean pretty downright awful. This visit was something of an escape for me. It was one of the first trips I had taken on my own since meeting him. We went for drinks and appetizers at Applebees and I sat talking to her. She was everything I wished that I could be: strong, confident, funny, and completely kick-ass. By kick-ass, I mean she knows enough martial arts to literally kick anyone’s ass. Absolutely brilliant, I tell you. We went to the Grand Prix for some racing, and I made the decision to move to Portland. Spur of the moment, but absolutely certain. Put a deposit on an apartment and promised to be up by the end of the month.
And I was. But I did not come alone. And then, I entered into the dark time. I had an excellent paying job, but we still couldn’t keep our heads above water. I didn’t know where my money was going every month. Credit cards racked up, and the household nastiness escalated. Every Sunday evening, we would go to a mutual friend’s house for steak and X-Files, and this woman became someone I could trust. Someone who could be honest with me.
One evening, she invited me out to a dinner. It was a celebration for a Rape Crisis Hotline. She and I had a long discussion that evening about her own experiences of powerlessness, and then she said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “Katie, we don’t like the way that he treats you. You deserve better. Do you realize that you aren’t happy? You may be content, but you used to be radiant, and now you’re just surviving. You don’t have to live like this. We will love and support you through this.” I spent the next long period of time justifying everything, trying to make excuses. But not much later, when the walls came crashing down, my world began to spin out of control, and my heart was in little pieces on the ground, her words came back to me. “You deserve better…you don’t have to live like this…you aren’t happy.” And I realized she was right.
I’ve never thanked her properly for being brave that way. For standing up for me, when I couldn’t stand up for myself.Read More