O Holy Night
One of the things that I love most about Christmas is singing Christmas carols. There is something so comforting and inspiring about these Christian anthems, some of which are hundreds of years old. My absolute favourite is ‘O Holy Night’. This musical masterpiece never fails to reduce me to tears, as it powerfully conveys the breadth and depth of the redemptive, Christmas story.
This week, as I belted out my favourite carol, accompanied by Celine Dion, I put the hairbrush microphone down long enough to think about the reality of that first Holy night. It didn’t take me too long to recognize that the grand orchestral accompaniment and stirring lyrics of this beautiful song don’t really convey the harsh reality of what that night must have been like for Mary and Joseph.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, if I’d been Mary, O’ Holy Night could have just as easily been called O’ Horrible Night.
As they wearily made their way to Bethlehem, after days of uncomfortable and exhausting travel, only to be refused accommodation, do you think they felt accepted and valued?
As Mary did her best to get comfortable in a shelter designed for animals, do you think she felt special or chosen?
As she delivered her baby without the support of her female relatives (or an epidural!), only to then have to place him in an animal-feeding trough, do you think she felt confident about God’s purpose and process in her life?
If I were giving birth to the Son of God, carrying the promise of heaven, surely the journey would go more smoothly than this one appeared to? Yet, in the midst of poverty, isolation, rejection and uncertainty, all of the elements that normally convince me that I couldn’t possibly be where God wants me to be, Mary witnessed the fulfillment of a promise from God that was as life altering as it was impossible.
It seems that God is more than able to bring forth something beautiful and holy in the midst of what may look and feel horrible.
These last few months leading up to Christmas have been challenging for me; not in the same league as Mary’s but challenging nonetheless. I have grieved the loss of friends, struggled with sickness, felt the ache of disappointment and the sting of rejection. At times, the emotional fatigue of wrestling with unanswered questions and waiting for a breakthrough in circumstances, has left me struggling to find peace.
Will the promises of God over my family’s life and mine be fulfilled?
Should I continue to believe for the impossible to be made possible?
Can God really make something beautiful out of the ashes of disappointment?
The example of Mary declares a resounding YES! In the face of discomfort, uncertainty and isolation, she remained faithful. Despite hardship, trial and misunderstanding, she remained grateful and humble. So this Christmas, in the midst of purchasing gifts, planning feasts and occasionally feeling sorry for myself, I have been reminded to follow Mary’s lead.
“Blessed is she who has believed
that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1: 45
I will not allow circumstances and feelings that are temporary, distract me from truth that is permanent and unchanging.
I will not give up in the midst of what seems horrible until God has revealed what is holy.
I will allow Christmas to remind me that God is good and He ALWAYS keeps his promises.
Have a wonderful Christmas my dear friends. My prayer is that it will be filled with a growing awareness of the perfect peace and unfailing grace of God.
May you pause in the face of what you don’t understand,
to hear his whisper of truth, ‘Be still and know that I am God’.
May you persist with courage and faith, in believing
that the dreams of your heart matter to God,
For He is the one who placed them there.
May you press into His grace and lean on his strength.
May you perceive and undestand that,
He is for you, He is with you and He loves you.