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Advent Day 21: Receiving with Joy

Then Mary said, “My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Saviour. For he has deigned to notice me, his humble servant and, after this, all the people who ever shall be will call me the happiest of women! The one who can do all things has done great things for me—oh, holy is his Name! ~Luke 1:46-49

We love Mary. We idolize her. We think she’s a hero, a saint. We sing songs about her, we say prayers to her. Her life seems extremely special, touched by God in a unique way no other has experienced. And some days we wish we could encounter God like she did.

Certainly the circumstances in her life were anything but ordinary. The virgin bearing a baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Not something we hear on daily news. But in all this hype about the virgin Mary having a baby boy we often miss the most impactful aspect of her character, the part of her life that we can actually choose to apply in our own lives.

We cannot control how God works. We cannot will ourselves to encounter him in the same way that Mary did. Chances are we won’t wake up tomorrow to an angel and He definitely won’t be telling us we are to give birth to God’s son. We may not ever hear audible directions from God.

The thing that we can control however is the defining characteristic of Mary’s entire story.

Mary chose to receive with joy all that God placed in her life.

If we didn’t know any better, this famous magnificat found in Luke 1 would seem like it was coming from someone who had just received everything she wanted. Her exuberant delight drips from every word in this passage. The joy welling in her heart was evident, you can almost see the ear-to-ear smile she has spreading across her face.

The thing is though, the life Mary knew was devastated by this immaculate conception. Her reputation was crushed. Her plans were dramatically altered. Her hope for her pending marriage was even put into question. Mary’s life was anything but the beautiful life of bliss that we would expect from someone singing joy.

Reception with joy is the defining aspect of an extraordinary life. God will put many things in our life. Some good, some bad. And some, like the Christ-child’s radical invasion of Mary’s life, are a beautiful-awful mixture of the two. It is not extraordinary to be thrust into incredible situations. It is not unlike God to throw circumstances into our lives that transform the lives we knew, for the better or for the worse. Neither tragedies nor triumphs will not make our lives what they are, or define whether we lead a profound life that will leave a legacy.

I know a lot of hurting hearts this Christmas. A lot of lives that have been turned upside down. The plans that they envisioned for this Christmas have been devastated, the hopes that were rich with anticipation are crushed. There are significant losses, deaths and divorces, and there are smaller ones, plans that were upset and conversations that hurt and daily stresses to process.

But there is always a choice. It is not easy, and we must never trivialize the grief and pain, but those who receive all with joy will stand along side Mary and sing joy as their souls magnify their Lord.

{And a little Christmas cheer from Rend Collective never hurts the joy levels.)

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