This season is usually a fast-paced time of year with gift shopping, Christmas gatherings and parties with your work or at some friends and relatives, going to the theatre, and watching countless children’s plays, and Christmas movies. The past seasons were very similar, but this season is quite a bit different when it comes to the same old festive gatherings due to the pandemic crisis. Keeping our distance when it comes to social gatherings has somewhat created a vacuum of loneliness.
New York City along with other major cities looks so barren like a desert somewhere in the Arizona plains. The crowds that usually celebrate the holidays with such glee and excitement are empty. So many feel cooped up or like they are in a prison cell or a birdcage. People can still feel lonely even when they are in a crowd.
I am reminded of the story when the angel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth who was sent by God to tell Mary that she was to “rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,” (Luke 1:26-38). Mary was chosen to give birth to the son of God, Jesus Christ. Mary was troubled and afraid, scared for her life that God would choose her this humble servant. Mary is blessed among women, but not above women.
I believe she felt so lonely and fearful because of the great responsibility she would now carry. I do not think that she was boasting about bearing the baby Jesus. Besides, Mary was engaged to Joseph and was not technically married. Although engagements were much stronger as a commitment compared to our culture today. What would the people think and to know that she would have this child without a sexual union because she was a virgin? Even the religious crowd would give her a mouthful of shame and rejection. Rejection and unacceptance can cause so much depression, grief, and loneliness to a person.
Look at what the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, also, the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The word overshadow is compared to like a cloud and the Holy Spirit is also compared to the Comforter, Helper, the Advocate, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby, etc.
What a source of truth and encouragement to know how God would be with us and remind us of His presence in the midst of dark times and tribulations in this life, and even in good times as we are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. The birth of Christ Jesus the Son of the Living God! This is the reason for this time of year to offer hope and light in the saddest, loneliness, craziest of times. “In the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoptions as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Many of us wrestle with doubt because we’re human, especially when life does not go our way as planned, which usually is by no accident, but because there is a purpose for some unknown reason. God gives us hope beyond our own reasoning. “With man it is impossible, but with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE” (Luke 1:37).
Mary had to wrestle with her fears and doubts, even her reputation, but God knew her character and she was a virgin. When she heard the Word of God aloud (the power of the spoken Word) something triggered her faith and she finally settled it and believed God. “Then Mary said, Behold handmaid of the Lord! Let it be into me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). Other translations say, ‘May Your Word be fulfilled,’ “May everything You have said about me come true."
Some of you need a miracle and assurance, peace, comfort, favor, and grace from the Lord because your life and situation are beyond your control today. May you open up your heart like Mary and Joseph did and trust that God has your best interest. The best gift we can give God cannot be bought with money. He just wants your heart! Allow the Lord’s presence to overshadow you with His Holy Spirit today.
Have a Very Merry Christmas Season, my Friend!
Pastor Andy Provitola