Loving God, as we draw closer to that Holy Night The night of our Savior’s birth We are filled with questions: Why did you come? What did you come here to do? What does your coming mean for us today?
You came to serve. To feed the hungry. To heal the sick. To humble yourself to serve the very least of us. Come, Lord Jesus! Help us remember that by serving Our brothers and sisters, we are serving you. Teach us to use our talents and strengths To help those most in need This season and all seasons
You came to comfort and to give rest to the weary. To carry our burdens and give us peace from worry and fear. Come, Lord Jesus! May our homes, our hearts And our very presence offer comfort to those Who are worn out and stretched thin. May we offer them a kind word, a soft smile, And a warm heart.
You came to show mercy. To teach us to Forgive as we have been forgiven. Come, Lord Jesus! May your radical mercy show us How to soften our hearts to those who have caused us hurt. Teach us by your example to forgive Even the deepest wounds And to set ourselves free.
Above all, You came to love and to teach us how to love. This Great Commandment gives us everything we could ever need. Come, Lord Jesus! By your example, May we hold one another close this Christmas season. Close in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our words, and in our deeds. May we love by your example. Come, Lord Jesus! AMEN.
Hearing God’s Whisper ministry wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Advent story is full of rich and dramatic events, culminating in the birth of our Savior. For me, one of the most powerful ones is the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in Luke’s Gospel.
God chooses Mary and comes to her with an invitation—to bring Christ into the world. Mary’s response to this invitation is life-changing and world-changing. It’s impossible to overstate how huge this moment was. EVERYTHING, the very salvation of the world, hinged upon her response.
There is a tendency to believe that Mary didn’t really have a choice in the matter. That Gabriel came—not to ask her a question—but to tell her what was to be. To tell her what her destiny was to be. The problem with this interpretation is that it takes away any agency from Mary and misreads the moment as a passive one, as if Mary were simply swept along into God’s plans, without the opportunity to make her own choice. Without the chance to say “yes.”
And so it’s worth spending a little time exploring the other possibility: Could Mary have said “no” to God? Did Mary have free will in this situation?
From the very beginning of God’s interaction with the human race, our free will has always been respected. From the moment we were created, we have been free to make our own choices. Why wouldn’t the same be true for Mary? Which means she wasn’t programmed to say yes, like a robot, or coerced into saying yes, like a soldier obeying an order from a commanding officer. This wasn’t like the scene from the Godfather: “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” But instead, through the angel Gabriel, God was issuing Mary an invitation. How she responded was entirely up to her. Knowing that fact…doesn’t it make her answer that much more powerful? In the words of poet and author Christine Valters Paintner:
“When the angel Gabriel visits Mary, she is given a choice rather than a demand. Mary is active in her “yes” to the angel’s invitation as well as in her surrender: “Let it be done to me.” God’s unfolding of salvation is dependent upon Mary’s full ‘yes.’”
So what characteristics did Mary possess that allowed her to say yes? Mary was open to God’s plans for her life. She was willing to trust God. As scary as the prospect of bearing a child under such circumstances might have been, Mary trusted that this was the path God had chosen for her. And she was willing to surrender her own plans to answer God’s call.
How often do we do this? It is so easy to stubbornly cling to our own plans even when we feel God nudging us in a different direction. Remember…we were born with the same free will that Mary was. Our choices are ours to make. God can only invite us to follow. Can we trust enough to be open to the mystery of God’s plans for our lives?
Our answer to God is always a choice. Mary was asked to bring Christ into the world, and she answered yes. As Christians, we are asked to do that very same thing. Not in the same way that Mary did, but in the way we live our lives. In the way we interact with others. In the words we speak. In the deeds we do. What will our answer be?
I spend a lot of time writing about God’s “whispers” and how it isn’t always easy to hear what God is speaking to our hearts. During this Advent season, I’d like to expand on that notion by looking at the ways we can let God be LOUD in our lives.
I believe that God’s voice is a constant. Always there. Always speaking to us. Never fluctuating or changing. If that’s the case, why does God’s voice seem so quiet sometimes, and other times calls to us through a megaphone? Perhaps it’s the volume of everything else in our world that affects our ability to hear God. So if you would like God to be louder in your life, spend some time thinking about what is drowning God’s voice out.
We’re exposed to a lot of noise in our life, but we have some choice in the degree to which we tune in. Lots of things demand our attention, but we don’t always have to give in to those demands. Take some time this week to make a list of all the things that you are listening to these days. Some by choice, some by habit, some by non-choice. How do each of these things make you feel? Which of these things draw you closer to God, and which of them pull you further away?
For example, you might listen to a certain person on the news or the radio, and they leave you feeling angry or hopeless. Or maybe you have an acquaintance who is always critical and leaves you feeling down. We were created to live in harmony with God’s loving plans for us. Might I encourage you to turn down the volume of anything that clashes with that harmony?
Taking it one step further, there may be some “noise” in your life that you want to mute altogether—those things (or people) that make it almost impossible for you to focus on the voice of God. Picture yourself holding a remote control with a mute button. Do you have the ability to silence the voices that don’t serve you? I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and there are some accounts that are very bleak and fear-mongering. Once I figured out how to mute those accounts, my Twitter timeline became much more enjoyable. Would it help you to go on a news or social media diet—or even a blackout? Or maybe you need to take a long, hard look at some toxic relationships in your life.
As you begin to lower the volume of this noise in your life, an amazing thing will begin to happen. God’s voice will automatically become louder. All the other “stuff” you’ve been focusing on will fade away, and the messages from God (through Scripture, through the Advent story, and through your daily encounters with Jesus) will increase, filling your ears and your heart.
And if you want to crank up that volume even more? Incorporate some spiritual practices into your daily life that will continue to bring God’s voice to the forefront…loud and clear!
PRAYER: What better way to achieve this than to talk to God in prayer? Think of your day as an ongoing loving conversation with your Creator. Speak what is in your heart and be open to what you are hearing in response.
STILLNESS: 16th century mystic John of the Cross once wrote: “Silence is God’s first language.” Silence is our gift to God. A “sacred pause.” A time to stop what we’re doing and listen. To soak in God’s presence and allow ourselves to be filled up.
AWARENESS: We hear God with our hearts, through an unshakable awareness that Jesus walks with us through all that we see, and do, and experience. Focus on what matters most in your life. Feel gratitude and love dwelling in your heart. That’s where God lives.
My prayer for you this Advent season is that you will open your heart to God’s voice and let that voice be LOUD, like the chorus of heavenly hosts singing with the angels: Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all people on earth!