As puzzled as a virginal teenaged Mary must have been by the angel’s announcement in Luke 1:30-33, she readily accepts her role as expectant mother of the long-awaited Messiah. In Luke 1:46-48, she pours out her song of joy, praise, and gratitude to God in the beautiful Magnificat.
When given this scripture to ponder for an Advent devotional, I was reminded of a great Christmas joy that my family experienced on Christmas Eve, 2015. My daughter Julie and her husband Chris were a little tardy joining us for the Woodland service (occasioning a few choice glances at the saved seats from the assembling crowd). When they did arrive, each had an excited but stunned countenance. “Is everything okay?” I queried. Julie whispered with tears in her eyes, but joy and awe in her voice, “We just got a phone call on the way here. We’ve been chosen. We are getting a baby girl in January.”
Having experienced several miscarriages and failed pregnancies, they had prayed and grieved but became involved in the lives of many children and families in ways that would not have been possible had they had their own child. They had been on a waiting list for an adoption for almost 3 years and were feeling discouraged, but not abandoned by God. So, while it was not an angelic announcement, prayers were answered on that holy night! The entire family spent that service with tears of joy, “glorifying the Lord” and rejoicing in the “blessings of God our Savior.”
Our precious Avery will soon be four years old. We remain humbled and in awe of the marvelous gift that the “Mighty One” brought us in the form of this miraculous baby girl. Julie and Chris have told me that had God answered their prayers sooner, they would have never had Avery in their lives. Now, they would not have changed anything. Indeed, we are blessed. “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Have you ever thought something will never happen? You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? You have hope, but it is becoming wishful thinking?
We were in the system to adopt for a long time (years) before we adopted Nicholas. Seeing our friends having babies and adopting was hard. We were happy for them and sad for us, thinking we might never be parents. When we decided to adopt again, we had to wait again. Would it ever happen? Then we got Leah, almost overnight.
The people of Judah can relate. They were in exile in Babylon, hoping to return home soon. Some prophets told them to get ready because God was going to deliver them. But nothing was happening. Would they ever get to go home?
Jeremiah tells them a different story. They were going to be there for a while, so they needed to build homes, plant gardens, get married, have children, and plan to stay. What a blow. Jeremiah even encouraged them to pray for the shalom of the city where they were in exile. What a tough assignment.
Jeremiah then shares God’s plan for them. Shalom. What a great promise: peace, wholeness, welfare, completeness, and human flourishing right where they were in exile. But, how could they experience shalom in a foreign land? This is no prosperity gospel. God is listening to them and will be found, even away from their beloved Judah.
Hope is not just wishful thinking. Hope is something you can count on, even when things seem so foreign.
Our dreams of parenting came to pass. We have two children whom we love. We thank God for them. (Leah’s middle name is Mattea and means “gift of God”). Did Nicholas and Leah bring us shalom? No. God already provided shalom during our journey.
By Lance Mayes
Joy seems elusive at times; sometimes non-existent for long stretches of me. Such is the case for Israel. These were dark times. No joy. No hope. No way out of the mess they were in. Captivity was no fun for God’s chosen people. Where are you, God?
Many of us today can relate. You want a child and you wait. You pray and you wait. You hear nothing except for happy and crying babies. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, friends and admirers oohing and aahing over the little ones. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are times of isolation and hiding. Where are you, God?
Maybe it is depression or another mental illness. No light. No hope. No activity. No joy. It takes everything in you just to get out of bed. You let things you used to be passionate about slide. Darkness rules your nights and days. Where are you, God?
Both of these are not just in my imagination. They are real experiences to me and my family. We prayed and waited for a long time before we adopted Nicholas and then Leah. We are so glad God answered our prayers in God’s time. We love our kids! We are honored to be their parents! God brought light to our darkness through them.
We also face depression and other mental illnesses. Parenting is not for wimps, especially parenting kids with challenges. Many days are dark. And then, God sends some light through a loving friend, a caring teacher, a wise doctor, and many others.
This promise of light and joy for Israel came in the form of a baby years later. This baby grew up and as the Messiah brought us grace and joy. Thank you, God for your grace, your light and your joy in our lives. We rejoice together!