This year I am more ready for Advent than any other year. I actually started a couple of weeks ago to dig in through the Gospel of Luke and I really hope to finish sometime around the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.
As I was reading through Luke 1 when the birth of Jesus was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Mary (vv.26-38), I had to stay there a bit longer -a day longer actually- to really take in something that I had not seen before.
When the angel told Mary that she had already found favor in God’s eyes and was going to have a child who would be the Savior of the world, Mary’s heart sank because of the bigness of the promise. “How will it be, since I am a virgin?” She asked, and the angel responded saying that she had to do nothing else than to believe the promise and carry it within her. God, the Holy Spirit, would come upon her and overshadow her with the power of the Most High, and therefore the promise would be fulfilled and have a name (I love that *therefore* on verse 35). Do you see it? How we need to dare to hear and to ask “How will it be?” and then, after you ask, trustfully rest and wait on the God who keeps His promises.
The promise was too big to bear for Mary, -and honestly, too big to be believed, but at the same time she didn’t have to do anything else other than believe and carry the promise within her until the fullness of time (oh, Waiting, how sanctifying you are!). Because God had decided to look on Mary with favor, because He had promised the Promise, because God’s Holy Spirit was overshadowing her and giving her the gift of faith to believe, because it was His doing, *therefore* she was able to believe, to carry the weight of the promise, to wait and see the fulfillment all the way through. She not only saw and felt the baby growing in her womb, she delivered the baby and laid Him on the manger, she saw Jesus grow and saw Him being betrayed and hanging on the Cross. But she was there also to see Him conquer Death. She was given the gift to believe God’s Promise, the big promise, the heavy promise. Calvin said that we, Christians, have one thing in common with Mary, and that is Grace. Grace! What else do we need in the longing, in the waiting, in the meantime?
This Advent I want to pray that God will grant me the same gift of faith that Mary had. My heart, like that of Mary’s sometimes asks when I am facing a promise too good and too big to believe, “How will this be…?” But at the same time, I want to join Mary and hang onto the Promise and carry it within me until the time of its fulfillment comes. And I know that I can do that because God’s Holy Spirit has been given to me to believe. He helps my unbelief.
Think of this, which is harder to believe, that God’s Holy Spirit will overshadow a virgin woman and have her conceive the Savior of the world, or God saving your own child, or giving you that child you long for, or that job, or that husband, or that friend, or that reconciliation you have been praying about? Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. The angel of the Lord said before departing from Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” His promises are true and firm and never change because He is both, the Promise Giver and the Promise Keeper.
Someone said, “God’s promises claim us, we don’t claim them” and, Oh, how I agree with that! If we are His children, we have already found favor in His eyes. We have been given Jesus, the Promised One, and with Him we have received faith to believe all of His promises which are true, all of them are yes and amen. Just say “yes” to his promises, He will bring them to pass.
This Advent I want to pray big and believe big. I don’t want to be doubtful and not dare to believe that God wants to save many, to reconcile many, to give husbands and wives, and children to his people, and healing, and good jobs, and endurance, and joy, and forgiveness of sins, and more faith, and more perseverance and patience. I want to embrace the promises as much as they are embracing me and wait expectantly to see their fulfillment.
I pray that as you read this, you won’t think that I am foolishly embracing the “claim-it, get-it” unbiblical approach to God’s promises (the so called Prosperity Gospel). No. Not all. But at the same time, I think that we, hardcore Calvinists, Sound-Doctrine-Lovers, need to wake up and see the Promise-Giver with open hands and stop trying to see if that promise “fits” in our perfect-by-the-book-theology, we need to learn how to receive His promises and believe in His goodness as much as we believe in His Sovereignty. How we need to embrace His promises by faith and believe His Word, and pray over it and wait to see how God will fulfill each one of His promises. We don’t dare to pray eagerly for the lost, for example, trusting that God can and wills to save them because of the “what if they are not elect” that is always present in our minds. How often do we dare to pray for the big things in concrete big ways? Oh, how easily we forget that God is big and His promises are big and His grace is big! I will pray big prayers and trust that God can bring big promises to pass.
May our hearts this Advent be heavy with many big prayers and big promises. May the Holy Spirit come upon us and overshadow us so that we may believe and wait.
Under His sun and by His grace,