Contrary to popular custom, my greatest effort towards newly minted resolutions occurs long before the final gasp of Aude Lang Syne. In my mind, it requires far more focused determination to muscle your way through Christmas unscathed than all the airy-fairy nonsense people pile on themselves at the turning of the year. In the closing lap, chock-a-block with planning, shopping, decorating, and entertaining, you’ve got to center yourself and bear down.
In order to accomplish this, I study the Nativity story well in advance. I don’t just read it, I tear it apart, one glorious Greek declension at a time. It’s impossible to express the depth of feeling and flavor to the original language, so I’ll just say, it’s intense. It never fails that some phrase or word jumps out as my anointed rhema; my blessed guide and touchstone for the season. This year, it was this.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my Savior. Luke 1:46-47
These, of course, are the words of the Virgin Mary. On the surface, they sound like emotional hyperbole; the passionate response of a damsel overwhelmed, but they are so much more. Speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary bestows on us a timeless spiritual truth. The soul of man was created to hold the glory of God. Like a glowing jewel in a priceless bezel, it is our privilege to showcase His majesty. Re-united with its spirit-man counterpart, the soul of man actually has the capacity to magnify His presence.
Yes, but how is this done? Praise and worship should be huge tools in that, and so they are. Just as Mary burst into adoration, so words have power to release heaven on earth. But it’s more than that. Through her submission in allowing God to completely shanghai the direction of her life, Mary acted as a lens for sublime plans formed long ago.
Deep in the Old Testament, there’s another story that demonstrates how the Lord may be suddenly and strikingly magnified in a situation. Ironically, it features another young maiden. We don’t even learn her name, but this little one was taken captive on a raiding party by the Syrians into Israelite territory. She was basically a slave in the house of Naaman, captain of the Syrian host, and a mighty man of war. Unfortunately, he was also a leper, a fact that blighted his life. Despite all odds, her tender heart was moved for the plight of her captor. While performing some menial household task, she mused out loud to her peers
“…would God that my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy!” 2 Kings 5:3 KJV
Her simple, heart-felt faith set in motion a chain of events that brought about both Naaman’s healing and peace between the two countries. In the least self-conscious of actions, Jehovah was magnified.
We can talk about God all day long, but that doesn’t necessarily cause Him to zoom into focus in our lives. There’s a huge obedience factor. It’s about surrender. When people witness us humbling our natural personality, instinctive animus or sensual desire, they do a double-take. Something profound is afoot. All the attributes this brazen world most despises are the glorious facets cutting deep into personality to catch the refracted presence of the divine.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
This year, the Lord had a simple directive for me that brought about a radical change. It’s hard to put it into actual words, but it was something like this: “Go with the flow”. In other words, whenever I wanted an action that was at odds with the desire of others, particularly those in authority, I should gracefully acquiesce. He was asking me to sublimate my own stubbornness, preference or perception of what I thought was best, and with a mild benignity, gently let it ride. Needless to say, I was challenged countless times to recall this word and obey it. The truly arresting thing is the ridiculous amount of peace and confidence obeying this practical injunctive brought me, not to mention the astounding level of fruitfulness and gratifying cooperation from others. This has been a break-through year.
Do you want the Lord to bring out the brilliant colors and unexpected depths of true beauty? Like a priceless gem set against dark velvet, His way and His glory display exponentially against the rich ground of your passive trust. When He brings you something unexpected, perplexing or enigmatic, receive it the way Mary did. With quiet reverence, let it unfold.
Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. Luke 1:38
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