Christmas Changes Everything

The story of our lives has more to do with what God is doing than our ability to manage it.  Gail Johnsen

This is my all-time favorite quote about Christmas: “God has interrupted our ordinary expectations, as cherished as they were, to conceive something. We cannot manage it. We can’t even understand it. All we can do is receive it. Because if God has conceived this thing, then it is holy, and it will save our lives.” (Craig Barnes, When God Interrupts, p.41)

The story of Mary reveals the most radical part of the Christmas narrative: the story of our lives has more to do with what God is doing than our ability to manage it. In reality Christmas is the story of God who comes (initiates), interrupts, conceives, and redeems our lives in ways we do not fully understand or make sense. Again and again.

What does this mean for us? It changes everything! This takes a huge weight off of us to be responsible to “make something happen.” We no longer have to fret that life might slip through our fingers because we didn’t try hard enough. We don’t have to anxiously try to figure out what God’s will is. We simply need to respond, like Mary, to the purposes God is already birthing in us. I love this. Talk about living freely and lightly!

Eugene Peterson wrote, “The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing, so I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.”

The goal it seems is that we might respond as Mary did to God’s initiative in her life, “May it be as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Mary had a faith that did not require final answers or miraculous deliverance, and in spite of the fear that gripped her heart, was able to throw open her life to the movement and activity of God. And so for us, like one who walks in late to a meeting, we too simply get to accept, enter into, and submit to what God already doing.

The incredible thing is this: once we realize life is more about the constant movement of responding to God’s gracious initiative in our lives, instead of struggling to “make the Christian life work,” we cultivate hearts that are focused and alive to all the ways God is redeeming our lives. (THAT seems to be the real “work” of the spiritual life.) There’s a kind of exhilaration and relief when we know God is doing something….even in a little way, and we have hope.



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