By Stacey Tolbert
As you approach the holiday season, do you find yourself responding with a spirit of anxiousness? Do the pressures of the holiday make you want to crawl into a cave? Perhaps Mary, Jesus’ mother, felt the same way on that first Christmas, there is much we can learn from her response.
Joy Over Despair
We lived in a small rural town, with only three traffic lights, in the days before Shipt and Amazon. I had experienced Christmas with family members wearing designer clothes and hosting in their Norman Rockwell-esque living rooms. We were making ends meet on a pastor’s salary and I was a stay-at-home mom. I was tempted to compare myself with others, to mourn the reality that our home and our Christmas outfits would never live up to the standards of those I coveted.
In the quiet days as children napped, and I planned for celebrating Christmas, I chose to focus on JOY. Choosing joy means choosing gratitude. Four beautiful, happy children; smart, healthy, and kind. A husband who loves me and our children, friends who are more like family, and most importantly the gift of Christ’s love and how he draws us closer, offering forgiveness for all the times we seek our own way. We can choose despair or we can choose joy, our minds inform our hearts.
How do we embrace the joy that can be ours, when comparison threatens to darken the shadows of our despair? How do we cherish the gifts of life, such as a beautiful icicle found on a wintry morning walk, when it feels like we are trudging through knee-high snowdrifts and missing out on the beauty right in front of us? Mary, the mother of our Savior, gives us insight into turning our hearts to God and receiving the joy he provides.
Mary’s Calm was Cultivated
Mary, a virgin, was visited by an angel who delivered the news that her whole world would be turned upside down. She would risk losing everything as an unmarried mother. She would bear the burden of raising the Savior of the world, who would one day be killed for the sins of the world. “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47 (NIV) When God called her for a holy purpose, she responded with gratitude and joy.
Mary’s trust in God, nurtured throughout her life, allowed her to be open to this high calling God had her. Mary had every reason to react with fear, anger, or blame, but instead, she was able to have a spirit of calm and joy.
Mary’s heart, upon being chosen to give birth to Jesus, teaches us joy over despair and fear.
- Mary gave herself to be used by the Lord.
- She trusted God in hopeless circumstances.
- She did not dwell on the past, asking “Why me, why do I have to go through this?” She did not dwell on the future, wondering what would happen to her or her child.
- Mary made the best with minimal resources, a pregnant unwed mother traveling through the desert, without a guest room to rest. She calmly found a place to stay and have her baby.
- While others spread the word of Jesus’ birth, she did not grasp for glory or fame, she quietly gave thanks and reflected on this holy call she had been given. Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (NIV)
Christmas Joy for You
How does this translate to our own joy at Christmas? First, God is the one who helped Mary to be joyful, we need to ask him to help us live with joy even when life’s pressures feel overwhelming. Like Mary, be grateful for God’s provision, though it may feel like little. Trust God will take care of your needs and even your desires as you turn to him. Seek contentment over comparison, which steals your joy.
Treasure and ponder in your heart that God sent his son for us because of his great love, rather than seeking to be known for a beautiful home, a fashionable wardrobe or amazing gift-giving abilities. Sit at the feet of Jesus and adore him, giving thanks to God this Christmas.
Wife Step: Make a list of all that you are grateful for as you enter into the season of Christmas, giving thanks to God.
Stacey Tolbert is a writer, Director of Engagement, and women’s ministry leader at the church her husband pastors in Northwest Ohio. Stacey and her husband have been serving in ministry together for over 20 years. Stacey has journeyed from college ministry to being a stay-at-home mom to their four children, to full-time teaching, and finally following the call to share her gifts through writing and ministry. Her heart is to help women discover their greatest potential, as they learn to embrace their God-given gifts, both in marriage and in life.