Have you (like me) sometimes experienced the holiday’s full spaces and calendars edge out your connectedness with God? Fill the stockings. Cover the tree. Pile the presents. Stuff the bellies. We are painfully full after the holiday seasons, aren’t we? The trash bins need emptying several times. Our waists are more visible than we’d like.
When that happens, we can feel unwell, mentally and spiritually. When I live a holiday overfull, I later wish I’d found a way to stay present to God.
Both for my sake and the sake of others.
This year I am so thankful for three lessons from Mary, the mother of Jesus, on how to fill up and share what truly satisfies.
Mary’s song of praise, known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), has a small phrase: “he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away hungry.” No turkey dinner or honey-glazed ham would do. Mary lived on empty in expectation of being filled. We can’t be hungry if we are constantly snacking on things that do not nourish us. There is a fullness that comes with this celebration of God with us.
She might have said it this way…
“There was never anything extraordinary about me. I was just a girl engaged to be married in a small town. When the angel came to tell me of God’s favor, no one was more surprised than me. My humble circumstances seemed to be a mismatch for hosting the gift of God with us.”
“I sang of God’s goodness to my relative Elizabeth. I could not hold in my heart this wellspring.”
“I said to Elizabeth, ‘he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away hungry.’ I understood that holding next to nothing meant my hands and heart were available for His presence.”
“I knew, too, that God’s blessing was not for me alone. It was for my nation Israel. We had waited long for God to rescue us.”
It is not natural in our culture to hunger for God. We’re too full. So how do we get good and truly hungry? How do we make room in our spiritual bellies for the things of God?
Mary teaches us three ways to empty ourselves to be filled.
1. Be Still and Listen
When the angel appeared to Mary, she didn’t say, “Hold on. I’ve got to finish this email.” She immediately understood that this was something to put her life on hold for. In fact, her whole life turned upside down in those moments with a servant of the God Most High. But she had to sit still and listen. Our culture encourages us to be terrible at this. Being still sounds a whole lot like “unproductive” or “lazy.” We do not like these words. Yet, Scripture is full of men and women who took the time to listen to God. This in and of itself is a kind of emptying. (Hint: Do not sit in your coziest chair with a warm blanket. You’ll probably fall asleep. Try a straight-backed chair with hands in your lap.)
2. Put Ourselves in Perspective
There is nothing quite so humbling as cultivating awe of the God of the Universe. Go to Scripture and search out those passages that reveal His character, attributes, and magnificence. Genesis 1 and 2, Exodus 7-14, Job 38-41, Psalm 33, Isaiah 40-42, 1 Peter 1, and Revelation 4. These, and others, describe the only true and wise God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Alpha, and the Omega. God gave us His Word so that He could be known. And in knowing Him, we see ourselves more clearly, too.
3. Find a Buddy
Mary didn’t stay alone after receiving her good news. She sought out Elizabeth—one who also had received fulness from God. She found a friend who could encourage her to keep receiving and believing God’s good designs. I have a friend who’s an accountability buddy… I plan to ask her to keep me accountable to regular emptying-myself-to-fill-with-God moments. What would that look like for you? Maybe you’d like to get this good read this holiday season and consider with whom you might want to read it the new year? Every Season: Embracing a Forever Kind of Purpose helps us embrace—and offer—the blessings of each life stage.
Let’s not just make room for God this holiday. Let’s empty for God. Let’s follow Mary’s example to be still and listen, to put ourselves in perspective, and get a buddy who encourages us to receive, and believe, and offer Jesus.
Now, the important stuff…
Naomi’s Recipe of the Week:
Easy Peppermint Bark
What I Love About This Recipe:
What’s a recipe that fits with making space? I love peppermint bark because you can make it quickly and ahead, and it lasts several weeks. Our youngest, who’s coming home for Christmas from college, loves it and I hope you do too!
- 8 oz quality dark chocolate bars*, chopped into small pieces (226g)
- 8 oz quality white chocolate bars,* chopped into small pieces (226g)
- 1 teaspoon shortening like Crisco
- ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract not “mint” extract
- ⅓ cup crushed candy cane pieces divided (76g)
Line an 8×8″ baking pan with wax paper. Set aside.
Place chopped dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir very well. Return to microwave and heat for 15-second intervals (stirring well between each) until chocolate is completely melted.
Spread melted dark chocolate evenly into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Set aside (do not refrigerate) and prepare your white chocolate layer.
Place your chopped white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir well. Return to microwave and heat for 15-second intervals (stirring well between each) until white chocolate is completely melted.
Once white chocolate is melted, place teaspoon of shortening in a small microwave-safe dish and heat until melted (this will only take several seconds). Add peppermint extract and stir well.
Add peppermint/shortening mixture to white chocolate and stir well. Add ¼ cup of crushed candy canes to the white chocolate and gently fold in until evenly distributed.
Spread white chocolate evenly (and gently, in case chocolate has not completely set) over dark chocolate layer.
Immediately sprinkle white chocolate layer with remaining candy cane pieces.
Allow peppermint bark to harden completely at room temperature before cutting/breaking into pieces and enjoying. This will take several hours at room temperature. I do not recommend refrigerating.
I recommend using quality chocolate bars, and my personal preference is Ghirardelli. For this recipe, I used two of their 4-oz white chocolate bars and two of their 4-oz 60% dark chocolate bars.