GNB 1.177

December 19, 2022 (The second day of the fourth week of Advent 2022)


“His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones. He has lifted up the humble.” (Luke.1.50.52)


In the business and education world you are likely to hear this statement: If you can conceive it and believe it then you can achieve it. I believe this statement is a fairly good reflection of today’s culture and climate. The promotion of self-improvement, self-worth and singularity of effort lends itself to the idea that human beings can do anything they set their mind to. The question for me is what is their intention for and hope of achievement. What the Church is asked to encourage is setting one’s mind on things that are above and not below. The things above refer to the ways of righteousness. The things below refer to the machinations of a spiritually broken world. Have you considered for yourself what your world would look like if what you set your mind to was to be in accord with the God who has gone the full measure to love you into that which is beyond greatness? For the mighty ones of God, the statement proposed above would more aptly read: If you can conceive it and believe it then you can receive it. Receive what? Faith, hope, blessing, peace, joy self-control but most of all…eternal life in and with Immanuel. I would like to suggest that the three songs in the birth narrative of Jesus [Elizabeth upon greeting Mary, Mary upon Elizabeth’s affirmation amd Zechariah upon the confirmation of his son John] embrace that very proposal. I would also suggest that the essence of those three songs inform us of a deeper and more abiding understanding of the Christmas season. Consider the following:.

If we can conceive the truth of the Lord, then the truth that is in us responds in the measure of what we will believe. I have to believe this is the very essence of Elizabeth’s song when the baby inside of her was so moved by the presence of Mary and the One just conceived in her by God. We have to remember that when Mary went to her aunt’s house to stay with her for a time, it was the very time when Gabriel had told her “Even now, your kinswoman is six months with child.” This would lead us to understand that the conception of Jesus in Mary had just happened. But, for Elizabeth her visit coincided with what we know today as “the age of quickening.” At the very voice of Mary, the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb “leapt for joy.” Just the very conception of truth in Mary proved prophetic in the one who was destined to be prophet in Israel and prepare the way for the One who was yet to be born. It was inconceivable just six months prior that Zechariah and Elizabeth could even have a child. Now that “quickening of faith” in them would affirm what was inconceivable in Mary, a virgin, who now was not only with child but with the Son of God. Elizabeth sang, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” It was not a possibility. Elizabeth conceived of the reality of the favor of God upon the entire world through the child in Mary whose name would be “Immanuel: God with us and within us.”

If we can believe the truth of the Lord, then we can conceive the truth that is in us because God is love. This, I believe, is the very heart of the song of Mary. As Mary received the declaration of the angel Gabriel, she confessed her belief in the God who believed in her. She said in response, “Let this word be fulfilled in me.” She accepted the truth which Gabriel spoke concerning her and Elizabeth as he said “No word from God shall ever fail.” (Luke 1.37) God had not forsaken her in her short fourteen years. Unsure of her background as we may be, there was no lack of certainty that God saw Mary as a true believer and servant. She embodied what God intended for Israel to be and to do. Israel was to bring forth the life of righteousness which would offer salvation of God to the world. Her testimony of serving in the Temple with obedience and unwavering faith must have reminded God of David who said “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” She so believed in the call of God she was willing to devote her whole self to the God with her and within her.

If we can receive the truth of the Lord, then we can conceive and believe in an even greater truth. This, I believe, is the very heart of the song of Zechariah. It had been said that if a priest went in to the Holy of Holies to offer sacrifice for the sake of the people and he saw God he would have to be drug out with the rope attached to his leg because he would be dead. Of course, Zechariah didn’t “see” God. He saw the angel Gabriel whose glory was that of the Lord. He received the truth which was given to him. But, because he did not believe it he also received the accompanying sign of being made mute. It would not be until his son was born and, in writing, he testified that the boy’s name would be John, that he received his voice back to praise God for all that God had done for him, them and all Israel, indeed the world. But, it was not John who would do this thing but the one whom John would conceive, believe and receive to be “the lamb of God come into the world to take away the sting of sin and usher in the kingdom of light and life.” It was the receiving of that “something more than me” that is our true hope of salvation.

I urge us in this season of preparation called Advent to be those who are willing to conceive this thing which God has done in the past because of His love for His people. Not only should we be willing to conceive that such love in salvation is ours but is still in full effect for others to believe in great joy that hope is theirs, too, today. And not only should we be willing to conceive and willing to believe but we should be willing to receive the word of life-giving power and invest it into the world in which we live. It is by the power of our own song that others may enter into the “impossible with man but possible with God” truth. We cannot save ourselves except to surrender to the conceiving of so great a love is there that God would send His Only begotten Son to us so that whosoever would believe in Him will not perish unto eternal death but rather receive the gift of eternal life. Isn’t this really what our season of worship called Christmas is all about? Is it really about presents under lit Christmas trees around which well-fed family and friends gather to exchange as tokens of affection for one another? Isn’t it about rehearsing the songs of Immanuel, God’s authentic love, which has benefitted the believer, discipled those who would be believers and give hope to a world weary with the impossibility of saving itself from the darkness that looms as the valley of the shadow of death around us? Isn’t that really what love at Christmas ought to be?


Father, You have conceived of, believed in and given to us the truth that shall set us free from the burden of this world so that we are not of it but in it to accomplish Your will to bring the world of salvation to others so they may sing with us on earth as they can in Heaven in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

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