The God who is for us: Mary’s Song

THE GOD WHO IS

In October 2016, I gave the following exposition on Luke 1:46-55, known as Mary’s Song or the Magnificat, at my church for a women’s event. In this season of Advent, I’d like to share it with you. It’s interesting that Luke includes in his Gospel Mary’s Song, which is an interpretation of the preceeding events (the annunciation and the incarnation). What do we learn about the nature of God (who he is) through Mary’s Song? That’s the question I try to answer. You can read my manuscript below or listen to the audio of it here. May this Advent season ever remind you of the nearness of God in Jesus Christ and his unfathomable love for you.

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I don’t know about you but even though I’ve been a Christian for a long time, I still battle in my mind with different, opposing views of God. Every day is a struggle with belief in some way: a belief in a God who still loves me, a belief in a God who forgives me, a belief in a God whose mercy does not run dry, a belief in a God who is near me not far from me. Perhaps you find yourself asking yourself, Is God going to run out on me like that parent or spouse? Is God not going to forgive me like that friend who refused to forgive? Who is God and what do we believe about him in those darkest moments when we have nothing left to give?

Our God is not the god of Julie Gold’s song, “From a Distance,” who is or perhaps should be at a distance.

Who is God is the singular, most important question for us believers and in fact for all of humanity. Everything else stems from how we answer that question.

That is why I am about to do something unusual: teach from an Advent passage 66 days before Christmas.

But I think Mary, the mother of Jesus, can help us answer this question, Who is God?, in her song, also known as the Magnificat.

Read Luke 1:46-55.

Who is the God we find in Mary’s Song?

First, Mary praises a God who mercifully acts on her behalf.

Mary’s Song is a response to what has happened only a few verses before, in the annunciation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. You may remember that twice Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favor with God—and what favor! She is the one who will bear the Son of God, the Son of the Most High.

Mary was a young, poor, country, unmarried girl from Nazareth. Nazareth, that place of which Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Mary has no reason to boast—perhaps that’s why she was so troubled over what the angel said. On what merit could Mary find favor with God so that he would send an angel and promise his presence?

No merit of course. Like us, Mary was a daughter of Eve. Like us, she could join in and say as we do in our prayer of humble access, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy Table.”

But what immediately follows in that same prayer? “But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy.”

Mary’s Song locates the saving activity squarely in the very being of God as Savior who acts mercifully for her. God has determined himself to be her Savior. God’s looking on the humble estate of his servant is not the kind of looking we women do when we go window-shopping. “I’m just looking,” we tell our husbands, our mothers or ourselves. This means I’m going to admire but I’m not going to buy. But when God looks, he acts. When God looks, he buys. And when he acts, we praise. As New Testament scholar Joel Green puts it, “God acts graciously; people respond with joy and praise.”

God’s merciful action results in a new title for Mary: blessed. We Southerners love to use the word “bless.” I’m the most guilty. I’m especially guilty of saying, “Bless her heart.” “Bless her heart” can really be used as a cutting remark. We use it when someone has done something foolish or silly. We use it of those who are gullible or when someone has just gone through difficult circumstances.

But when the word blessed is used of someone in Scripture it is used of someone who has received divine favor, who has been blessed by God. God’s blessing flows from being in right relationship to God. Jesus tells Peter after he confessed him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” True blessing comes from the One from whom all blessings flow, who has the power to bless, because he himself is blessed because he is God. Mary’s blessedness points not to herself but to the One who has blessed her, God her Savior.

Why is Mary called blessed? “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Do you notice the juxtaposition in these first few verses? Mary, who is humble and who is a servant, is juxtaposed with God, who is mighty and who has done great things. It is only the One who is mighty who is able to take the lowly and lift them up and change their status. The Mighty One has taken her from the place of a lowly servant to a place of blessing and honor.

But how does He do it? Our text doesn’t supply that answer but that’s why we read Scripture in conversation with Scripture. God the Mighty One is able to bless the lowly one by himself becoming lowly. Paul writes in Philippians, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The fullness of God’s blessing came to Mary in the very presence of God. In Gabriel’s announcement, he tells Mary that the Most High will overshadow her and the Son of God will be conceived in her. Think of the magnitude of such an act.

When King Solomon was getting ready to build a temple for the Lord, he said, “The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him?”

The same God who cannot be contained by the highest heaven, whose small toe was too big to fit in Solomon’s temple, chose to make himself small, so small to fit in a womb, Mary’s womb. This great act of humility was the gracious act of the Mighty One for Mary. This is why she can say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

But Mary’s Song doesn’t stop there with verse 49. Mary not only praises a God who mercifully acts on her behalf.

Secondly, she also praises a God who mercifully acts on behalf of others, namely Israel.

Mary understands that what God has done for her is representative of or sets into motion what God is doing for his people. New Testament scholar Joel Green says, “It is by means of his looking ‘with favor on the lowliness of his servant’ Mary that ‘he has helped his servant Israel.’” It is through her that God has chosen to fulfill his covenantal promise.

Just as Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a sign for Mary that God would fulfill his word to her, so Mary serves as our sign that what God has done for Mary he will do for us. Of course we won’t bear the Son of God, but just as he poured out his Spirit on Mary and she was not consumed, so too he will pour out his Spirit at Pentecost and thereafter for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. Just as he reversed Mary’s status and showed her favor and mercy, He will do the same for us.

But what may make us feel uncomfortable is how God’s mercy is described. It’s described in very concrete, worldly terms. Where is the spiritual reality of God’s mercy or the talk of hearts and faith and sin? Why does Mary use the description of God overcoming the social realities of our daily existence instead of Him overcoming the sinful realities of our spiritual existence?

We reject the promises of prosperity gospel preachers that with just the right amount of faith and the least amount of sin God’s blessings will pour out on us in material ways. We reject this because we know that even the righteous will suffer.

So what do we make of this?

First, God is a merciful God. God’s acting in human history is an act of grace. Grace implies that we are given something we do not deserve. The second part of Mary’s Song begins and ends with reference to God’s mercy: “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” and “He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy.” Thus God’s acts listed between verses 50 and 54 should be read in light of God’s grace.

Theologian Karl Barth says, We have “perverted, wasted and hopelessly compromised our own being, life and activity, who find ourselves disqualified.” We are all messed up people, “offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him.”

It is what we confess and pray to God each week in our prayer of confession: “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.”

Like Mary, we have forfeited any rights to salvation.

Oh but God. When God’s name is used with the word but, there is hope. God coming to us through the womb of Mary breaks into our world with a declaration of his mercy and the divine “but.”

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved!” Eph. 2:4-5.

Once again Barth says, “‘God with us’ means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. It means that God has made Himself the One who fulfills His redemptive will. It means that God has become man in order to take up our case. What takes place in this work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free over-ruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering-over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being—at that very point God Himself intervenes as man.”

This is why, friends, we can say that God with us is God’s for us in Jesus Christ.

Second, God is a God who cares for the whole person. Think of Jesus’ ministry. Yes, he proclaims good news for the sinner, but He also feeds the hungry on the mountain. He physically heals the wounded. He commands his disciples to take care of the most vulnerable: the widows and orphans. He turns water into wine for a wedding feast; he delivers those who are demon-possessed. He raises the dead and gives them back to his family. He weeps with the weeping. The fact that the God who created the material has entered into the material shows us that God cares about even the very basic necessities of this life. His mercy doesn’t stop with overturning the oppressor of our spiritual lives but extends to those people and those things that oppress even our physical lives.

This part of Mary’s Song is declarative of what God is doing in the present, but also a prophecy of what he will do in the future.

He scatters the proud, brings down the mighty from their thrones, sends the rich away empty, exalts the humble, and fills the hungry. In this context, Mary is not simply talking about the poor as those who are unfortunate and the rich as those who have money. These terms are used to represent those who are humble and depend on God (the poor) and those who use their power and privilege to oppress others (the rich). You can have money but still be poor in spirit; you can have little money and still reject God in your pride. These are representative terms.

But even God’s judgment on the mighty is an act of mercy in order that they may repent and turn to him. In his mercy he takes away those things which become our stumbling blocks to him, and he gives those things which sustain his people.

So, in conclusion, who is God? What does Mary’s Song teach us about our God?

He is the God who has determined himself to be a God with a people. He is a God who desires to be known personally and by what he does for us. He is a God who loves freely and freely acts mercifully on our behalf. He is a God who desires to be praised for what he has done for us in history.

He is the God who, as we confess in our creeds, “for us men and our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

For us men and our salvation.

Theologian T. F. Torrance says, “He loves us with the very Love which he is.”

Again: “In this final revelation of himself God proclaims himself to all mankind as the one Lord God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, who in his overflowing love will not be without us human beings but has freely come among us to be one of us and one with us in order to reconcile us to himself and to bring us into communion with himself.”

And one last quote from Torrance: “We believe that what God is toward us in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, he is in himself, antecedently and eternally in himself; and that what he imparts to us through the Spirit who sheds the love of God into our hearts, he is in himself, antecedently and eternally in himself.”

This means that there is not a different God behind the back of Jesus. The God we see in Jesus is the same God who is for us in history. The God who is for Mary is the God who is for us, working in our lives, hovering over our chaos and creating us new. He is not a God at a distance; He is God with us. Mary’s God is our God. Thus, Mary’s Song is our song. In Christ, we too can sing:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hallmark, Idealization and the Gospel

hallmarkThe night after Thanksgiving I sat down to watch my first Hallmark Christmas movie of the season. My husband, who was close by in the living room and curious as to what I was watching, was struck by the “perfectness” of the main male and female characters. “Everyone is perfect in this movie! Perfect teeth; perfect hair; perfect skin; perfect body.” For the rest of the movie he teased me for watching such an unrealistic, cheesy movie. Finally he couldn’t hold back the question that was bothering him: Why would you watch such an idealized movie when reality is so different?

I thought about it for a moment. To be sure the characters were nauseatingly good-looking and the plot was super predictable. But my answer to him was simple: escape. What the Hallmark movie did for me was to provide an escape from a world filled with gun violence and radical, tyrannical Islam on one extreme and bad breath, tantrums and a messy toy room on the lesser extreme. It provided a “perfect” world where none of these things existed and I could pretend, too, even if just for a moment that I existed in this “perfect” world. The Hallmark movies are an idealization.

Hallmark has learned how to capitalize on women’s desire for the ideal, specifically for the ideal love and relationship. In fact if you watch enough of these movies, you realize the actors, setting and character names change from move to movie but the plot basically remains the same. Yet it still makes us feel good and warm and fuzzy.

I believe this desire for the ideal is something that God has placed in each of us in order to point to Himself. Living in a sinful, broken world even professing non-Christians idealize their own imagined heaven. Surely this messed up world cannot be all we get! We see this concretized in Hollywood as it has even capitalized on “heaven” movies like What Dreams May Come, City of Angels, and, my favorite, Dogs Go to Heaven.

But these feeble attempts miss the mark and idealize the lesser instead of the greater. The world idealizes what they believe is the ultimate of all relationships and love – romantic love between a man and a woman. This is Hollywood’s and Hallmark’s ideal. But their ideal fails, for as soon as the escape is over we walk into a kitchen with dirty dishes, or go to sleep next to someone who no longer loves us, or walk out to a beat-up old car that puts out more exhaust than it does breathable air, or go home to an empty house that reminds us we are truly alone. The escape they provide lasts momentarily; it doesn’t change our reality. Their idealization is of something that they cannot ever promise we will receive.

And sometimes we reject others’ attempts at idealization and create our own. Christmas-time seems to be the perfect stimulant for idealizations, and we parents are the most susceptible. We want to give our children the same, if not better, idealized Christmases that we remember. Christmas becomes a 6-week long, “magical” event where we become so consumed with creating the ideal Christmas that by the time Christmas is over we and our children experience the biggest let down of the year. Our idealized world has ended.

Small doses of idealization aren’t bad, I believe, as long as we recognize that they aren’t the end in themselves but point beyond themselves to the True Ideal which actually becomes our Reality and is the Ultimate Reality.

In the Incarnation, the Ideal has broken into the Real. Put another way, heaven came to earth. God became flesh and dwelt among us. And this Ideal is God’s ideal as defined by Scripture not our ideal defined by our standards. If it were our ideal, we would have placed Jesus in a castle not in a manger (not to even speak of the crucifixion!). Yet in Christ, we are not only shown an ideal love, the apogee of all loves, a I-lay-down-my-life-for-you kind of love, but it is a love that doesn’t remain on a TV or movie screen. It’s a love that goes with us and transforms us. It is a love that doesn’t make you sick after too much of it, but a love that continues to give you life upon life so that you can never have enough.

Sometimes when we use the word ideal it is a word that describes something that will never become real. This is not true of Jesus, the Incarnation or God’s love for us. The “ideal” is so real, it is even more real than what we call our reality. What we find in Jesus Christ is the ultimate reality.

It strikes me that when Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, the first thing he tells his disciples to ask of God is for heaven to break into our reality. It is a prayer that asks for this world to mirror and become perfect world of heaven. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). Heaven is the sphere where God reigns as King and where his will is completely done. Since God is perfect and sinless, good and love, heaven is the place that reflects this majesty and character of God. Jesus tells us to pray for that perfect world to break into our world so that earth will become like heaven.

Until that day comes in full, Jesus promises those who he redeems and who follow him that we enter into the Kingdom of God (also known as the Kingdom of Heaven) partially while on this earth. In Jesus Christ, we have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven. Or, put another way, we have one foot in reality and one foot in the perfect world that is yet to be.

For some of you the following will make your toes curl, but I am guilty of reading the last page or sometimes the last chapter first when I begin a new book. I did this for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I can’t help it. I want to know how the story ends before I begin so that when I get to the difficult, scary, they-aren’t-going-to-make-it parts of the book, I can press forward because I know how it will end.

God, who loves us and wants to be known by us as Father, does the same thing for us. He gives us the book of Revelation so that we will know how the story “ends.” We can brave the middle parts; we can preserve during hard reality moments. We can have faith and hope because we know that his ideal will one day become real to us, and that God “will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

After watching two Hallmark Christmas movies this season, I have already had my fill. I can’t take another. But watching them reminded me of my need and desire and longing for that ideal, perfect world. A world that actually began away in a manger where God pitched his tent among us, a world that I taste every time I worship with my church family, pray and read Scripture, and a world that I know is coming, which will be God’s answer to our prayer: let your Kingdom come.

 

Day 20 of Advent: O Come All Ye Faithful

One of my favorite Christmas carols is the song, O Come All Ye Faithful. And the resounding phrase at the end of each stanza is “O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.” Let me ask you, how are you adoring Christ this Christmas season? Where does your adoration lie and in whom? How are you adoring Christ as Lord in your thoughts, marriage, friendships, finances, worship, etc? The story of Christmas is one of remembrance. God remembered us and did not abandon us; in His coming Christ would bring reconciliation between sinful human beings and a holy and perfect God. So come, let us adore him Christ the Lord, this Advent season and all year long!

O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

God of God light of light
Lo he not the virgin’s womb;
Very God begotten not created:
O come let us adore him Christ The Lord.

Sing choirs of angels sing in exultation
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest:
O come, let us adore him, Christ The Lord

See how the shepards summoned to his cradel,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh with lowly fear
we too will thither hend our joyful footsteps;
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

A General Thanksgiving prayer from The Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

Day 8 of Advent: God stooped

“Hallelujah!

Give praise, you servants of the LORD;

Praise the Name of the LORD. (1)

Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

From this time forth for evermore. (2)

From the rising of the sun to its going down

Let the Name of the LORD be praised. (3)

The LORD is high above all nations,

And his glory above the heavens. (4)

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

But stoops to behold the heavens and the earth? (5)

He takes up the weak out of the dust

And lifts up the poor from the ashes. (6)

He sets them with the princes,

With the princes of his people. (7)

He makes the woman of a childless house

To be a joyful mother of children.” (8) (Psalm 113)

What may be an unfamiliar psalm during the Advent season sums up so well the reason we celebrate and worship God during this time — God visited us. Or, as this psalm puts it, He stooped to behold us.

The first two verses of this Psalm give us its purpose. The psalmist cannot contain his joy over God’s grace, mercy and love for His people. So he begins his song with praise to God and exhorts us to praise God along with him all day long and forevermore. But why should we praise God, you might ask? The psalmist answers this for us.

Just like I wrote in my first Advent post about how I was overwhelmed by the stark contrast between God’s status and our status and yet how He came to us, the same is true of the psalmist. God is greater than all nations and His glory transcends higher than the heavens. He is seated on the highest post possible, higher than our imaginations can take us. He is so high that he looks down on both the heavens and the earth; neither can contain Him. He is that big! Then there is God’s people. The imagery the psalmist uses is of one that describes the people being in extreme poverty and misery. They are as low as you can go. And, they are without dignity, as “the barren woman” suggests. Perhaps the psalmist had in mind Sarah, an old and barren woman, married to Abraham. Perhaps the psalmist had in mind his people when they were slaves in Egypt. There are many accounts in the Old Testament of which this psalm could be true.

The point, however, is that this God who is so great “stoops to behold” His people in order to raise the poor, lift the needy, give dignity, and make the barren women “the joyous mother of children.” One scholar wrote, “This short hymn of praise celebrates the way in which the great and majestic God who rules over all takes notice of the lowly. … God’s majesty never implies his remoteness from those who look to him; it implies instead his exhaustive attention to detail, and his inexhaustible ability to care for his faithful.”*

As God intends, Scripture doesn’t just point backwards or speak of present things, but it all points to His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, God’s stooping only came so far. He sent angels; He spoke through a burning bush; He worked through mighty acts of His people. But there came a day when God himself came to earth. As Philippians 2 tells us, Christ humbled himself. He left the majestic presence of the Trinity to become human. He didn’t give up his deity, but became incarnate, both God and man, so that His name could be “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”

As was true of Sarah, God made Mary pregnant. It was not because of her age that her pregnancy was a miracle. It was because she was a virgin. She had not had sexual relations with a man. There was also another woman made pregnant, more like Sarah because of her age, and her name was Elizabeth. Her child would prepare the way for the Christ child. In fact these two miracle pregnancies were indicators that God was up to something, was in the business of stooping to behold us.

Advent reminds us that God has not left us alone in our misery, in our poverty, or in our states of improbability. No; because of his great love for us He will raise us up to sit in the throne room of heaven with Him! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

The greatest irony of all is that in His stooping to notice the lowly, He himself became lowly. A baby. Born in a place where animals are kept. Born to a poor family. But He became lowly so that in raising Himself up from the dead He might also raise us up to walk in the newness of life with Him!

So with the psalmist I, too, say, “Hallelujah! Give praise, you servants of the LORD! Praise the Name of the LORD! Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down let the Name of the LORD be praised!” Amen.

*See ESV Study Bible notes on Psalm 113.

And the Winners Are… Day 3 of Advent: Giving to Others GIVEAWAY!

And the winners are of these two giveaways are…

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Congratulations Emily Woodby on winning the Luyando T-shirt and iblog4books on winning the ornament set! (My husband and son were the ones to choose your names out of a mug…old school style!) Please e-mail me at kristenrpadilla@gmail.com to give me your mailing address, and Emily, I need the size T-shirt you would like. 

Thank you to everyone who participated! I loved reading your comments. I hope that this giveaway made you aware of two really great ministries and that you will consider supporting them in the future.

Follow along and watch for more giveaways in the future….

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Earlier today I posted about the example Jesus Christ sets for us believers in sacrificially giving to others. If you missed it, scroll down or read it here.

In the spirit of giving and because of the generosity of two ministry organizations I mentioned in my earlier post — Luyando and WorldCrafts — I will be giving away TWO awesome gifts to TWO of you!

The first is from Luyando, a Freedom Tee-Spruce Long Sleeve, which retails for $30. If you were to buy this t-shirt you would feed 60 precious Zambian kids one meal! So if you don’t win it, I encourage you to buy one. The winner will be able to determine the size.

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The second giveaway item is from WorldCrafts. It is the Golden Stars Ornament Set made by Peaceful Creations in Bangladesh, which retails for $22.99. Please refer back to my earlier post about the mission of WorldCrafts. These are terra-cotta star ornaments that are handpainted gold by widows in Bangladesh. It includes a set of 6 ornaments in 3 different patterns packaged in an unique box made from local newspapers. By supporting Peaceful Creations you are helping women provide much-needed income for their children. Read more about Peaceful Creations and find more of their products here.

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How to enter:

You can enter TWICE, once for each giveaway.

1. To enter to win the Luyando t-shirt, go to http://www.luyando.org and find what the word “luyando” means. Comment with what it means and one way the organization seeks to do that word among the kids they serve (found under “our work” section). You can comment ONCE on either this post or the previous post.

2. To enter to win the WorldCrafts’ ornaments, go to http://www.worldcrafts.org and find the list of artisans. Comment with a name of ONE artisan group and the name of ONE of its (the artisan group you named) products you would like to receive or give this Christmas. Comment ONCE on either this post or the previous post.

{To comment: Look to the left of the blog post title (if you are on the home page) or underneath the blog post title (if you are on that post’s page) and click on the number of comments link. Then scroll down to the bottom of the comments and add your comments.}

That’s it! Two (one for each giveaway) lucky, random winners will be selected in 48 hours, this coming Thursday, at 5 p.m. These will make AWESOME gifts for you or to give someone else this Christmas season so get to commenting. Also, don’t forget to read today’s earlier post on more ways you can give this holiday season.

Happy Advent!

Kristen

Day 3 of Advent: Giving to others

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Today is #givingTuesday, a day begun to encourage giving back to others during the holiday season.

So although #givingTuesday is a secular movement, should we as Christians join in? My opinion is yes! And not only today but as many days as possible.

There has been a recent trend (one that I like!) these past several years among Christians to place more emphasis on giving to others over materialism. One example of this is evident in popular blogs. Many Christian bloggers have spoken out against Santa and have advocated doing an Advent calendar. (While I love the Advent calendar, I am not one of those, though, who believe you must do away with Santa.) They have also suggested limiting gifts to four for the children (one they want, one they need, one to wear, one to read). You also see this trend in businesses, for example TOMS, that promise with every purchase something equivalent is given to those in need elsewhere. These are just a few examples.

The story of Christmas prompts us to give to others like Christ gave to us. We don’t often read Philippians 2:1-11 during the Christmas season, but we should. Starting with verse 3, Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others.” Paul then gives the example of Christ, who though he had everything gave it all up, “made himself nothing,” to come as a baby and later to the cross so that we might be reconciled to God. Jesus’ example of sacrificing everything in order to give himself for us demands that we as his followers “count others more significant” than ourselves.

So how can we participate in #givingTuesday and giving throughout Christmas?

1. Make a donation to your favorite charity, ministry, or missions agency in honor or in memory of someone. My grandmother passed away this past February, so this will be our first Christmas without her. So this Christmas I will make a donation in her memory. Or maybe you have a relative who is difficult to buy for or who really doesn’t need anything. A donation to an organization would be the perfect gift. Ideas are: The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, Compassion International, the Woman’s Missionary Union, Make A Wish Foundation, St. Jude’s Hospital, your local Baptist association, your state Baptist state board of missions, the Ronald McDonald House, and E3 Ministries. This is only the beginning of a long list, but it’s a good place to start.

2. Make a purchase that gives back to someone. If you really need to give a gift to someone, consider purchasing one that helps someone else in need. Here are some of my favorites. 1. The first is Luyando. Luyando was begun by a young woman who was in my discipleship group at church and whose family I lived with during my last year at Beeson Divinity School. Luyando helps children living in poverty in Zambia through a kids club, feeding program, and (coming soon) an orphanage. And of course Christ is glorified and the gospel is made known. Luyando has for sell t-shirts, and the proceeds go back to helping fund Luyando! So you can give a really cool t-shirt and help kids in Zambia. (Picture at top is taken from the Luyando website.) 2. WorldCrafts. WorldCrafts “develops sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world.” The products that WorldCrafts sell are made by artisans from around the world, most of whom have come out of the sex trade and prostitution. By purchasing their products, you are not only giving them a job and income but dignity and hope. You are also helping them stay in a place where they will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. So not only do you get a really cool gift but you are giving back to others. 3. Freeset. Freeset is one of the artisan groups whom WorldCrafts sells. But you can also purchase directly from Freeset. Freeset employs women who were once trapped in Kolkata, India’s sex trade. By purchasing their items, you are helping free women from sex trafficking in India.

3. Buy gifts for others in need. One of my favorite things this time of the year is Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. While the deadline has already passed for this year, you can participate next year! These boxes are filled with presents that are sent to children all around the world. Another option is taking a child from the angel trees that you find in malls, department stores, and independent stores like Walmart. Something I am doing this year is buying for a family in need at my church. Sometimes all it takes is opening our eyes and ears to needy families within our own communities. At the Hispanic church my husband and I serve is a very needy family with three boys. We will be giving to them this year. A last option is to contact your local homeless shelters, Christian rehab facilities or orphanages that might have families with young children. Find out if those children need gifts. In Birmingham we have the Jimmie Hale Mission Center, Pathways Home, The Lovelady Center, just to name a few.

I hope in the spirit of Jesus Christ in his great gift to us that we will find ways to give to others and to consider them and their needs more significant than our own this Christmas.