Joshua Hartwig

Christmas is tomorrow, so I take this opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas. I hope you have plans with family, friends and food. As for me, I’ll be working, but I’ve decided to be jovial nonetheless. Why? Because I’m making a conscious decision to do so — to allow the reason for the season to also be my reason to rejoice.

The day before Christmas is a great time to share with you a message my pastor recently shared with our church. All my life, like most of you, I have heard what we call the Christmas Story. We have heard about Mary, Joseph and Jesus. We can recite the roles the angel and wise men played. We know about the inn with no vacancies, as well as the gold, frankincense and myrrh. We’ve heard it all. And when we can say we’ve heard it all, we usually cease hearing anything at all. But I love it when an old story becomes new, leaps off the page and becomes even more relevant, practical and on-time than we could have imagined.

That describes Pastor Zack’s Christmas Story message two Sundays ago. It became my story in a new way. I want it to become yours. Tomorrow, you’ll devour whatever yummy meal your family traditionally eats on Christmas Day. Now, on Christmas Eve, devour a few morsels from this message.

Jesus, God in the flesh, changed His world — and because He did, each of us has the opportunity to change ours. That was my pastor’s focus, and I’ll share a few highlights:

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things: If you’ve ever felt like you cannot make a difference because you don’t come from “anything special,” you weren’t born in a mansion, you’re just … well, you, there’s good news. Mary had to explain how she ended up single and pregnant. Joseph had to accept the far-fetched story himself. They were ordinary, but look what God did through them. Jesus was then born in a manger. Not only was that not extraordinary; that was basically underordinary! But look what God is still doing through Him. And this isn’t just about them. It’s about us. None of it made sense, but God’s purpose, Pastor pointed out, is always bigger than our comprehension.

“How shall this be?”: That was Mary’s question when the angel told her she would conceive. She was not rejecting it; she just couldn’t see it — couldn’t fathom how it would work. Then the answer came. The angel told her the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. That same Spirit will overshadow us and enable us to do what God has purposed us to do. As we yield ourselves to the Spirit, open ourselves to Him, look up to Him, He overshadows us and does mighty things through us. Mary asked a reasonable question in response to an impossible idea, and the answer she got was the answer we get when we ask God how we will do what He’s called us to do: the Holy Spirit.

It takes faith in God: This nugget is tied to the previous one. When God places His plan inside of us and we get impregnated with His purpose, we must have faith to fulfill that purpose, to be those ordinary people doing extraordinary things that change our world. I had a pastor years ago who would always say he believed Mary conceived the moment she said to the angel, even while not understanding, “Be it unto me according to your word.” She accepted the pronouncement by faith. That must not just be the Christmas Story; it must be our story.

You must nurture it: We have to grab ahold of what God says when we see it, and we must nurture it. Remember that the angel mentioned Elizabeth to Mary? Elizabeth was her older cousin. We can learn a lot from that. As Pastor Zack explained, young folks must be open to allowing the older generation to speak into their lives. They provide encouragement and confirmation. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John, leapt when he came in contact with the baby in Mary’s womb. That, no doubt, confirmed to Mary that she was carrying a promise. Also, Mary went to someone who knew about worship, who understood intimacy with God. Elizabeth even means “covenant.” From this, we learn to be wise in choosing those we spend time with and open up to. We cannot share everything with everyone, particularly as it pertains to the promise of God with which we have been impregnated.

These are just a few of the relevant aspects of that message, that story we have become so familiar with that we often just breeze by. It’s a feast, though, worthy to chew on as you await the ham, turkey or whatever you’ll chew on at the dinner table tomorrow.

Merry Christmas! It’s so much more than a story.

Adrienne Ross is owner of Adrienne Ross Communications and a former Southeast Missourian editorial board member. Contact her at

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