In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.” Luke 1:26-28
Something out of nothing. Because Mary was willing to be obedient, God was able to take her empty womb and make it a place for the God of the universe to develop arms and legs, a heartbeat and skin.
God takes our empty places and grows miracles.
There’s the story of the widow who cried out to Elisha as the creditors came to take her sons as slaves. “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asks, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” But all she had was a flask of olive oil. Nothing else at all. Think of her desperation and emptiness. But Elisha didn’t give up. He instructed her to borrow empty jars from her neighbors, to take her sons into the house and shut the door. When they poured oil from their flask into the jars, they continued to fill each jar, until every single one was filled to the very brim. The widow and her sons were able to sell the oil and pay their debts. And not only that, but they were able to live on what was left over. (2 Kings 4)
When we offer our emptiness and what we lack to God, He is undaunted. He is not stumped or disappointed that we aren’t enough. He’s looking for our obedience, in spite of our weaknesses.
Even before my daughter Eliza could talk, she would sing. She hummed and sang so often, we called it her motor. It was our sign that all w}as right in her world. Kate has been singing “O Holy Night” the last few weeks and she has all the words down because it is what she performed in church on Sunday along with the all the other kids. And even William belts out a few words every now and then.
It brings me such joy when I hear my kids sing, because I know they are happy. Content. They are expressing joy, even if they don’t tell me in actual words.
As Mary felt the Son of God moving in her belly, as she felt the roundness as He took up more and more space, she didn’t dwell on what she wasn’t. She didn’t think about her emptiness, but she allowed God to fill her. And she found joy in allowing God to use her empty places. How do I know?
Because she sang.
Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the right away with empty hands.
He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
For he has made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.
The words came from Scripture— a compilation of the Psalms and Isaiah and a few others tossed in. Mary was grounded in who she was and in who God is. So when the Angel came to her in her ordinary day, she was ready to receive whatever the will of God was.
God wants to be with you. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to take hold of your shaky hands and lead you onto solid ground. He wants to shower you with grace and mercy. He wants to hear you sing, even as tears run down your face.
When we give God our emptiness, He gives us a song. He takes our empty places and make them into a masterpiece. Just as the Angel said to Mary, “God is with you”, you can believe the promise is for you, too.
Immanuel has come. God with us.