While the work of it all sometimes overwhelms me, I do love to welcome people into my home during Christmas. Whether a friend drops in for coffee and a cranberry orange muffin or we gather with several other couples around our large, square dining table, I love to pour a little sweet hospitality out during this sacred season.
But I’ve often made the mistake of putting more effort into preparing the cheese ball and the pecan pie and the specialty coffee than I have the words I say to my guests. That is I did make that mistake until I realized the nurturing effect our words can have.
You know by now that I strongly believe in the satisfying and nurturing power of God’s Word. I believe that when we “eat” His Word by meditating on and even memorizing scriptures that speak to our souls’ desires God truly satisfies our hungry souls. And we, in turn, are able to live fuller and more contented lives.
Now God’s words are so powerful that He was able to create the world by simply speaking it into existence. And Isaiah 55:11 reminds us that God continues to use His Word to accomplish powerful things in our lives. But while our words may not create worlds or do our bidding, they do have the ability to build up or destroy, to encourage or defeat, to heal or to harm. Wouldn’t you agree?
In Mary and Elizabeth’s verbal exchange during that very first Christmas, we find a beautiful example of a conversation that served up words of blessing, testimony and grace. Maybe while we’re setting the table for our own guests or baking cookies for our families we should ponder the words these two expectant mothers spoke to one another as they anticipated the appearance of Emmanuel, God with us.
Words of Blessing
When the young, virgin Mary entered the home of her older cousin Elizabeth, she was greeted by words of exuberant blessing. Elizabeth didn’t let a minute pass without reassuring this young woman that she was indeed up to the task God had called her to. She covered her with blessings and encouraged her to stay the course.
Surely Mary breathed in this blessing and breathed out renewed confidence and courage. She must have sighed with relief to hear the assurances of this older woman.
Our children crave our blessing. They want desperately to know that they are doing at least something right, that we see potential blooming forth in their inexperience, and that their simple faith and hesitant obedience will carry positive consequences. They want to hear us bless them with joy and passion and excitement and anticipation. And they must breathe a sigh of relief when we rejoice in them rather than berate them, nag them or shake our heads at them. How can you speak satisfying words of blessing to your child’s hungry soul this Christmas season?
Words of Testimony
The next words spoken in the inaugural Christmas conversation come from Mary, newly refreshed by Elizabeth’s kind blessing:
Mary doesn’t grab hold of the blessing and feed it to her pride. Instead, feasting on the encouragement and enthusiasm of her cousin, Mary praises the Lord with words of grateful testimony. The bottom line is really found in the 49th line of this chapter: For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.
When guests come to our home they may or may not enjoy hearing about the accomplishments of our children, the latest antics of our pets, or the journeys of our vacations. After all, such tales are largely one-sided and leave little room for true give and take.
But start bragging on the great things the Lord has done and you open wide the opportunity for others to share similar tales. Don’t you just love to hear what God is up to? I do. You might want to put your vacation slides away for a family only viewing night and you might tone down the talk of your children’s latest successes. That kind of bragging sometimes annoys house guests. But you can’t fail when you share how the Mighty One has done some great things. Just be sure to give Him all the credit and resist the urge to share the spotlight.
Words of Grace
I don’t really know what was said next between these two expectant relatives. The conversation ends there in the text. But this is what I do know. These two mamas-to-be weathered the final three months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy together and then they parted, I’m assuming, on good terms. So there must have been a lot of grace doled out between them!
When extended family and other house guests set up camp in our homes during this holiday season we’ll be wise to dole out a little grace, too. When your grown kids come home from college and strew their things all over the house? Grace. When your husband is off from work and in your hair? Grace. When your mother-in-law takes over your kitchen? Grace. When your sister shows up without the side dishes she was supposed to prepare? Grace. When your neighbors show up for your open house the week before it’s scheduled…and stay a while? Grace!
I love preparing menus, shopping for just the right extras to round out my feasts, and cooking up yummy delicacies this time of year. Maybe you do, too. But gals, we better choose our words carefully, prepare our hearts (from which all those words flow!) and hold our tongues when the words on them are of the sour variety rather than the sweet. The folks who come into our homes are more likely to remember well the words they feasted on than they are the china we served their meals on.
What will you do to prepare a satisfying feast of words this Christmas?