The Women of Christmas

The Women of Christmas: With Heart and Soul and Voice

The Women of Christmas Bible Study Blog | Liz Curtis Higgs

Open mouth, praise God. These four words have the power to change everything. Imagine if each time we opened our lips, we were honoring the Lord in some way. With words that edified. With songs that glorified. With laughter that expressed our joy in his presence. With a sigh of contentment, knowing we are loved.

Too good to be real? Not for Elizabeth. Not for Mary. And not for Zechariah, who broke his nine months of silence by “praising God” (Luke 1:64).

Suppose we borrow a page from their hymnal, and let our praise spill out too.

Open mouth, praise God

Read Chapter Five: With Heart and Soul and Voice
Read Luke 1:57–79
and Matthew 1:18–25

Writers say the best stories begin with a birth, a death, or a journey. One of my favorites starts like this: “it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby” (Luke 1:57). Yes, please.

The women of her community were by her side, doing what they could to ease the difficult process of giving birth. They shared her pain through the long, dark hours of labor, “and they shared her joy” (Luke1:58) when her son was finally delivered.

“It’s a boy!” Of course.

God’s promise, quietly fulfilled. A womb past its shelf life bore new life. A woman “who was said to be unable” (Luke 1:36) was more than able.

What the world calls useless, God calls useful. What others consider unworthy, God considers more than worthy.

In Elizabeth’s story we discover an amazing truth: The power of the Almighty is never limited by our age, our appearance, or our abilities.

When Elizabeth’s neighbors tried to give the child her husband’s name, she quickly spoke up. “No! He is to be called John” (Luke 1:60).

Love. It. Go, Elizabeth.

Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah

Because of God’s grace, she’d conceived this child and carried this child and gave birth to this child. Only the name chosen by God for her son would do.

She and Zechariah were in complete agreement on this. On a wax writing tablet, he spelled it out for them. And astonished them. “His name is John” (Luke 1:63).

Then God unlocked Zechariah’s lips and set him free. Open mouth, praise God. No wonder “all the neighbors were filled with awe” (Luke 1:65).

Hard to say what blew away their friends more: the fact that Zechariah was talking again, or that this couple was determined to name their son “Jehovah is gracious.” Every time the child’s name was spoken, God was glorified.

Then comes this remarkable statement: “the Lord’s hand was with him” (Luke 1:66). God’s divine blessing, his “empowering presence” was on John before the child was born and all the days that followed.

In his mother's hands

Can you grasp the truth of this? God’s hand was also on you from the beginning. He knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Before you were born, he called you, and from your mother’s womb, he spoke your name (Isaiah 49:1).

Not only John, but you also, beloved. How can I be sure of this? Because you are here, studying his Word. No one is hungry for the Word of God except a child of God. Wherever you are in your walk with him, rest in knowing you’ve been claimed by him. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

Zechariah burst into song, just like Mary before him. “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Luke 1:68). They were six months away from Jesus’ earthly birth, but from a heavenly standpoint, the Son has always been about his redeeming work.

Hourglass measuring time

Some days I can barely wrap my mind around this stuff. I think Elizabeth must have felt the same way. Holding her never-thought-it-would-happen son in her arms. Listening to her once-silent husband pouring forth praises to God. All that, in nine short months! Who could have imagined it?

When our arms are empty, when our house is filled with anything but praise, a story like this one can seem unreal, unlikely, utterly impossible. Then we remember Gabriel’s words to Mary—“Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37)—and a tiny spark of hope begins to flicker in our souls.

Yes, Lord. I know you have not forgotten me, not abandoned me.
I know your Word is true, and your promises are meant for me.

Can you whisper that prayer and embrace the truth of it? God worked a miracle in Elizabeth’s life. He will do the same for you. If you’re in his waiting room, that doesn’t mean he is ignoring you or punishing you. No, he is carefully molding you into the image of his Son. However long the process, you can be sure it’s for your everlasting good.

Ask Elizabeth. Ask her husband. Ask her relative, young Mary of Nazareth.

In turn, these three endured the shame of barrenness, of speechlessness, of being pregnant out of wedlock. Not the paths they would have chosen, not the easy way to anywhere. But oh, the glorious results! A son to prepare the way for the Lord, a voice to proclaim his mighty name, a Christ child to bear the burden of our sins.

Away in a manger

Having said yes to God, Mary faced the possibility of divorce or—far worse—death by stoning. Joseph, good and godly man that he was, stood by her. Together they endured public disgrace by the power of God’s abundant grace.

These two seldom did anything in a hurry. Mary “pondered” (Luke 2:19) and Joseph “considered” (Matthew 1:20).

An angel came to Mary when she was wide awake.
An angel came to Joseph when he was fast asleep.

The message was the same: by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary would conceive a child and give birth to a son, and he was to be called Jesus. The prophecy of Isaiah was coming true before their eyes. As each December draws near, the story is born afresh in our hearts.

Jesus is coming. Jesus is here. Jesus came to set us free. Who wouldn’t open her mouth and praise God about that?

A sister, praising God

From the Study Guide

It’s easy to honor God when we’re happy, grateful, and content, yet God is equally worthy of our praise when we’re disappointed, sorrowful, or angry, just as Psalm 42:5 teaches us: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Do you think praising God is more for our benefit or for his? How does the act of praising him change your attitude or perspective?

God is so good that he uses praise for our benefit and for his. When we worship instead of worry, we are right where he wants us to be. Teachable. Changeable. Trusting, rather than doubting. Then, when the world sees us honoring God instead of dishonoring him in our difficult circumstances, when they see us giving thanks to the Holy One, the glory goes to him, not to us, and rightly so. He is more than worthy of our praise.

Some days I’m not there yet. I choose grumbling over praising; I’d rather feel sorry for myself than glad about where he has me. But I’m here to tell you, God is faithful. This very morning, typing these words, I caught a glimpse of what God is up to, even as I’ve weathered a season of sorrow this fall.

Look, my daughter. Do you see how closing this door has opened two more?
I do, Lord. Most of all, I see you.

Now it’s your turn

Two questions I hope you’ll consider:

  • Was there something in Chapter Five you found particularly meaningful?
  • How does the act of praising God, especially in the hard times, change your attitude or perspective?

Kindly share your response under Post a Comment below. How I love discovering what you have learned!

Bless you for reading, sharing, tweeting, posting, and encouraging your friends to join us here each week. It’s an honor to open God’s Word with you.

Your sister, Liz

Your Sister in Christ, Liz Curtis Higgs

P.S. Because of God’s kindness, I have three Christmas books available this season: The Women of Christmas for you, A Wreath of Snow for readers who enjoy fiction, and The Pine Tree Parable for young children. Thank you for sharing my stories with your loved ones!

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