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!

30 Responses to The Women of Christmas: With Heart and Soul and Voice

  1. Brandi Luiz December 12, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Thank you, Liz for your encouraging words.

  2. Janet Ettensohn December 12, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    “Ponder” is such a powerful word. Thank you for reminding us to take time to “ponder” the wonder of Christmas. In May 2010 you spoke in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and gave an OT verse about “ponder.” (When things are good, give thanks; when bad, ponder.) I remember the lesson, but can’t find my notes. Does this give you enough to remember the verse? Bless you for your ministry.

  3. Karen Bousquet December 12, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    O’ the waiting game!! Praise God we can trust HIM to come through even when we have waited for years, we can believe He will come through and the blessing will be more than we can ever have imagined if we stay true to Him and trust in His timing. This book has been a constant reminder of this to me and to the love of Christmas. God’s perfect timeless love!! amen

  4. Cindy Rogers December 12, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    I love these studies! It makes me relate to these women more than ever, just realizing how really human they were, and loving them even more. Christmas means so much more when we really understand the people involved in the Story. Thanks.

  5. CarolAnne December 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Oh, Liz, I too am in God’s waiting room! It is tough, but praying/praising certainly helps me switch my focus away from poor pitiful me to wow, I have soooo much to be thankful for! That includes enjoying your beautiful studies. xo

  6. Jennifer Reese Cook December 12, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Oh Liz, you are beautiful. Thank you for this timely word. It is “a word aptly spoken like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25 verse 11. Just what I needed this morning. “Thank you Jesus.”

  7. Anita Lane December 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I never thought about the fact that praising God benefitted both He and I. That was profound to me. Praying and praising God took my mind off of worrying and grumbling and turned it into something positive. Thank you.

  8. cheryl December 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    So thankful to God for knowing my name and for his plan for my life and for my childre and precious grandchildren and that he knows their names also. What a timely blessing to read this now and be a part of this study. God is so good anx great and migjty !!!

  9. Robin December 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    In Chapter 5, the sentence that I’ve marked is “…Joseph redeemed the young woman whom God had chosen for him…” (pg. 111). I liked Liz’s bringing in–or highlighting–this theme of redemption. This reminded me of Boaz and Ruth (particularly as we studied in THE GIRL’S STILL GOT IT) and the Lord Jesus’ redemption of His followers. In a way, Jesus followed in the example of His earthly father and great-great-*-grandfather. On a different note, I don’t remember noticing before this week that Zechariah’s voice didn’t return until John’s 8th day–and I was not aware that the practice was that sons not be named after their fathers. Thanks for helping me to notice details.

  10. Birdie Cutair December 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    When I am praising God it takes my mind off my self and turns my thoughts to God. How wonderful He is; all I can do is praise and thanks him!

  11. cathy gross December 12, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Praise is the key to go beyond enduring to rejoicing in your pain. Anyone can endure. But to rejoice means that you went into the presence of God, the One who loves you and having offered your small praise, you come out soaked in His glory. And that love sustains you and gives you a hopeful attitude in the midst of what the world sees as hopeless. It does not matter that you do not understand, He does and He is trustworthy. And when you go toHim in praise, how it touches His heart to hear his daughter say, in whatever love language is hers, ‘I love you Abba.” Touches any father’s heart but especially this Father’s.
    Merry Christmas to you all!

    • Laura December 13, 2013 at 10:27 am #

      “Having offered your small praise, you come out soaked in His glory.” What a beautiful image to treasure, a spiritual truth to see in action in our lives!

  12. Irene Talaasen December 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Your book is a treasure and I have given one to a friend too. To think how Elizabeth and Mary trusted God no matter what. I want to do that!! but sometimes it is so hard when in God’s waiting room and your hurt for the others in the waiting room with you.
    Thank you for sharing your own heart too. Blessings and Merry Christmas!
    Irene Talaasen

  13. Tammy December 12, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Perfect timing on your words of Godly wisdom, insight, and enthusiasm! I can’t tell you how much I needed this today, right now, but God knew as you were busy writing……We do serve an amazing God! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  14. Becky Stepp December 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Thank you for reminding me to praise God even when I don’t feel like it. I really needed to hear that tonight. You are a blessing!

  15. Susan Gruener December 13, 2013 at 2:45 am #

    I loved this! Not just because I saw two of my favorite verses, Isaiah 43:1 and Psalm 42:5, but for the impact this knowledge gives us. Praising Him changes everything! You can not be a grump, or depressed, or too sad when you are praising God! Our very souls are uplifted and encouraged when we give Him praise, not just our heads and hearts.
    Thanks for another great ‘teaching’ story Liz.
    Praying for you,

    • Tina W. December 13, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Susan- thanks for sharing! I love this and am writing it in my journal….hoping you won’t mind me quoting you in my blog! (?)
      “Our very souls are uplifted and encouraged when we give Him praise, not just our heads and hearts.” Christmas blessings to you!

      • Susan Gruener December 14, 2013 at 1:42 am #

        I’m humbled that you want to quote my saying in your journal. It had to be the Holy Spirit that gave it to me… so it is for everyone! 🙂 He gets the glory! But you made my day! 🙂 When God gives me something for someone else, I know I am still being used by Him.
        Christmas blessings to you as well!

        • Tina W. December 20, 2013 at 8:58 am #

          Don’t you love when God uses you?! I did quote you in my blog and put in a link to this one!

    • Sheila December 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      Well said!

  16. Linda H December 13, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I love the comment in the opening page of Chapter 5, “Without uttering a sound, we can still reach out to God”. Praise to the Lord can be heard by Him in our hearts as well as out loud!!! When my whole being is filled with Praise there is no room for the negative. He desires our Praise. Thank you Liz for pointing out the importance of the “waiting room”. I am so thankful to be reminded that before I was born He already knew all about me and still loved me!!!

  17. Cheryl December 13, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Hi Liz.. This is a reminder that I need daily as to never underestimate the continual presence of God. He never leaves us like we tend to leave Him on occasion !

  18. Julie Sunne December 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    God desires are praise, but does not “need” it to be God. Praising is for us: to get our eyes off us and our situations and onto our Creator and His master plan. He is Almighty–over all! Over all situations, over all creation, over all time. Praising brings us closer to getting our finite minds around an infinite Lord. Blessings, dear Sister.

  19. martha warner December 13, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    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.
    This was so good to remember… Gabriel’s words to Mary. Gods words to ME, and you. Awake, asleep, He delivers that which He has promised, and sees us through. Yes, I CAN embrace what He has whispered to me, but thank you so much for writing it. Sometimes I just need to be reminded. Merry Christmas Liz

  20. Sheila December 14, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    The act of praising Him has helped me immensely on the last few weeks. This chapter and your thought provoking questions made me realize all that I do have through Him. I am currently in the midst of a job change that wasn’t my idea or anything I wanted. I’ve been emotional and distressed about it. But, as I take the time to step back and praise God first and foremost I have a job and it will be in the same organization; thank you, God. Secondly, taking the time to praise him for a healthy and happy family, the ability to pay our bills, the gift of giving to those less fortunate…the list could go on forever. He is leading me into a new season of opportunities since I know that my Lord will always be there with me as teacher, counsellor, physician and most of all listener. Thank you Liz.

  21. Aloaha Voth December 15, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Often I need to remember to praise God. We are so swift to plead and ask yet wait to praise HIm. Six years ago in April my earthly father passed away. I was sad because I was 200 miles away instead of there. I closed my eyes and began to pray through my tears, “God I will still praise You. I wanted to say good-bye. Still I will praise You.” God gave me a peace knowing that my Daddy was in heaven with Jesus at that very moment! The joy of God filled me that day! I miss my Dad but I will see him again. I needed to remember that time of praising God. Thank you for your God inspired books of encouragment!

  22. Phyllis December 17, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    I think what is amazing is how God had everything orchestrated perfectly in the life of John the Baptist. Filled from his Mothers womb with the Holy Spirit, and how the Spirit was on him through his whole life. He was so willing for whatever God wanted of him and cooperated with him. I want this in my own life, but I seem to do my share of complaining. I am grateful for his patience with me and the way he encourages me, “For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little, and there a little.” Isaiah 28:10

  23. Susan Ireland December 21, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    Ponder, a word I heard my granny say many times. Ponder is a good word, think before words come out of your mouth, before you make a decision. When we have this hatefulness that comes from nowhere , “Jesus what is this , please give me wisdom and peace” Merry Christmas Liz , you are so awesome <3

  24. Jessica December 22, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    I am not sure if this was mentioned already, but I find it amazing that when Zechariah was finally able to speak, the first thing he did was Praise God. How is that possible?? After being silenced for over 9 months you would think he would have many words of anger, frustration, and complaining to do! I know I would 🙂 I think this example helps demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit & what we can do when we are under His control. Very encouraging.


  1. Sing for Joy! | Radiate. - December 19, 2013

    […] lifted and encouraged when we give Him praise, not just our heads and hearts” (commenter on this post).   Can’t carry a tune or don’t know what to sing?  Put on a CD, find something […]