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Women Who Welcomed the Birth of Jesus

Air Date 12/22/2017

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Author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs brings a fresh perspective to the Christmas story by focusing on the faith displayed by Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Liz Curtis Higgs: Can I just get you caught up on the Lizzie story? I am 62. I am silver haired. I am supersized. And I’m still a Jesus girl. That’s the story. (Applause) That’s the whole bit. (laughter)

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Liz Curtis Higgs joins us today on this special pre-Christmas broadcast of Focus on the Family and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, this message from Liz is a terrific way for us to start the holiday weekend.

Jim Daly: It is, John, and you can feel the excitement in the air about Christmas and I’m sure many families are already in that celebration mode! I know I am! And we’re looking forward to enjoying time with our loved ones as we remember the birth of Jesus Christ on Monday. That’s what it’s all about! And that’s why we wanted to bring this special message to you today. Last December, Liz spoke at our staff chapel about the very first Christmas and how those momentous events in Bethlehem changed the world forever. This is a familiar story of course, but Liz provided a fresh perspective through the eyes of some of the women who were among the first to meet baby Jesus.

John: Yeah, this is a pretty interesting angle and Liz’s message is based on her book The Women of Christmasand you’re going to enjoy this presentation. In fact, we’ll offer you a free download of the entire presentation. Think of it as our Christmas gift to your family this year. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to get that. And now, here’s Liz Curtis Higgs on today’s Focus on the Family.

Body:

Liz: Well, today in our short time together I’m really excited to speak to you about two different women in the Bible from different ages and different stages. They had a really unusual thing in common. They were both pregnant by surprise.

The first, Elizabeth, wife of a priest named Zechariah. Now, they were very righteous people, you know these people. These are those good folks at church. They’ve been there forever. Every time the door is open, they’re there. They do everything right, but - the Bible says - but, Luke 1:7.

I always pay attention to the “buts” of the Bible. They’re important. Some are bigger than others, but I - (laughter)But the Bible says, in comparison, in contrast,they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive and they were both very old. So this is like a triple whammy. They don’t have kids. They can’t have kids. And they’re old. Oh, doesn’t your heart just break for this righteous couple?

So Zechariah has drawn lots and he is going to get to go into the holy place to light the incense and pray. Priests were lucky if they got to do this once in a lifetime, so it was a big deal.There he is, standing before the altar, when suddenly, the angel Gabriel shows up. He said what angels in the New Testament usually say. “Don’t be afraid. Fear not, Zechariah.” Now, that would be the scary part. Fear not, I know your name would be scary. And you know, Zechariah had every reason in the world to be nervous. It’s been a quiet 400 years since we’ve had any prophets or any angelic appearances. It’s been quiet on the heavenly front.

And now here’s an angel. Look what he says - your prayer has been heard. Now I suspect Zechariah prayed a lot of things, but what would been the one prayer of his heart? A son. A son. Your prayer has been heard.Don’t you sometimes wonder when you pray, God are listening? Don’t you hear? Yes, He does. Your prayer, guaranteed, has been heard.

And he says your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. So not only has your prayer been heard, it will be answered. And - I love this part - you’re to call him John. So none of that business about what should we call the kid? It’s decided for them. Isn’t that fabulous? You’re going to call him John. We know him as John the Baptist.

Then Gabriel tells him all this amazing stuff about his son. People will rejoice because of his birth. He’ll be great in the sight of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he’s born. And Zechariah’s response should have been wow! (Laughter) Or at least thank you or praise God or something. He says …How can I be sure of this? (Laughter) Well, he’s an angel. And Gabriel stands in the presence of the Almighty, so I think he’s fairly trustworthy. How can I be sure of this? See, he doesn’t believe it can be done. He wants proof. How can I be sure? And he explains his two big reasons to doubt. I’m an old man and my wife is - this is so gentle, so well - well-worded - “well along in years.” Isn’t that wonderful? It’s just - guys, you need to remember that phrase. “Well along in years.” Do you know the LRV on this? Do you have that translation in your bookstore? LRV - Lizzie revised version (laughter). My old lady is an old lady is what he’s saying!

See, from his point of view, this would be impossible. Even Gabriel the angel saying it, even this promise from heaven, he isn’t buying it because he doesn’t believe. And if we’re honest, when we pray, we don’t always pray believing either.

We say Lord, will you please do this? But in our hearts we’re saying, I’m not sure you can, but I hope you will, but I’m really not sure you can. My prayers are sometimes filled with unbelief.

You would think Zechariah would think back to another couple in the Old Testament in the same situation - older man, older woman, no baby - Abraham and Sarah. It was going to take a miracle. You’d think he’d remember that one. When the Lord told Abraham that Sarah was going to have a baby, the narrator - the biblical story reminds us - I love this - Sarah was past the age of childbearing. Also, translated, ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. In other words, she was post-post-post-menopausal. Her eggs were cooked. (Laughter) It was done. It was not going to happen.Conception just wouldn’t be difficult with Sarah, it would be biologically impossible. God loves the impossible. God’s just getting started when you start with the impossible.

Wasn’t too hard for Sarah, she gave birth at 90. And she said God has brought me laughter. Oh, that’s so true in so many ways. Isaac, of course, means he laughs, but more than that, God has restored Sarah’s joy. I’ve always pictured her with an AARP card in one hand and a pacifier in the other just shouting out to anybody who would listen, God can do anything! Nothing is impossible for God. Well, just like Sarah, Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth conceived. And, of course, because he did not believe, he didn’t talk for the whole of her pregnancy, a mercy from God. (Laughter)

She remained secluded, you know, for the first five months. I am wondering if she didn’t want to wait until that amazing moment in a woman’s life when you first feel what they called the quickening, the sense of life. Then the Bible says in the sixth month - that’s not the sixth month of the year, it’s not June - it’s the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy - imagine this - God is measuring time by a woman’s growing womb. Incredible.Never doubt for a moment how important women are to God.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, the town in Galilee. Busy guy, went to see Zechariah, now he’s visiting Mary - little Galilee, less than a hundred people. He went to see a virgin pledged to a man named Joseph - pledged, betrothed, as good as married. They could not break that short of a divorce.

The angel went to her. I doubt she was looking for him. I don’t think she was scanning the skies of Nazareth. I think she was doing what women did back then, she baked bread and she lit her lamp and she pressed olives. She was just going about her life like we do - like we do right now. You’re just doing what you do on a Monday afternoon, not thinking about what God is up to right now. But he’s up to something. He is doing things in your life you can’t even imagine. They may be years in coming, months in coming, weeks in coming or could be tonight.

But God is busy. The angel shows up and says greetings, earthling. I just love that. That’s the LRV. It’s actually hail in the King James. You who are highly favored. That means full of grace.

Listen, God didn’t choose Mary because she was special, Mary was special because God chose her. Wow. And he said to her the Lord is with you. This is very different than “may” the Lord be with you, that’s like a blessing. This is a statement of fact. The Lord “is” with you.

No wonder she was shocked. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. She was thoroughly shaken. She was very perplexed. The LRV is she was freaked out. And you know what the angel said next. Fear not, Mary. Do not be afraid. Here’s the cool thing, in the New Testament, when an angel says fear not, do not be afraid, what comes next is always good news. What you want to worry about is an angel that shows up and doesn’t say fear not, (Laughter) then you be afraid. You be very afraid, OK? But when they say fear not it’s because good news is coming.

You have found favor, grace with God. You will conceive. Do you see any option here? It might happen, might not - nuh-uh. You will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus. Now, every mother thinks her child is special. We do.

But this child will be great, the angel said. Called the son of the most high, the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David. He’ll reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end.

And Mary says — how will this be since I’m a virgin? See, the truth of the matter is Gabriel lost her way back at conceive. (Laughter) She didn’t hear about all the other stuff. She was back at I’ll do what? Now, you would think she’s doubting. That’s not doubt. She’s not asking for proof. Friends, she just wants to know - it’s a logical question - how? How’s this going to happen? How can I be pregnant since I know no man? Legitimate question.

I love how the angel answered her. The Angel didn’t take her voice away. He answered her — the Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

There is not a commentator or theologian in the world who knows exactly what that means, but sounds a little scary. He will overshadow you.

I’d have so many questions. Wouldn’t you have questions? Like, when? Because I want to be ready, you know. (Laughter) And where, exactly? And - um - do I need to take a shower, you know? (Laughter) And, I don’t know, is it going to hurt? What’s going to happen? I’d have a million questions.

Mary had one question. How? She got her answer, the Holy Spirit. And she believed. But then as a word of encouragement to her - because isn’t God good? - even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age and she, who was unable to conceive, is in her sixth month. She, who was unable, but God was able.God loves to bless the barren. He does. Rebecca was barren and then she gave birth to Jacob. And Hannah was barren and then she gave birth to Samuel. And Rachel was barren and then she gave birth to Joseph. Friends, any barrenness in our lives, in any definition of barrenness, is God getting ready to do a miracle.

These stories had to have the miraculous because we had to look at them and say only - only God. We come to the most important verse, not only in the Christmas story, but I think in our own story, Luke 1:37, nothing is impossible for God. The NCV is God can do anything.

What’s your impossible? Isn’t there something you’re saying to yourself, oh, but God could never do that? Have you got one? You don’t have to tell. I just want to know if you’ve got one in mind. Oh, come on. Think harder. Of course.

There’s a relative that doesn’t know God and you have just given up, it seems impossible. There’s a marriage that’s so destroyed, it just seems impossible. There’s a friendship torn apart, it seems impossible. You have friends who are unemployed for months, it seems impossible. But the Bible says so clearly God can do anything.It’s not about what we can do, it’s about what God can do. Jesus said with man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. Mary was on board, Mary believed. I am the Lord’s servant she said. May your Word to me be fulfilled.Friends, she was 12 - 12! And we’re a little older than that.

Except for the baby. Where’d the baby - oh - oh, I was hoping you’d call out to me. I love having a baby in the audience. See, other people sometimes don’t. Let’s be honest, you look back and go why did they bring a baby, even at Focus on the Family? (Laughter) But I love having a baby’s cry because do you understand that’s how we sound to God? We think we’re so sophisticated. It’s really more like wah! (Laughter) That’s why the Holy Spirit needs to interpret for us. (Laughter) It’s kind of pitiful - wah.

He sent Jesus as a baby, who had no way to communicate but to cry. But his mother knew his voice. His mother knew what to do.

I had a woman come up to me with a surprised look in her face once and she said you teach the Bible like you actually believe it. Yeah. I do believe it because I’m living proof that God can do anything.

When I first began speaking withWomen of Faith- about three years ago - they had us all get together - all the speakers - they wanted us to kind of make sure we were all on the same page and kind of shape our messages. And so I was sitting with some old friends and some new friends and some of them knew my story, probably, some did not.But when they said, so it’s really good to have a strong opening line. I said OK - um - before I met Jesus, I slept with three men in one night. They said oh, my word, that would not be the one thing to say! (Laughter) Listen dear ones (laughter), I don’t say this to shock you, I say this to show you that Jesus can do anything!

Thirty-four years ago - can I hear an Amen on that from somebody? (Applause) 34 years ago I am the last woman you would have ever picked to speak at Focus on the Family. Can we get serious about that? Wow. But God already had it planned. You didn’t know. I didn’t know. God already had a plan. That’s the God we serve. He looks way down past the end of our lives and our children’s lives. He sees the big picture that we get a tiny glimpse of.But it is good, friends, it is good.

I remember when I left work on a Friday 34 years ago, saying party! And I came in Monday morning saying praise the Lord, I’ve been baptized. People notice stuff like that. (Laughter) And they said Liz, what kind of drugs were you doing this weekend because, honestly, this is wild?

And I said oh, it isn’t about a high, not that kind of high, it’s Jesus. Really. Well, you can imagine my coworkers at a radio station - a secular station - they watched me like a hawk to see if I was different because I said - had the audacity to say - I was a new creation. And so they watched and I guess they saw things changing.

I remember getting my first Bible. I was so excited. I saved up. The big Ryrie Study Bible, NASB, huge, notes. I thought the fatter it was, the more important. I got a big one and saved up for leather because surely, that was more holy. (Laughter) And I took it into work and I would sit there at the station in the studio and I’d have the Bible open and I’d be reading verses for the first time.

So excited. And Alice, our receptionist, could see me through the glass. And she came in and said what are you reading? I said Alice, it’s the Bible. Do you have one? She said, not like yours. (Laughter) I said, well, if I - if I could get you a Bible, would you read it? She said but can you get me one just like yours? Just like mine. The big, fat, leather, I mean, it was 50 bucks, back when 50 bucks was 50 bucks. But I saved up for Alice, and I bought Alice a Bible just like mine, gave it to her. And she said, oh, this is thrilling. I said now, promise me you’ll read it. She said, Lizzie, I don’t know where to start. You’ve got to teach me.

OK. So now I have Alice. I got aDesign For Discipleshiplittle workbook, Navigator, still in print. And Alice and I went through that thing together. Friends, I stayed one week ahead just in case she had questions. (Laughter) I knew three verses, you know, I was, like, such a babe in Christ. But Alice was growing. She was getting it. I’d love to know what I said. I have no idea. It was God being God, not Liz being Liz.

Then Jackie, another gal at the station, peeked in and said, what are you guys doing? Alice said, oh, we’re studying the Bible. Liz can get you one. (Laughter) So Liz saved up and bought Jackie a Bible. So now there’s the three of us. Did I know what I was doing? Oh, I didn’t, but God so did.

Finally, I invited them to my house for dinner because I just really wanted more time with them and - and understand, nobody comes to my house for the food. Are you kidding? When I get near the stove, my kids go hot, hot! (Laughter) So, you know, it was - it’s - nobody ever comes for the food. And we’re sitting there having our little Sunday dinner and Alice, bless her, is now in the kingdom, and she says oh, Jackie, I went to a Christian bookstore yesterday. Did you know they have them?

Y’all, you have to understand, before you’re saved, you walk right past them. You don’t even see them. But once your eyes have been opened, she said Liz, all the books are about God. I said I know, isn’t it incredible? She said I saw this poster called footprints. OK. Now, I’m a believer by six months, now I’m very sophisticated. I know all about footprints.

I’m thinking oh, for heaven’s sakes, they have that on key chains. You know, I wasn’t so impressed. Oh, but see, Jackie hadn’t heard it before. So when Alice is weeping now in the telling of two sets of footprints and then one set of footprints, she said look, Jackie, look, he carries us. He carries us. Jackie said can we pray? I’m like, yes, the food is bad, let’s pray, right now. Nothing to do with the food.

Jackie said - oh, I forgot to mention, she was Muslim. Oh, little minor detail to God. She said dear God, I now realize you have been carrying me my whole life. I want what my friends have and I figured it out. It’s You. It’s a relationship with You. That’s what I want. Well, friends, we lifted our heads - forget dinner - we leaped up. We were so excited. We didn’t know what to do.

I put on a record. Vinyl record, round and black with hole in the middle (Laughter) and you lift a needle on it. It was Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris, remember? (Sings)More than wonderful!And we sang all the words and didn’t know any of them. Y’all, we made them up. (Laughter) Then Jackie was so excited. She said Lizzie, Lizzie, take my picture. I think I look different.

So I got out a Polaroid camera. (Laughter) If you’ve never seen one, they’re magical. The film spits out like a tongue. It sits there for a minute. You wait. You wait. You wait. You peel it back. The image comes up and there was Jackie, a woman transformed.

All I could think of was 2 Corinthians 3:18, but we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. When you singGlory, Glory, Hallelujahthis Christmas, I want you to remember that that glory shines on the face of every one who has received his grace. May it be you, my friend. Merry Christmas.

(Praying) Heavenly Father, we just thank you so much. Your word is so alive. We just try to run and keep up with it. Father, I pray that someone here received a truth they needed for this season of their lives. A total blessing to be here, Lord. May you be honored and glorified alone. In the name of your son who makes everything possible, Amen and Amen. Thank you so much. (Applause)

Closing:

John: Well what a wonderful message from Liz Curtis Higgs, who spoke at our Focus on the Family staff chapel last year.

Jim: What I love about Liz is how she blends biblical truth with a great sense of humor. Today she talked about prayer and trusting God for those results. And she reminded us that nothing is impossible for the Lord. I appreciated her vulnerability, John, at the end there where she’s describing her dramatic conversion to Christ. And isn’t it just like God to use a baby Christian who has no training or expertise, no professional background, to be His witness of truth, love and forgiveness. And Liz was just excited about Jesus! And that was enough to lead her co-workers to the Lord.

I hope you have enjoyed this presentation by Liz Curtis Higgs today and we have her bookThe Women of Christmasand I’d like to give you a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for a donation of any amount to Focus on the Family. At this time of year especially, we’re looking for the financial support of friends like you who are willing to fund our efforts to strengthen marriages, empower parents and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. So please, contact us today with your gift and we’ll send you this book by Liz as our way of saying thank you.

John: And don’t forget, we’re offering a free download of this presentation from Liz as well. So find that and details about Liz’s book at focusonthefamily.com/radio.

Well, we hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend with your family and please be sure to join us on Monday when we have a special Christmas visit with Phil and Kay Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame in the back woods of Louisiana.

Teaser:

Jim: I mean, cooking a squirrel... yeah, that’s right everybody! Some people just went, what?!? I mean, cooking a squirrel?!?

Phil Robertson: One of the finest eating things on the earth is squirrels.

Jim: (chuckling)

John: What were you asking about cooking squirrels, Jim? I’m curious.

Jim: Well, I was just...you know, did you... where’d you learn how to do that?

End of Teaser

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Guest

Liz Curtis Higgs

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Liz Curtis Higgs is a popular public speaker who has addressed audiences around the world. She is also a best-selling author of more than two dozen books; her nonfiction books include the Bad Girls of the Bible series, and she has written several contemporary and historical novels. Liz and her husband, Bill, reside in Kentucky and have two grown children. Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, www.lizcurtishiggs.com.