The Center for Leadership Excellence, in partnership with COSROW, is pleased to lift up the voices of women in ministry encouraging fellow women in ministry. Please enjoy this month’s Encouragement from from Ivy Parker. Ivy is a Deacon Candidate, member of Genesis UMC, and serves on the Spiritual Formation leadership team for the NC Institute of Spiritual Direction. Anyone can sign up to receive these monthly emails here.
Here we are, in the midst of the Advent season with Christmas just around the corner. This is always an especially busy time for everyone preparing for gatherings with family and friends, shopping, and attending countless holiday events. For women leading in ministry, we can become even more overwhelmed juggling family life and the additional ministry commitments required during the Christmas season. And this year, we once again have the added weight of the pandemic and its effect on all our lives and ministries. At this moment, you are probably exhausted and in need of rest. You may have asked yourself, “How can I truly be present for my family, for my congregation, and for those who are most in need of support and encouragement right now?” Maybe you have even wondered, “How can I possibly tend to everything and keep my sanity?” Maybe you even feel disconnected from Christ, who called you by name to shepherd the people of God.
On Monday, as I reflected with other women in ministry upon this coming Sunday’s lectionary gospel text from Luke 1, I was reminded of the importance of nurturing relationships with and leaning upon dear sisters in Christ for strength and encouragement. What a gift from God!
Read Luke 1:39-56:
Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.
Reflect: The gospel passage places us in the home of Mary’s relative Elizabeth as Mary has come to share the incredible news that she has just received from the angel Gabriel. Haven’t we all imagined just how much this encounter with the angel Gabriel must have weighed upon Mary, and all the various emotions that would come with such news? Yet, even before Mary can speak, the Holy Spirit empowers Elizabeth with just the right words of affirmation and encouragement that Mary needs to hear. So much so, that Mary breaks out in a song of thanks and praise for far more than the gift of carrying the Christ child. Her focus moves away from her current fears of what lies ahead, and instead she is filled with thanksgiving and praise to God for the ways that God has worked in the lives of the Israelite people. Her feelings of being overwhelmed and fearful have been transformed into feelings of joy and anticipation of what God has in store for her and her people.
Take Action: Put yourself in Mary’s shoes. Be honest with yourself before God about what is weighing heavily upon your heart and in your ministry. Who is your Elizabeth? Who is another woman in your life in which you can confide in and share from your heart, knowing that God will honor your time together and you both will walk away encouraged to face the coming days? Reflect further on this passage and note if your own feelings and emotions have changed. What do you have to be thankful for today? Consider writing your own song of praise noting the many ways God has worked in and through the life of your family and ministry this past year. Now allow yourself to wait expectantly for all the ways the love and grace of Christ will be made evident in the upcoming year.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women