Josh Lindblom is a 34-year-old pitcher in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, splitting time between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft, he made his MLB debut in 2011, then played for the Philadelphia, Texas, Oakland and Pittsburgh organizations, and also five seasons in Korea, before signing with Milwaukee in December 2019. He recently completed one master’s degree and is pursuing a second. As he balances baseball, school and family, he also pursues his relationship with Christ, and is periodically writing about sports and faith for Sports Spectrum.
The holiday season is supposed to be a time filled with joy and thanksgiving. It is a time to gather with family and friends. It is a time to reflect upon the past year and plan and dream for the year to come.
However, for most people, this is far from reality. Many people, even those close to us or possibly ourselves, walk through the holiday season and feel invisible. We feel as if we move about our lives in darkness … hoping, waiting and expecting a light at the end of the tunnel.
The question is this: How does the Christmas narrative encourage us during our “invisible Christmas”?
Part of the beauty of the narratives in Scripture is that it allows the reader to enter the stories. We can enter these stories as characters and see, smell, hear, feel and experience the story from their perspective.
Mary’s song, known as the “Magnificat,” is found in Luke 1:46-55. The “Magnificat” comes from the Latin translation of Luke 1:46: “My soul glorifies the Lord.” Mary’s soul, the entirety of her life, her visible and invisible parts, her body and spirit, all that she is, makes God bigger. It is through her reflection on the greatness, power and mercy of God that she is able to magnify God through her life.
“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” — Luke 1:46-50
Mary’s words allude to another expectant mother in the Biblical narrative: Hannah. For most of us, it is Hannah, not Mary, to whom we can relate. Mary knows God sees her, while Hannah feels invisible. Hannah cries out in anguish to God: “Lord almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:10-11, emphasis mine).
“But one of the central truths of the Christmas story in the Bible is that there is Someone who not only sees and knows, He goes into these invisible places we want no one to see. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, comes to us and enters our story.”
If we are being honest about our feelings during this season, Hannah’s emotions are a better comparison for us than Mary’s. Sorrow, misery and insignificance are better descriptors of what some feel during the holidays. In these moments, making God bigger or more magnificent is the last thing on our minds.
However, Mary provides an encouragement for those of us who might be feeling “invisible” during this holiday season. In Luke 1:48, Mary gives one the reasons for her “Magnificat”: “For he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” Now at first glance, this might seem insignificant, but she is drawing on the very stories — especially Hannah’s — she has heard throughout her entire life.
Mary states that God “has been mindful” of her. The English translations have a difficult time capturing the essence of the word “mindful” from Greek. “Mindful,” “looked,” “had regard” and “took notice” are a few of the translations of this Greek word “epiblepo.” If all Luke wanted to do in his gospel account was express God seeing Mary, there are numerous Greek words he could have used. However, he uses “epiblepo.” The definition of “epiblepo” is “to look attentively at, with the implication of personal concern for someone.” It is the same word he uses in Luke 9:38 when a man in the crowd following Jesus cries out, “Teacher, I beg you look at my son, for he is my only child” (emphasis mine). Luke wants to emphasize God’s action in Mary’s life — in our lives — and I believe he does just that.
The words “sorrow,” “grief,” “loneliness,” “insignificance” and “invisibility” closely characterize what is happening in Hannah’s story. This might be your story as well. These words might describe what you are feeling deep down in the place you want no one to see, know or go.
But one of the central truths of the Christmas story in the Bible is that there is Someone who not only sees and knows, He goes into these invisible places we want no one to see. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, comes to us and enters our story. He comes to our invisible places, the dark places in our lives, and shines. He enters into our sorrow, grief, loneliness.
If you are struggling with not being able to be with your family this holiday season, He sees.
If you have lost a loved one, He sees.
If your season has been canceled or postponed, He sees.
If your marriage is going through difficulties, He sees.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” — Psalm 139:7-12
Though you may feel invisible with so much activity going on around you, you are not. God sees you and knows what you’re feeling. He’s looking at you and waiting for you to invite Him in. Will you let God into the invisible, dark places of your life so He can shine through you?