Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
—Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World,” 1719
A sacred season is about to unfold for three women whose hearts belong to God. Elizabeth is barren, yet her trust in God remains fertile. Mary is betrothed in marriage, yet she is willing to bear God’s Son. Anna is a widow full of years, yet she waits patiently, prayerfully for the Messiah to appear in the temple courts.
Following in their footsteps, you too can prepare for the Savior to enter your heart, your mind, and your life in a vibrant, new way this season. In The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, bestselling author Liz Curtis Higgs explores the biblical stories of these three women, unwrapping each verse with tender care and introducing you afresh to The Women of Christmas.
Earlier this year, I sat down with Liz to talk about her new book. In reading this, you will notice a woman who is passionate about the birth of Christ and how it is the unveiling of a much larger start. The redemption of God's people.
John: You have a new book coming out this fall called The Women of Christmas.
Liz: Not The Good Girls of Christmas. (Laughs.) They are pretty amazing women.
John: Elizabeth, Mary and Anna. Want to talk a little bit about that book?
Liz: Sure. Of course they are in chronological order. Most people would say, "Well heavens, wouldn't you mention Mary first?" Not if you're going in chronological order. If you go in the order they unroll in the Bible, that's how it goes.
It started as a message that I shared at a conference. It's fun to begin that way, because you get immediate audience response. You see what speaks to people's hearts and what you need to dig deeper on. One of the challenges of writing without having shared it anywhere else is you're like, "Well, I'm excited about this material, but will a reader be? Will an audience be?" I don't do it that way often, but that time it started with audience response and going, "Okay, I think there's something here." Then I blogged about it.
I have a Bible study blog once a week. This summer I did the 20 verses you love most. I asked about 1,000 people to tell me their favorite verse in the Bible and then I tallied them up. So they're really my readers' favorites. You know, people I know as opposed to just a published list. So fascinating. We've done kind of a countdown style. Of course it still lives on the blog, so if you're curious what those 20 verses are, they're there.
I just did a verse a week. You're thinking, "A verse a week? What would you say about a verse?" Oh dear, about 1,500 words of pulling it apart. I love to do that! Look at the different translations. Look what the commentators have to say. Though, before I ever look at a commentator, I look at the Word as it is, and ask God what He wants to show me. That's what I share. It's just been a pure joy.
The Women of Christmas was five posts on my blog in December of 2012. Going a little deeper into their stories I thought, "Oh my word, there's so much here!" You've got angels showing up, the first one with Zechariah at the altar of incense, and then Gabriel next appears to Mary. We have Mary talking to Gabriel, then we have an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream, then the shepherds get one angel and then they get the Heavenly Hosts. Thousands, the Bible says, thousands of angels singing.
Though I have to say, all the Bible says is "saying." It doesn't use the word "sing." But I think if thousands of angels were saying, "Glory to God in the highest," it would sound like music, simply because that many people trying to speak at once would have to have rhythm and movement. I think it must be a singing like nothing we've ever heard, a sound beyond anything human.
So, you've got angels appearing. The Holy Spirit keeps showing up. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, that's how she knows that Mary is filled with Jesus. Then Mary bursts into song, and that song, those are not Mary's words. She was 12, 12½, uneducated and poor. Yet you look at The Magnificat, the words are exquisite. They're drawn from a deep well. You'll recognize little bits of Hannah and Hannah's words, and Isaiah's words in there. I mean it's a deep, rich well that had to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. It wasn't just this 12-year-old saying, "Wow!" It's really exquisite, beautiful wording.
John the Baptist in his mother's womb leaps because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. That was an expectation promised by Gabriel, that the son would be filled with the Spirit even before he was born. Then later Simeon, by the Holy Spirit, sees that this is the baby Jesus, and Anna knows this is the Messiah she's waited her whole life for. We have angels, we have the Holy Spirit at work, we have unexpected appearances, we have visitors from afar. It's a remarkable story.
You're going, "I know Liz. It's the Christmas story. We've all heard it 10 million times." It's the stories you've heard 10 million times that you need to look at most carefully, because we've had so many layers put on that story by culture, by movies. I mean, don't you always picture Mary riding in on a donkey just about to go into labor? That's how it's always shown, but that is not in the Bible. It never has her on a donkey. It never has her coming in at the moment of delivery. It just says, "While she was in Bethlehem, the time came to give birth." I know, I know. You're saying, "Liz, you just blew my image. My creche scene is already not looking right."
John: What do I do with my nativity scene?
Liz: That's right. What am I going to do with the scene? The wise men, when do they come? We don't know for sure. We know they come, but we don't know for sure when. We know that they're in a house when they come. The word that's used is house not a manger, not a barn or anything like that, so maybe it’s a little later than we're picturing it. I'm not trying to tear down Christmas or trying to tear down our image of Christmas. On the contrary, I want us to go as closely back to the real Christmas as we can, because in that is the power of the story that is so overwhelming. It's not red and green (laughs), but it is amazing. It's just amazing.
These women in particular all touch Jesus. They all have an encounter with Jesus that brings out the most incredible things. When Mary walks in the house, Elizabeth is blown away. “How is it that the mother of my Lord… “My Lord”! He's, at most, two weeks in utero. “My Lord.” Wow. We struggle to commit to our Lord when He is a risen Savior and His whole story is told in the Word. I mean we have so much to go on.
John: And she was right there.
Liz: She was right there. That again is the Holy Spirit stirring in her. "I felt my baby move with joy," she says. It's interesting, the part about “with joy,” because babies can move for lots of reasons. She's six months pregnant at that time, so babies are moving around by then. You have what they call the quickening, the sense of life in you if you have something cold to drink or eat something sweet. Elizabeth knows it's joy. It wasn't, you know, a pomegranate. It was joy that moved her son.
Amazing women. I'm so excited about this one. I'm so excited to do a real, I hope, substantive Bible study and to put it in a gift book so that it is gift-able. And for the one month of the year you can give somebody who doesn't know God, you can give them a book about Christmas and most people will receive it with joy. "Oh thank you, a book about Christmas." For whatever reason, they're not afraid of it as long as it's December (laughs). As long as it's December, you can give them a book about Jesus.
I wanted a beautiful book. A book that would seem non-threatening. The Women of Christmas doesn't sound like, "Hi, I would like to change your life." But I would.
Download the first chapter of The Women of Christmas by clicking here.