Flipping Your Perspective on a Christmas Flop

Who hasn’t experienced a failure in ministry? It’s humbling when our plans don’t turn out as we hoped. Rushing on to the next thing or wallowing in despair can easily be the result, but let’s not run past the opportunity to turn to Jesus, gain His perspective, and say again, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Shannon Popkin’s helpful blog invites us to reflect on ministry flops using Mary’s song of praise.

As ministry shifts into high gear in December, you’re invited to unwrap a weekly gift of encouragement in the Women’s Leader Facebook group. We’ll reflect on Hebrews using Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s new 31-day Advent devotional, Consider Jesus. You can purchase a digital copy in time for our first live connection on Thursday, December 5 at 5 p.m. ET. He is worthy of our continual awe and worship! I’m cheering for you as you run your race for God’s glory. —Leslie Bennett, Women’s Ministry Initiatives

This year, Jane made the executive decision to retire the annual tradition of hostesses decorating their own tables for the Christmas dinner. But when she did so, she had no idea that she was provoking church-wide mutiny. Today, just two weeks before the annual event, only five tickets have been sold. And at least six of her strongest leaders are refusing to make eye contact when she passes them in the church foyer. And over a dozen women haven’t answered her phone calls.

Jane’s goal was to simplify things this year, but she’s accomplished just the opposite. She feels frustrated, hurt, offended, and confused. “Do they see what they’re putting me through here?” she wonders. Then she feels the panic rise as she skims the list of sixty-two things she still needs to complete for next week’s Christmas dinner flop.

A Christmas Flop

Do you have any Christmas flops happening at your church? Is there some conflict brewing over decor, lights, or music? Are there women lining up on opposite sides, convinced that their way is “right”?

Christmas often brings out our inner control girls, and we become the worst versions of ourselves. As the calendar turns to December, tensions rise. Expectations inflate. And heels dig in.

All of this is ironic when you think about the very first Christmas, when everything was out of control, not under control. At least not for Mary.

Like anybody else, Mary had made plans. And those plans didn’t include a too-soon pregnancy. Yet after a quick conversation with the angel, Mary made an unexpected trip to share her expectant news with Elizabeth. There in her cousin’s doorway, we get to hear what’s on Mary’s heart, in the form of a truth-formed melody. 

Perhaps, dear ministry leader, it would do your heart good to sing along with Mary. Songs like this are catching, you know. When we sing them—especially at Christmas time—we invite others to sing along.

A Flipped Flop

Here are five phrases from Mary’s song, which have the power to flip your perspective on your Christmas flop. As we look at these snippets of melody, I hope your smile will widen as you consider your own out-of-control Christmas.

1. My soul magnifies the Lord. 

To magnify something is to make it bigger. Mary was making God’s story bigger than her own. She was allowing her own plans and ideals to be swallowed up in the grand, overarching storyline of God. Instead of stamping her foot and insisting that her own story stay on track, she was amplifying God and making much of Him.

Will you magnify the Lord this Christmas? Even if things have gone awry, will you let His story be the one that matters?

2. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

By calling God her Savior, she was recognizing her need to be saved. Like all of us, Mary was a sinner and could not save herself. Yet God’s plan of salvation was unfolding inside of her, and for this reason, she rejoiced!

Do you recognize your need for a Savior, dear ministry leader? Yes, you’re a leader, but you’re not a Savior. You need God to wash away your sin just like everyone else, just like Mary. Won’t you take a moment and quiet yourself in God’s presence, recognizing your own personal need for Christmas?

3. For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

Mary recognized that God’s eyes had not been drawn to her because of her superior status or accomplishments in life. She was quite inferior, actually. She was just a humble girl. But it is the humble and weak who catch God’s eye, not the impressive and the influential. 

Are you feeling small and insignificant this Christmas? Have you been frustrated because of others’ greater power or influence? Remember that God’s eyes are drawn to the humble. Consider how you might make yourself small in whatever situation you face.

4. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed. 

Most people would not consider an unplanned pregnancy which puts you at risk of being divorced—or even stoned—for something you didn’t do, as a blessing. But Mary didn’t look at this out-of-control Christmas the way a typical person would. She saw it as a blessing.

Yes, there was personal sacrifice. No doubt her neighbors and relatives had lots to say. But she wasn’t looking at her story when she considered her hardship a blessing. She was looking at God’s story.

Is there some personal sacrifice God is asking for this Christmas? How might God be weaving together a story that is bigger than you can see? Consider this. If you offer your life up the way Mary did and make even the sacrifices in your life all about God, one day there will be consensus among the people of God that you have been very blessed.

5. For he who is mighty has done great things for me.

Mary doesn’t just see this first Christmas as God’s story. It’s personal. God has used His might to do something great for her. She’s part of it, and it makes her smile. It makes her want to sing.

You’re part of it, too, dear ministry worker. You play a personal part. How has God done something great for you in this season? Is there someone growing because of your ministry? Is there someone awakening to Christ’s love? Have you gotten to pray with someone or answer their questions? Have you seen a miracle or two happen?

Take inventory of the personal ways God has met you and done mighty things so far this year. Let these recollections form a smile on your lips and a song in your heart.

Friend, I can’t promise you that the Christmas dinner (or whatever else is keeping you up at night) will be a smashing success. The ticket sales might hit a record low. The table hostesses might start a war. The decorations might not get hung. The musicians might sing off tune. And you might hear about every single out-of-your-control issue via ranting emails and abrupt texts.

But instead of being undone or overwhelmed, I invite you to sing along with Mary this Christmas. Look straight into the face of whatever you cannot control, and say as Mary did, “I am the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). By sweetly surrendering your plans to Him, you sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” and you invite others to sing along.


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About the Author

Shannon Popkin

Shannon Popkin

Shannon is a writer and speaker, who loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. She is the author of Comparison Girl, Control Girl, and Influence. Shannon is from west Michigan and is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they have the joy of parenting two college students, a high schooler, plus two adorable shih tzus.

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