When looking at the Christmas narrative, the supernatural events surrounding Jesus’ birth dominate our focus. As we read the beginning of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, it is very easy to freeze Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, the Magi, and Herod into two-dimensional characters witnessing angelic messages and spirit-filled dreams. It is helpful to remember that they were flesh and blood people and that most of their life details are not recorded in Scripture. How do they deal with God’s unfolding plan for their lives?
Mary and Joseph were betrothed. They were anticipating a married life together and the hopeful blessings of a future family when God intervened. Mary will bear the Son of God and Joseph will raise the child as his own. The shepherds were living and working in the fields. Considered ceremonially unclean because of their work, they had come to terms with their limited and low status in society when God intervened. The angelic proclamation of the birth of Jesus is given to these men and they are brought near to the Son of God in worship. Three astrologers in the East are looking for the sign of the Messiah, and then one ordinary day, they find that God has arrived. The Magi immediately travel to Bethlehem and see the young Jesus and offer worship and extravagant gifts because they recognize God has entered time and space.
The question before us is not whether God will intervene in our lives, but rather how we respond when He does. Life just doesn’t turn out as we would plan, but that is very often when God reveals His presence. Relationships are broken; cancer ravages a loved one; good friends move far away; children and parents lock in conflict. When God interrupts our lives, do we react by wrestling in faith with his providence, seeking his love and trusting his fatherly care? As Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, and the Magi learned, no life works out as expected, but the Lord is at work.
This Christmas, take the hopes and fears of all your years to God.
He will meet you.
Anthony is the Director of Worship and Communications at Arden Presbyterian Church in NC.
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