As I write to you, we have come through a period of multiplied grief. Several families have experienced loss in death. Others are going through the grinding routine of chemotherapy. I cannot help but wonder what will come next—I actually try to not think about it!
In the midst of all of that, we are in what is commonly called “the holiday season.” But if there is anything more burdensome to hurting, grieving people than the idea of a “holiday” I am not sure what it would be. But properly understood, this holiday is the best for the grieving and hurting!
Think with me about the elements of what we call the Christmas story and the message of what happened, and what we should learn from it.
First, remember that Israel had waited for the Messiah for a long time. The promise of Genesis 3:15 was given some 1400 years before it was fulfilled in Christ. For people like us who can get impatient waiting 60 seconds for a traffic light to change, that would seem like an eternity! It is personal waiting, not “cosmic” waiting that bothers us. At least it seems that way.
In the Christmas story there were two people who made the cosmic wait their personal wait as well: Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-38). Both had lived long lives, both were waiting intently for the promised Messiah, both were rewarded with seeing the baby Jesus and both professed their contentment with their lot as well as readiness to die. What single minded passion and devotion! Seeing Jesus was worth the wait, even through years of the deterioration of age. What we want most determines our joy, not our circumstances. For us who are living in the last days, looking for Jesus more than circumstances, especially as we get older, makes all the difference!
A second element we should learn from is the unlikely seekers of the Christ. Israel was massively dismissive of the birth of their king, but others left home and family to seek Him.
The Magi are distinctive for their active seeking, and they were gentiles! What a picture of Jesus’ later statement, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) That great question from Jesus ought to shift our focus at all times, especially at Christmas: “Whom do you seek?” (John 18:4).
A third group that instructs us is the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). They were at work when God interrupted their lives and livelihoods. Granted, most will never see the skies filled with angels! But we can tell others about Christ at His birth and we can glorify and praise God for the interruptions to our usual routines which His plan and purpose ordain. When we stop talking about Christ we have lost the wonder of Christ.
Finally, there is the amazing response of Mary to all that she experienced. Yes, she is an example of surrender to the will of God, but the manner of her surrender is also important.
Imagine for a moment that she found herself at the door of a Planned Parenthood clinic. What counsel would she receive from the people of the world? What would be their reasoning?
The most common slogan of rebellion against God in every generation is a variation on the theme, “It’s not fair!” In other words, “This is unjust!” A young woman who had maintained her purity is now pregnant. A woman awaiting her wedding day would now face the loss of her groom as well as the respect of her friends.
But Mary saw more involved. Her “Magnificat” is an arresting bit of musical praise, called forth in the most difficult of circumstances! Her focus should alter ours.
First, she saw herself as blessed because of her role in history, not society. Her peers would see her as cursed, but because of future generations she would be blessed (Luke 1:48-50). This is exactly the opposite of the value system of our society today. But it is still the mindset of those who have embraced God’s value system with humility at its pinnacle.
Second, she was cognizant of the promise of God and saw her situation in light of that promise. When she looked at the promise given to “the fathers” she saw herself in the same light (Luke 1:44-45). In her mind the fact of her pregnancy was the proof that God keeps His promises. The injustice of her circumstances would bring about the ultimate justice of God, overcoming the high and mighty through the faith of the meek and lowly (Luke 1:50-53 with 1 Cor. 1:26-29). Her personal experience of seeming injustice would bring about eternal justice and righteousness.
From now until the Christmas Day, I encourage you to contemplate these four responses to the Advent of the Christ (Messiah). We are close to His second advent, may we learn from those who were a part of His first.
- Wait patiently with clear focus on His coming (Titus 2:13).
- Seek Him diligently in His Word (Heb. 11:16).
- Tell others about Him (Acts 1:8).
- View every seeming injustice you experience as an opportunity to manifest the grace of God bestowed uniquely on the humble (2 Cor. 12:9-10).