My very first post on this blog was centered around Mary’s role in the Christmas story (See here). Basically, I felt God asking me if I would be willing to wreck my image for His greater plan. Well, this post has become even more relevant over the last few weeks. As Christmas quickly approaches, I am overwhelmed with everything I need to get done and all the Christmas movies I need to watch. For some reason we limit the jolliest time of the year to about a month depending on how early/late Thanksgiving is. Despite my bitterness for society’s under appreciation of Christmas culture, I have also been thinking about more important things. The story of Christmas in the Bible is so rich with lessons on how God’s plan works. We are all a part of God’s plan, and I hate how seasonal the “Christmas story” (aka birth of Jesus) has become. While I suppose I can suppress my love for Christmas lights and Christmas cookies at the end of each year, I refuse to box away the value of the Christmas story. The more I read it, the more I learn about who Christ is and what that means for my life. So, what has Christmas taught me about Christ?
1) I am qualified and chosen by God. From the outside, Mary was the least qualified to mother Jesus. She was not married and had never been a mother before; however, she was willing. More recently, I have felt God asking me to stop limiting Him. I tend to use my own definition of love to limit the unconditional and unfailing love He has for me. I also tend to limit how useful I am to God by focusing on all of my weaknesses. I think I am too shy to share The Gospel to those in need, or that I am too socially-awkward to speak of God’s love in a captivating and accurate way. God doesn’t ask us to be experts or professionals, he only asks us to be willing and to trust that His strength and spirit will compensate for any weakness we have. You don’t have to feel qualified to be called by God. It is not our own strength or ability that makes us useful to God’s kingdom. In fact, it is in our inadequacies that we see how powerful God is! Being able to overcome our own limitations illustrates how limitless God’s plan for our life is, and how He is capable of making the impossible, possible. What qualifies us is His seal of love and ownership for each of His children. God chose YOU and ME to be world changers!
2) Christ never promised comfort. I think sometimes we subconsciously expect Christianity to be comfortable and pleasant all the time. We expect God to pour His blessings into our life so that we won’t have to struggle through this corrupt world. But, Jesus was born in a STABLE WITH ANIMALS! I just imagine what Mary must have been thinking….like, “Sure God I will be the earthly mother to the SON OF GOD! That sounds pretty epic…but wait THIS is where you expect me to have this child…in a stable. But you’re God. Can’t you magically make a comfortable room and bed appear??” Mary must have felt mislead or even betrayed. It amazes me that God allowed his one and only son to have a less than glorious birth. I mean, if I was God there would have been like soft pillows, the best midwives, and some soothing music all ready-to-go for the birth of Jesus. I think sometimes we commit to do the parts of God’s plan that sound exciting and life-changing, but when we see the stable we feel mislead. We hear that God’s calling for our life includes blessings…so then we decide what blessings we think we deserve. I think sometimes we expect luxury, when God only promises stability (get it…. a stable pun…heyyyyooooo). God has and will continue to bless His children. But, sometimes the blessing looks more like baby Jesus than like a perfect environment. I think sometimes we focus more on the stable God brought us to and forget the fact that he also gave us Jesus! We cannot always look short term or at how comfortable we feel today to see how good God is. I believe that the minute Mary looked into the eyes of a healthy baby Jesus and saw the people coming to worship, her own personal comfort became the least of her worries. I believe that in that moment she saw the bigger picture, and she saw just how good God is to His children.
3) Jesus is enough. Often, Christians get caught up in what they can get in return for following Christ. The greedy and selfish part of Christmas culture that focuses on the gifts being received has infected how we view the gift of Jesus…or maybe our greedy Christianity has infected Christmas(?). Matthew 2:11 says,
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (NIV).
I think sometimes as Christians (myself very much included), we worship God and then wait to see what we will receive. We think, “Okay God, I’ve been praying and reading my Bible….bring on the blessings. I am ready…anytime now.” The way that the wise men approached Jesus illustrates how we should approach Him in our everyday life. First, we should follow the stars God plants in our life even though we cannot see the destination. The wise men walked confidently toward where God was guiding them not because they knew where they were going but because they knew the star was from God. They had faith. Second, never miss an opportunity to worship first. The very first thing the wise men did was worship. They did not spark conversation with Mary or allow their thoughts to be distracted by the fact that Jesus was just born in a STABLE WITH ANIMALS (maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be so crazy). They arrived and then worshiped which speaks to how focused they were on God’s plan. When we truly realize the significance of what it means to live out God’s plan (key word being God’s… not Abbey’s) the destination becomes less important. The wise men were worshiping the fulfillment of God’s promise…and when we see God’s promises being fulfilled our first reaction should always be to worship! Lastly, after humbling themselves in worship, they gave. If we are truly humbling ourselves in worship, then we should never feel focused on what benefits we will receive. Our question should always be, “What do I have to give back? How can I give more?” The wise men did not journey to the stable because they wanted Mary to pull some gifts out from behind the manger and bless them. They came to the stable because of Jesus. Jesus was/is the blessing. Jesus is enough.
While there is so much more I could write, I will end this post here before it gets too long. God’s master plan is glorious, but it can involve a lot of unglamorous details. Our life story is only one detail in God’s big book, just like the birth of Jesus is just a brief part of God’s master plan to save mankind. It is all significant, but on its own, it is incomplete. I urge you all to think about how each person in the Christmas Story contributed to God’s greater plan, and what that means for you as you enter 2016.