Are you feeling a little lonely this Christmas? A little disconnected from the holiday spirit? Weighed down by the responsibilities of 2018 and the impossibilities of 2019? Do the scriptures feel a little less real to your circumstances, and a little more like stories? You’re not alone.
Before Jesus was born, it had been five hundred years since God’s people had heard from him. All the people in his time had were stories.
There was no “remember the time…” because no one alive had ever heard God speak or seen him move. Every story began with, “There was a time…” Elijah called fire down from heaven. Joshua led millions through the stopped up Jordan river. Moses led millions across dry ground with the Red Sea on either side of them. Esther bravely went before an evil king to save her people from mass genocide. Daniel survived a night in a lion’s den, and his friends lived through a fiery furnace unscathed because of God’s intervention.
I’m sure there were people who wondered if these stories were true or mere legends. God was so involved back then… was he ever going to make himself known again?
Then a fifteen-year-old girl is visited by an angel to tell her she’s going to be pregnant with the savior of the world. Mary would give birth to the same Messiah spoken of in all those stories, the promise God made over and over again. The Bible records she was bewildered, greatly troubled. I love her final, humble response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Her pregnancy could have gotten her stoned to death at worst, divorced at best. But God was faithful. Neither happened. He sent angels to tell both Mary and her fiancee, Joseph to lead them to Bethlehem where the Messiah was prophesied to be born all those thousands of years past.
Five hundred years without a word from God, and the Creator of the universe decides to break his silence with a teenage girl. The Bible doesn’t tell us what kind of person Mary was. She was still a virgin, unmarried, and yet somehow found favor with God. I think her reaction to the news of carrying the Messiah gives us an idea of her character. But we don’t get to know why God chose her.
I’d like to believe it’s a blessing to not know. It means He can, and does, use everyone willing to have their plans exchanged for His.
We know Jesus was born in a manger, which is about the same as being born in a pile of old hay among animal excrement and feed. We wouldn’t imagine a child being born today among livestock. Yet our King, the one responsible for our every breath, chose to be born in the humblest of circumstances. God knew. He wasn’t surprised there wasn’t any room at the inn. He wasn’t disappointed. He already knew that would be the case and prepared a place for His quiet entry.
Only his parents, a star shining bright in the sky, and the curious goats and camels were there to witness the coming of the Lord. It was only the angels who sang and rejoiced at his coming into the world he created, and it was the poorest of poor who came to meet the One they’d only heard stories about. The gifts he received came from three wise men who likely traveled for more than a month to greet the King of the Jews.
I was blessed to see two births in 2018. There are no words for the miracle of a natural birth. In both circumstances there were at least half a dozen doctors and nurses to ensure the health of the baby once she entered the world.
Jesus had only his Father to catch him.
He had only his Father to guide him in the perfect, sinless life he was destined to lead. He had only his Father to provide all that he needed to fulfill the dozens of prophesies about who he was supposed to be. He had only his Father with him as he stood before religious leaders and spoke in parables they refused to try to understand. He had only his Father to help him heal the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of sick and demon oppressed people who clamored to him for health and freedom. He had only his Father when he was exhausted, grieving loss and suffering, frustrated by the twelve men who could not seem to understand what was happening, and in moments of pure joy when he came face-to-face with faith.
Jesus had only his Father when he came into the world, and only his father when he carried his cross.
If you’re finding yourself at Christmas with nothing but your Father, know that you are in a place few are blessed to be. You are receiving a gift of intimacy with the Father that only Jesus understands, which means you have the opportunity to know God on a level few are willing to go. I know this season may feel dark, and frightening. I know your circumstances may look little better than the manger your Savior was born in, the stench of your circumstances suffocating. But as the Father caught his Son coming into this world and ensured his health and safety, you, too, are in the Father’s hands.
He’s got you. Let yourself be swaddled in his love, tightly tucked into the crook of his arm as he rocks you through this difficult season. And know that those who suffer as Christ suffered will be glorified as he is glorified. Rest in the Father.
The gifts that matter most are in your hands today. Hope. Love. Peace. They’re in your hands as the wise men lay frankincense, gold and myrrh at Mary’s feet. Jesus had everything he needed in his Father - and you have everything you need in the Son.