Unlikely Moments of Ministry

Since becoming a mother, Christmas has taken on a new significance. Before giving birth to my precious girls, I did not think about what it must have been like for Mary to carry and then give birth to her Messiah.

What was going through the hearts and minds of this young couple as they realized their Savior was about to be born? Being 90 miles away from her mother, was Mary nervous or scared?[1] Who, besides Joseph, aided her in this most significant of nights?

Most importantly, what can this young mother teach us about loving and serving others?

The first Christmas Day came without warning. In order for Scripture to be fulfilled, God orchestrated a decree that every family in the Roman world was to go back to its place of origin, so Mary and Joseph began their journey back to the City of David. During their time in Bethlehem, Scripture says that the time came for Mary to give birth. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Considering my first child was almost a month early, I understand the element of surprise that childbirth brings. Here this young mother, 90 miles from family and possibly her own mother, gives birth to our Savior. Most mothers dream about what it will be like when their child finally arrives. Certainly, a backroom and a manger (feeding trough for animals) were not high on Mary’s list as a proper place her Son’s birth.

If anyone had a “right” to a sense of entitlement, it was Mary. After all, she was the one who was chosen by God to give birth to the Messiah. Instead, we see a humble woman who was willing to do whatever God asked of her.

How do you handle difficult situations that arise without warning?

My prayer this Christmas season is that we would be women of faith who trust God, even when we do not understand His plan or His timing.

The first Christmas visitors were considered without worth. In Luke 2:8, Scripture pulls us away from the manger scene and gives us a look out into the surrounding fields. In modern pageants, shepherds are almost glorified as being these humble, sweet men who lay in the fields awaiting the birth of Christ.

But in that day, shepherds were often regarded as outcasts in their society.[2] Plus, since they spent all their time with sheep, they probably smelled bad. Yet, God chose these unlikely men to be the first ones to herald the news of the Savior’s birth.

Imagine the scene. A child had been born in the backroom of a home; a mother and father are quietly singing and marveling over the birth of this new child, when suddenly a buzz begins to erupt in Bethlehem. Shepherds are going through the streets proclaiming that the Christ, the Anointed One, had been born. As they make their way to the manger, Mary realizes that these first visitors are not the important people of the city but lowly, unclean shepherds. Once again, I am amazed by Mary’s response to these men. Instead of shielding her Child from their uncleanness, she welcomed them; it was for these men her Child had been born.

Do you welcome the outcasts and “unclean” people of society, or do you shun them?

During this Christmas season, it is easy to get so inwardly focused that we do not look around for people who may need a touch from the Savior. Some have no place to go for Christmas, and we can open up our homes and invite them over for Christmas dinner. Some have no gifts to give their children, and we can open our wallets to help give instead of only receive.

More importantly, many have no knowledge that the Savior has been born, and we can open our mouths, as the shepherds did on that amazing night, and proclaim the birth of the Messiah.

The first Christmas wish was without complete understanding. Luke 2:19 says that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This parallels verse 51, which comes right after Mary and Joseph found the then twelve-year old Jesus instructing the teachers in the temple at Jerusalem.

The phrase “treasured all these things” means that Mary did not fully know or understand all that had transpired, beginning with the visit from Gabriel to the birth of Jesus.[3] Mary knew that this Child was the Messiah for whom her people had prayed and had waited for centuries to see. But she certainly did not understand or know all that would happen to Him as He, the God-Man, lived in the midst of a cruel and sinful world. Mary knew that her Child was born to be the Savior of man, but how could she have known that humanity’s salvation would mean she would witness her Son’s cruel execution 33 years later?

So, for that night, she looked at her firstborn and marveled. She marveled at all that had happened and trusted God for all that would come. We, too, live in a world where things happen that just do not make sense, and yet God urges us to trust Him and rely on Him.

Do you choose to trust in the Lord when you don’t fully understand what He is working?

Do you believe that He sees the future, and we can trust His unseen hand? My prayer for us this season is that we would learn from Mary and be willing to open up our hearts to trust this Child who was born 2,000 years ago.

 


[1] Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes. (Biblical Studies Press, 2006).

[2] Robert H. Stein. Vol. 24. Luke. The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992), 108.

[3] Ibid., 110.