In the few weeks that lead up to Christmas, we often try to tell the whole Christmas story, which is quite a long story. From the angel’s visit to Mary telling her she would give birth to Jesus, until the family’s flight to Egypt, covers a period of two, maybe three years.
Mary and Joseph had a number of extraordinary experiences during these years. First, there are many angelic visits. An angel visits Mary and tells her she will give birth to the Messiah and a few months later an angel visits Joseph to tell him to marry Mary. Together they travel to Bethlehem and the Virgin Mary gives birth to Jesus. In Bethlehem, shepherds visit the newborn baby and tell Mary and Joseph about the amazing visitation of angels announcing the birth of the Messiah. Then there is the visit of the wise men, who came not because of angels but an unusual star. After they leave, an angel again visits Joseph, telling him to flee to Egypt. Much later in the account, another angelic visit tells Joseph it’s safe to return home.
During these years, there are also many prophecies. When Mary visits Elizabeth, they are both given prophetic utterances and later on, so is Zachariah. At Jesus’ dedication, both Simeon and Anna prophesy over Jesus.
Life becomes ordinary
Yet once Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth, their lives become very ordinary. There are no more angelic visits and the next recorded miracle is when Jesus turns water into wine, nearly 30 years later.
I imagine when Luke put together his “orderly account” (Luke 1:3), he went to Mary and asked her to tell him about Jesus’ childhood and young adult years. In my mind, I see Luke pressing Mary for information as he looks for evidence of Jesus’ real identity, “Surely there was something?”
Yet the only story we have of Jesus’ childhood is his trip to the temple where he went missing (Luke 2:41-51). And apparently, Jesus questioning the teachers in the temple when he was twelve didn’t make a lasting impression. Eighteen years later when Jesus is teaching in the temple no one says, “Oh yes, you were that pesky kid, asking all those questions, all those years ago.”
Jesus did the things that normal kids did—spilled his milk, played boisterous games, and forgot to do his chores. None of these things are sinful. They are just childish immaturity and part of growing up. The ordinariness of Jesus’ early years may explain why the Bible is silent about them, there was nothing to say. Likewise, we may go years without seeing a miracle or evidence of God’s involvement in our lives, but that’s okay because it was like that for Jesus.
Knowing his guiding Presence
My husband and I have moved often as we felt the Lord leading us to different ministry opportunities. Sometimes we were given very clear guidance, other times we just had a sense of peace that God was moving us on. Yet often after we had moved, there was no clear indication of why God had called us to a particular church or a particular town. We were left wondering, why here? why now? Sometimes we saw much fruit from our efforts, other times not so much. Many times, I was left thinking, did we get it wrong, did you really want us here, Lord?
There are seasons in our lives when God gives us more obvious indications of his Presence, whether that is through miracles, visions or prophetic words. Yet more often, God expects us to act in faith, to know that he is with us, guiding us even when there aren’t any obvious signs.
As we again remember the first Christmas, let us not only be encouraged by God’s interventions but by the knowledge that he is also with us in the ordinariness of life.
Here’s a list of links from my blogging friends who have also written an article about Christmas:
Tis the Christmas episode season by Nola Lorraine
Unto us a child is born by Steph Penny
Keeping the wonder by Dienece Darling
What does Christmas represent for me by Virginia Wright (This link is currently under repair, hope to have it working soon!)
Thank you, Susan. It can be hard to hold to faith during the ordinary. We can often rely on those big moments. I appreciate your encouragement to keep trusting and knowing that God is always with us even if things seem ordinary.
Yes, it can be hard to continue in faith when we don’t see physical evidence of God’s presence, but remembering those ‘big moments’ can really help.
Thanks for those thoughts, Susan. It is easy to forget that Jesus led a pretty ordinary life for most of those first 30 years. I guess that’s why it was hard for some of those who knew him, especially those in his own family and hometown, to recognise that he was indeed the Messiah. It would be great if we had an angelic choir singing overhead to confirm every decision we have to make, but thanks for reminding us that He is still there with us in those ordinary moments of our lives.
Yes, it would be great to have an angelic choir confirming our decisions!! But I guess then we wouldn’t need faith and faith is the thing that pleases God.
Thanks Susan, it’s true God does not always tell us why he leads us in a certain direction. Often we only get part of the story! Yet we follow, trusting him to bring something good out of it all. How often he has done that in my own life. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, we only know in part and trust God’s character for what we don’t know.