Yesterday our pastor re-told the story of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and preparing for their baby’s birth. His sermon’s point was that Christmas can have a different message for different people at different times in their lives.
For instance, papa Joseph (below, from my Catholic-influenced, Mexican-made nativity set) was confused about Mary getting pregnant by who-in-the-world-knew who?! (Matthew 1.18-25.) But an angel met Joseph in a dream and told him that Mary’s conception was caused by the Holy Spirit and that he ought to marry her in spite of how things looked. Joseph hung in there and was patient.
Then we have Mary (looking for all the world like a Catholic schoolgirl, below). She was initially frightened and uncertain about what was happening and what would happen in the future. (Luke 1.26-38.) But she too was calmed by a visiting angel and, after hearing how God desired to have her be the mom of Jesus, she responded willingly. She sat still before the Lord and was able to accept this ethereal mystery. Mary accepted the inexplicable and pondered it in her heart.
The angels kept busy. Next stop: shepherds (in worn choir robes, below). On the night Jesus was born, nearby shepherds were going about their everyday, ordinary shepherding routine, staying alert, watching for anything unusual in order to keep their animal charges safe. (Luke 2.8-18.) Talk about unusual! First one and then a multitude of angels came to herald this spectacular event of the Savior’s birth. What did those ordinary, alert, observant shepherds do? They responded! They went.
The wise men, although not actually present that night, played a part in this story. (Does my guy not look like he stopped at the monastery barber en route?) Like the shepherds, they too were watching. They noted an amazing, significant star in the sky and packed up and followed it from a very distant land. They carefully chose gifts to bring to the Christ child they would eventually meet. These men made a concerted and wholehearted effort to seek God. (Matthew 2.1-12.)
Our pastor also talked about the innkeeper (“Pay attention because God is near!”) and about Anna and Simeon (“Don’t give up, even when you’ve been waiting a long, long time. God’s time and economy is different from the world’s!”).
But I found that I have one more character to add — a sheep, which certainly tagged along with the shepherds. This morning, while I was reading in the Psalms, my passage for the day included this:
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments (Psalm 119.176).
Do I have to admit how often this is me? It’s often. I get off-track, feel lost and astray (and wander in dusty fields, above :) ). But how sweet the words, “seek your servant” — for that is what God does when we ask. I do not have to find my own way back; I only have to cry for help. What a Savior.