“The world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed…” So begins the wonderful children’s book about the birth of Jesus, ‘Song of the Stars’ by Sally Lloyd-Jones. On one hand this most incredible event, the birth of God into the world he made, happens in such obscurity. Yet there are incredible moments of magic, of revelations of God’s glory, of celebration at this great news, that make your heart leap.
It did not go by unnoticed. So who noticed it? Who got to experience those amazing moments of wonder?
- Mary and Joseph. Both Mary and Joseph had been given an incredible calling that was unique to them. They knew that the birth of this baby was a miracle beyond the usual miracle of childbirth, and that through this child God would save his people. I cannot imagine how this blew their mind when they looked at that tiny baby in an animal’s feeding trough and how difficult it must have been to imagine what God was doing through their family, but they got to experience first hand the greatest story in the world. We do not know who they shared their calling with, whether they explained what God had told them to their family and friends and whether anyone stood alongside them as they were obedient to God, other than Mary’s cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1). The fact that they had nowhere to stay in Joseph’s hometown suggests that they were ostracised by family and you would expect that they would have come up against social difficulties. What God calls us to may not always be easy or come with encouragement and support from family and friends but it does mean that we witness God at work in ways that we would not if we did not have the courage to follow Him.
- The shepherds – In the most humble, most ordinary of situations, God chooses to reveal his glory and his amazing plan in an incredible, terrifying, all-praising, all-shining angel multitude. Why them? Why those shepherds? We know nothing about them, as far as we know they had done nothing to deserve this great honour and privilege. God just bestows grace. On the most ordinary, most undeserving of people. Without warning, without any obvious reason. When God does that to us, we can respond as the shepherds did: they enjoyed it, they got excited, they sought out what God had promised them and revealed to them, they praised God and they told others.
- Simeon and Anna. Unlike the shepherds, Simeon and Anna did not need a multitude of angels to announce Christ’s coming. They knew as soon as they saw him because they had intimacy with God. Yes, God can surprise and reveal his glory to anyone whom he chooses, but when people seek Him and devote themselves to Him, He is also gracious in rewarding them. Simeon was righteous and devout and he was waiting- waiting for the Messiah. And the Holy Spirit was on Him. And Anna was also devout, spending her time worshipping God, praying and fasting. I imagine that they experienced joy in holding the baby Messiah, the son of God, in their arms, in a way that a spectacular vision of many angels could not produce. What a gift to know God, to understand his plans and purposes and to witness them coming about, to know that this is it. We can all know intimacy with God thanks to Jesus, and the more we are committed to knowing him, the more we will understand and see what He is doing and know joy in seeing God at work.
I love the Christmas story, it is incredible. Praise God that through his word we all have the chance to notice the amazing events of this story, and to be able understand the whole of what this meant for us as mankind. Let’s spend our lives noticing the other amazing things that God continues to do by being obedient to him, in step with his Spirit and in a place of worship and expectancy.