This is the sixth reflection in the “Missio Advent” series. Read the rest here.
If you have had the chance to visit Israel for any length amount of time, you’ll hear countless references to Christ’s ordinary life on earth, naturally enough: “Come and see the places where Jesus walked!” Or, “Here he worked, here he preached, and here he lay.” In places like Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem, physical landmarks help us to pay attention to Jesus’ visit to mankind on earth.
What I caught myself wondering during time spent among these holy sites is one whose importance has grown with me over time: What if I afforded as much attention, as much celebration, as much reverence to Christ visiting me, my life, my places, and the world around me today as I do for Christ’s visit to earth in such places and during such seasons as this?
The four weeks of the Advent season help us to see how the Lord is the Master of using stories to make himself known to the world. He spared none of his amazing artistry when he came in flesh, displaying his ability to weave characters, timing, and setting in a magnificent order to teach us more of his wisdom and goodness and omnipotence.
And now we have a gift in that the saints before us ordered the Advent season so we are able to digest parts of this story one week at a time. Taking each of the four elements of this story leading up to Christ’s birth, it is my hope that I may not only continue to familiarize myself with the layers of Christ’s story, but also that I may also further familiarize myself with the details of my own story, visited by the Living King.
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us. In the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us–to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father, Abraham: To rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…” Luke 1:68-75
It is no secret that the birth and life of Jesus on earth fulfills God’s promises mentioned in this passage, as well as generations of dialogue between the Lord and his people in which he continuously assures them of his faithfulness and his plan to restore his creation. But his promises are true in the grand elements of the stories as well as in the individual promises he makes to Mary, and even Elizabeth. We find in this a beautiful assurance of the Lord’s faithfulness to the commitments he makes to all of humanity and the promises he makes to individual people.
Affording a similar faith to the truth that the Lord is visiting our lives, and has been since before we were born, let us give particular attention to how his promises to us have been and are being fulfilled. Where have I seen the Lord surmount unusual odds and circumstances to demonstrate his love to me? Where have I seen His promises of healing, restoration, and redemption already in my life? And more importantly, where have I not yet been able to recognize His fulfillment of a promise I believe He has made to me?
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Luke 2:4
Unusual and unconventional are the places the Lord leads us in his effort to establish us in our rightful place as holy, humble servants. We know from this Advent story, as well as many biblical narratives, that place and location are not the point, but are often the means for the Lord to get to us. Joseph brought Mary to Bethlehem because it was a necessary step to obey the laws of the land. But the Lord used Joseph and Mary’s relocation to this place to accomplish far more for this story. How has the Lord surprised me by moving me from place to place, situation to situation, accomplishing far more than I could imagine is possible based on the geography or opportunities I see? How has my particular position in time and space right now served as an instrument for the Lord reaching me?
“But the angel said to them, ‘do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord…” Luke 2:10-11
Luke tells us that as one angel of the Lord was delivering this news to the Shepherds, they were terrified—and then a host of angels appeared! We can only imagine the overwhelming emotion of this scene. The Lord chose those unmistakably marked by his glory to deliver such important news. The Shepherds, positioned in a place to be reached by them, heard this loud and clear. Are we presently positioning ourselves to both hear truth and good news from those close to the Lord’s heart? Who have these people been in the past, and who might the Lord be nudging us to seek out in this regard? Furthermore, are we willing to consistently put ourselves around these saints, these angels, with an openness to respond when the Lord speaks through them?
“When the angels has left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Luke 2:15
An easily overlooked detail of this story is the shepherds’ simple response to this announcement. Because we know where this story leads, we may not find the shepherds’ reaction as remarkable as it truly is. But beyond the unbelievable faith demonstrated by the awe-struck team of shepherds willing to follow this divine instruction, there is something else to see: the shepherds responded together, collectively, in mutual encouragement, agreeing that they should follow. O, how deep-seeded is our longing for friendships like this. Am I surrounding myself with the kind of friends, teammates, and allies who see glory, hear truth, and in response come to me saying, “Let’s go to it.” Who have been these blessed companions in my life in the past, and who is serving this role alongside me right now? Equally, would others know me as such a companion, who hears truth, sees holiness, and extends an honest invitation to pursue with me?
Taking each week of this season one step at a time, I find sustaining nourishment, as well as an ever-so-slight shift of the rudder of my ship, guiding me to know and see more clearly parts of my story–its past, present and future. This Advent, may we all press in further than we have before, and be reminded that we are a visited people.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this story. Thank you for allowing us in our present day to know the details surrounding your arrival to this earth and years of visiting your creation in flesh. Give us minds to recognize not only the magnificence of this complex, marvelous Advent narrative, as well as eyes to see and celebrate the intricate and particular ways you have visited each of our stories during our time on earth, however brief. Create in us a pure heart as we examine our lives this season, Lord, that we would not come to idolize our story nor celebrate it by human standards, but that we would grow in reverence and awe with each realization of your faithfulness and goodness to us and all of creation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Mollie Moore moved to the Washington, D.C., area, just over a year ago from Waco, Texas, where she graduated from Baylor University. A former fellow in The Falls Church Anglican Fellows Program, she now works in the U.S. Senate and resides in Arlington, but just as much claims “home” to be the Pacific Northwest, where her parents currently live. Mollie welcomes your comments below, whether about this post, or anything under the sun.
Photo: Mollie Moore