Luke 2: 15-24
When the angels had 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.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses,Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
The Shepherds, the Magi and representatives of the animal community all ‘found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger’ (Luke 2:16). That’s about as much information we get, but it’s all we need.
Mary and Joseph had their ups and downs on the way, and Joseph would have jumped ship had God not stepped in, but they get there, as one, in the end (or is it in the beginning?).
Faithfulness is not about getting it right every time, believing everything we hear from God fully and straight away, but about keeping on keeping on. We will arrive at Christmas day, despite the challenges of Advent. We’ll arrive at Christmas day, whether we’re fully prepared or not. We always do, don’t we?
There’s a variety of practices, which combine to build a strong foundation of faithfulness into our lives. Plus we’ve been taking a glimpse at many practices during Advent so far, which taken together can sound like a training program for the marathon. However, in truth, that’s not what brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, nor what brought them to the oneness between the two of them, in spite of what everyone else must have thought. Neither was it what enabled them to keep the baby Jesus safe from death during his early months, or as refugees to the safe haven of another land. This was all down to grace … the pure, unadulterated grace of God.
Everything’s down to God’s grace … ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ is a phrase not heard so much today as when I became a Christian at the age of seventeen, but it’s one which often comes to my mind. If God had not captured my heart with his grace, I genuinely cannot imagine where my life would have taken me. I didn’t get where I am today without the grace of God. Whilst for me that’s a very personal statement, it can be so for every one of us, because the limitless grace of God is always applied personally. Mary knew she had encountered the one true living God before Jesus was born. She still needed to be willing, but on that day when she looked down at the Son of God she has given birth to she knew it was down to God’s grace. Joseph also knew he had encountered the one, true living God before Jesus was born. When he looked down at the baby Jesus he knew it was down to God’s grace – if it had been left to him he’d have been nowhere to be seen.
If it’s all down to the grace of God, where do we come in and how on earth can we practice? Start today. Grab five minutes peace amidst the activity of the coming days and thank God from the bottom of your heart, for getting you here. Then pray this prayer and mean it!
|Prayer: Dear Lord. Thank you for carrying me when I’ve been unwilling to walk alongside you by your grace. Help me to re-focus my whole life, not only in thanksgiving when I fix my eyes upon you, but tomorrow and into next year in faithfulness. Give me strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other to follow you at every step, but today I simply wish to rest in your salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.