By Paula Damon
“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load … who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow … rest beside the weary road … and hear the angels sing!” – Lyrics from “It came upon a midnight clear” by Edmund Sears
When Christians the world over celebrate the birth of Christ, we sometimes experience God moments of speechless enchantment. The glow of twinkling lights through long winter nights, the familiar chorus “all is calm, all is bright, sleep in heavenly peace” stirs in us either a complete fullness or a total emptiness. Such dueling sensations are hard to grasp, let alone explain.
In every last strand and string of Christmas, there exists a push-pull which can be delightfully inviting and at the same time dangerously overwhelming. No matter how much money we spend to celebrate, we can’t seem to achieve that certain merriness everyone is wishing us.
I think striving for an unrealistic picture of perfection is why so many people experience depression around the holidays.
When we are all caught up in the frenetic pace of wrapping and unwrapping Christmas, maybe we should count to 10 and remember what the holy family endured: Mary (having a baby out of wedlock), Joseph (not the biological father) and the Christ child (no vacancies in Bethlehem and born in a stinky stable). The story of Jesus’ birth was not a flawless manger scene that was imperviously cast with Hollywood characters.
We also have a tendency to be overly impressed with Bible figures – so much that we just can’t see ourselves fitting into the Biblical mix of things.
In his translation of Holy Scripture, titled “The Message/Remix,” Pastor Eugene H. Peterson says when we see ourselves as uninvolved observers of God’s work, we disqualify ourselves. “Our unimpressive, very ordinary lives make us outsiders to such a star-studded cast. … We conclude that we are somehow not religious and thus unfit to participate in the big story.”
But, look again. Throughout Bible times, God did not choose members of the in-crowd. He selected ordinary people. Some were outcasts, others weak, a number defiant, still others disobedient and almost all were fearful.
From Daniel to David, Ruth to Esther, from John the Baptist to Paul, God steadily and quietly worked through these ordinary everyday characters.
What about Joseph – an unsuspecting bystander in the Salvation story, an average Joe who at the news that his soon-to-be betrothed was with child, became fearful and prepared to run for his life. He did not give into his fears, but instead paid attention to those God moments leading to birth of a baby king (Matt. 1:20 and Mark 2:13-23).
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.”
Like Joseph, we too are afraid. We fear crimes against us. We fear injury and disease. We fear loss of love and livelihood.
When in reality, the greatest threat we face is overlooking God’s actions in our lives, missing those God moments, not noticing the God things happening all around us – all because we are too distracted, too busy, too self-focused, too afraid to notice … too unworthy.
Mother Teresa, made famous through her selfless serving of the poor in India, once said, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. … We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
From Ruth to Mary, from Job to Jonah, down through the ages from our grandparents, parents, to you and me – God is steadily and quietly working through us to bring about God’s will in our families, throughout churches, among neighbors, between enemies – around the world. This is where the real action is!
Let us remember. We count. What we do counts. How we respond to God’s still quiet voice counts.
God is working among us.
Source: “The Message/Remix” by Eugene H. Peterson