Christmas Expectations and Manger Moments
- Monday, December 19, 2011
Oh! The expectations we have for Christmas... and the expectations every other member in the family has for Christmas! We put so much importance on this particular day of the year!
As I was reading through the Christmas story this year and pondering what it must have been like to see the first Christmas through the eyes of those God chose to play a part in His grand story, I realized that each one of those individuals must have had their own set of expectations as well.
The people of Israel expected an earthly king, rather than a spiritual redeemer. I wonder if the angels expected their birth announcement to go to more “important” people than shepherds. I am sure the shepherds never dreamed that they would be caught up in such a special and privileged place in God’s plan! And then my mind came to Mary.
God graciously gave Mary affirmation through her cousin Elizabeth and her betrothed husband in the faith-stretching task that had been granted to her. None of us has been given a task like Mary. But many of us can relate to the way obedience stretches our faith. There are times when we “know that we know that we know” that we were called to some particular act of service and we feel it! Then there are times (usually when the task gets hard or a little puzzling) that we might know it, but we don’t really feel it like we might have before.
I am sure Mary went through a similar roller-coaster. It isn’t recorded what her parents thought, but I have often wondered. Obviously Joseph didn’t believe Mary until God gave Him a dream. Was there ever a moment when she wondered if maybe it had all just been a crazy dream? It was a very large task for a young girl who probably felt she was much too little for it all.
After the nine months came to their close, and Immanuel was ready to dwell with us, her time came and she gave birth. But if I had been her, I would have expected the whole process to look a lot differently. I would have expected a nice, clean, warm... perhaps even slightly royal place to give birth to the King of Kings - not a stable! I would have expected that there would be room for me and my baby at the local inn; I would have never dreamed we would be shut out in the cold. And I would have NEVER expected strangers to pop on over after delivering my first baby in a stable, for cryin’ out loud!
But God always does the unexpected, doesn’t He?
And when we answer “yes” to His call to serve Him, we, like Mary, will have our manger moments. Moments when we look at our life and think “I thought it would be so different.... did I do something wrong to end up here?... I thought it would feel so different... I thought it would be easier... I thought they would want me...God, I trusted You and obeyed - I don’t understand this?...” But those moments are quite often simply part of the good plan God is working out.
God calls all of us to serve Him. And if you are staring at your own manger moment, take heart! You are not alone! I don’t know any mom who hasn’t hit a few walls and wondered if maybe she just isn’t cut out to raise these kids. But God entrusted them to her and she is equipped; it is just a manger moment.
Couples hit seasons when they feel like marriage is just too hard. But it’s just a manger moment because God did call you two to love, honor and serve each other and if you let Him, He will guide you through it all! Pastors and pastor’s wives, missionaries, Sunday school teachers and anyone who has set their hand to serve the Lord and His people have all hit some place where the pieces discouragingly just don’t seem to fit - like a King born in a stable. It’s just a manger moment; stay faithful through the cold dark night!
If you have stepped out in faithful obedience, remember we all have our manger moments. As Mary and Joseph sat in that stable wondering at all that had transpired, a choir of angels announced Jesus’ birth to some very precious shepherds. As you ponder your manger moment, remember that God is probably orchestrating something you can’t see and wouldn’t have imagined - like the angels, shepherds and a celestial birth announcement!
May God’s grace surround you as you serve, obey and trust Him!
April Motl and her husband, Eric, minister at their church in New England where he is the senior pastor. April is the founder of In His Eyes Ministries; a teaching ministry devoted to helping women see their life from God’s perspective. For more information about the ministry visit www.InHisEyesMinistries.com or her Crosswalk blog.
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