So I'm sitting here at the end of a very merry Christmas and reflecting on the holiday which is so full of family and friends, love and joy, gifts and thanksgiving. I think it's difficult for anyone to remember the "reason for the season" in the midst of all the shopping, lights, and carols. Not to say all of the hoopla isn't enjoyable - because it definitely is! Yet even for those who genuinely desire to place Jesus at the center of the season, who want to genuinely worship at the Christmas Eve service - well it's still just difficult. I can't really describe why. I mean maybe it's just me. Maybe it's the familiarity of it all, the distractions, or even just all the excitement of reunions and family that can bring me away from remembering that ALL of this - the lights, the gifts, the food - is all to commemorate how God brought His son to transform the world.
I was reflecting on that this morning. No one in my family bothers to wake up early now that we're older and there are no children in the family [for now - baby Caleb will be here any day now!! :)]. I'm the oddball in that I prefer early mornings and despise procrastination in a family who lives for late nights, later mornings, and last-minute shopping. So in the quiet of the morning I was spending precious time with the Lord, reflecting on the holiday and the story of Jesus.
And this is what I realized.
Maybe it's hard to truly remember the birth of Jesus during Christmas because the way we celebrate is the complete opposite to how God chose for it all to go down.
I know we've all heard it. We've all heard the story. We've sang the carols. We've watched the church plays and gazed at nativity scenes. But really, if you stop and think about it...the story of Jesus is really stinkin cool. It is just SUCH a story of humility. A story of how God chose the unexpected, young, and willing Mary to carry His Son who would change the world forever. He chose the faithful Joseph to be the earthly father of His Son, the Messiah. He allowed those who were obedient and ready to experience that day when Jesus was born into the world. He chose the humble setting of a manger - so simple that only a few knew of the birth that would change the world...forever.
Now, millions celebrate baby Jesus, or at least the holiday that commemorates that day. Yet we make the occasion so extravagant, we bury Jesus under the twinkling lights and over-the-top parties. But when you look at the story of Jesus, the "Christmas Story" you see something very different. Generations had prophesied about this Messiah who would come and change the course of history, many expected things to be over-the-top, maybe they expected the kind of celebration we now traditionally have to remember this birth. But God did not lay out the story to be this way. He chose simple, He chose difficult.
Then there's Mary and Joseph.
They had to suffer on a long journey. They had to face rejection and loneliness as they traveled far from their families. Their circumstance led them to look to God for comfort and reassurance, it allowed for God to equip them as they brought Jesus into the world in a strange place with nothing. I mean for pete's sake, Mary made a manger out of straw!
But then...their faithfulness in that difficult place was rewarded when those who God chose to experience baby Jesus came with gifts and worshiped.
Man, isn't that what it's about?
To be willing to follow God no matter what that means like Mary and Joseph, and to trust that He will be with you. Taking the long journey, facing the hardship and times of loneliness, allowing God to equip and provide for you, and experiencing how your obedience can draw others in to come and worship Jesus.
That is the reward.
Not monetary gain or a bigger mansion in Heaven. The reward is experiencing when God is brought greater glory and experiencing how God chose and used YOU to accomplish that. Despite your inadequacies, He chose you. Mary and Joseph didn't receive the praise that night, but they received the reward of sharing in the righteousness of God. Their reward came when they were chosen to play a part of the story of Jesus - His birth, and later His death and resurrection. They were part of the transformation of the world.
It's personal transformation and being chosen to play a role in the transformation of others for the glory of God - which is the greatest gift of all.