December 23, Wednesday

Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

When we think of the “Christmas story” our minds immediately go to signs of the miraculous and magical. Yuletide cards are covered with singing angels, reindeer that fly, a GPS Star, and a virgin who gives birth. But there is nothing particularly magical or miraculous in our advent passage for today; at least nothing obviously so.  The first seven verses of Luke read more like the minutes from a Chamber of Commerce meeting than an announcement of the coming of God’s son. Everybody in this part of the story was just doing what he or she was supposed to do.
(1) Augustus took a census so he could probably increase his tax base. Typical.
(2) Governor Quirinius looked on jealously from Syria. Big deal.
(3) Everyone went to his or her own hometowns to be registered. That’s the rules.
(4) Even nativity-scene Joseph was just doing what he was supposed to do. He went to Bethlehem because that’s where his grandparents are from. And he took pregnant Mary with him. What else was he gonna do with her?  
(5) The baby’s about to be born, but hey, it’s the Census Season. All the holiday visitors have booked up the Hampton. So Mary does what any good first century mother would do. She made due with what she had, a stable, a makeshift blanket, and a food trough. Nothing special going on here. Or is there?  

Sometimes the biggest surprises and blessings come not when you make grand plans and life-changing decisions. They come when you are just doing what you always do; checking the next thing off your to-do list. Being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do can put us in places where we can experience the miraculous in ways we wouldn’t anticipate. Just “leaning forward” into your typical, humdrum, Christmas routine and responsibilities, might put you in a place where God can surprise you this season. I’m a chaplain at the VA and last year we got a few hundred Christmas cards from kids in Mountain Home. They were homemade cards sent to Veterans in the hospital. As usual, a few of us had to sit down and open every single one of the cards as a part of hospital protocol. To us, this was just another annoying Christmas task that a VA chaplain has to do. About ten cards into reading what these kids wrote, our eyes began to widen. Their candid words, creative artwork, and bold generosity stirred our souls. Before long, we were laughing, taking pictures of the cards and fighting over the next stack. It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that this mundane task made my Christmas season and gave me much-needed and unexpected joy. If you’re not experiencing the magic and splendor of the holiday spirit yet, don’t worry. Maybe you are right where you need to be. Maybe you, like Joseph and Mary, just need to keep on doing what you’re supposed to do and let the miracle come to you.

What are some of the routine things you have to do this Christmas that God might surprise me in? Who is one person that you always see at Christmas that God might want you to approach in a unique and maybe even miraculous way? 

God, our expectations of Christmas are all over the map. Some of us long for a unique experience that reminds us of the presence of Christ and that Christmas is still special. Others of us are just trudging through our Christmas obligations till Christmas goes away for another ten and half months. Wherever we are today in our Christmas walk Lord, may you give us the willpower to keep on doing what we know we are supposed to do, and give us the grace to open our eyes to the miraculous in the midst of the mundane. Amen. 

By Steve Sullivan, CBFAR Coordinating Council member
Providence Baptist Church, Little Rock


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