In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
I think I’ve been looking forward to Christmas since March. While I can’t control many of the events 2020 has produced, I can control some things—traditions (except that canceled parade), decking the halls of our new house, and surprising my kids this morning. These seemingly little acts of familiarity feel monumental when we are in such (dare I say it yet again) unprecedented times. What has felt like a continual compromise of convenience has created a desire for comfort, especially this holiday season.
But as we know, a call to Christ is hardly a call to comfort and convenience. And even in a year as chaotic as 2020, our obedience is still required—even when it isn’t easy. While it is often necessary to process feelings of frustration and despair in an appropriate manner, what we do with our emotional discombobulation is vital not only to our health, but to the benefit of those around us.
As you reflect on today’s passage, be reminded that Mary had to process the fact that she would be pregnant with the Savior of the world by means of the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph had to reconcile the fact that his betrothed was pregnant with this Child, and he was to be His earthly father! This was neither timely or convenient, as Joseph and Mary were still not married at the time of this news, putting both of their reputations at stake in their Law-abiding Jewish culture.
However, at the word from the angel, each willingly submitted to their Heavenly Father in obedience, providing the perfect backdrop for the greatest rescue story in the history of the world: God on high, clothed in humanity, leaving His heavenly throne, and entering a dark and desolate world in the form of a baby. In this, Christ, too, submitted to His Father in obedience for our salvation. From His humble beginning in a trough to a cursed death on a tree, each step of His life was in obedience to God in order that we may be reconciled to Him.
There’s no doubt that the world we found ourselves in 2020 flipped everything we’ve ever known—in every facet of our lives—and turned it on its head. It’s easy to become stagnant when we can’t see the next step, and we may be tempted to shut down. But our hope is not in stability. Our hope is in Christ. Praise God for the obedience of His Son, that we may be united with Him and have our steps directed by the Lord. This enables us to walk in obedience, even when the journey is difficult.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Have you experienced a disappointment this year that has impacted your obedience to Christ? In what way did you elevate your hope in an expectation over your hope in Christ?
- Obedience often requires sacrifice, big or small. What is something you need to sacrifice in order to walk in obedience to the Lord?
Gather around a nativity fixture or picture. Talk about the different people depicted and their importance to the story of Jesus’ birth. (If you have younger children, let them pick up – if it’s not breakable – or point to the figures). Next, ask your children to explain how each person from this story showed obedience to God. Point out how each person from the story obeyed God in their respective ways and that God used that obedience for His glory and perfect plan – the birth and announcement of His Son. Remind your family that God has a plan and purpose for each of us and when we obey what He asks us to do (even when it seems uncertain or doesn’t make sense), He uses it for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
Pray for openness to the gospel as families celebrate the coming of the Christ child around the world today, and in your own family. Pray for peace between God and people, through the reconciliation that only Christ can bring.