Christmas can be a wonderful yet challenging season of the year. With family traditions and their relative expectations (pun intended) coming alongside the challenge to make things new and fresh every year, there is a lot of tension. These tensions seem to be heightened due to the challenges of the last couple of years. What do we celebrate at Christmas, and what does it really mean personally and corporately?
The simple, yet complex answer is the Birth of Jesus. This birth would set in motion the plan of God for the redemption of the world. That is quite the thing to celebrate. As I have prepared for sermons and presentations this season there is one thing that has stuck out to me. The concept of obedience and how it is central to the story of Christmas.
Throughout the unfolding of God’s plan, ordinary people are confronted with extraordinary news. This news, if accepted and obeyed, would change the course of their lives. Completely. Zechariah received the news of an impending birth, a son named John, who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. The scriptures tell us of his obedience. Then there was Mary, the young girl in preparation for marriage being given the news and the assignment to be the mother of the Son of God. Enormous request! Then Joseph, the husband to be is given the news and is told to continue with his plans for marriage and to be the earthly father of the Son of God. Really big ask! The thing that strikes me is the immediate resolve to obey and accept the task/opportunity presented to them. Despite the cultural impact or challenges that doing so would bring.
The story does not end there. The shepherds heard and obeyed. The Magi saw, heard, and obeyed. Joseph obeyed and took his young family far from home until it was safe. Throughout the rest of the story (what we know as the New Testament) this concept of obedience is central to God’s message and God’s plan. The thing about obedience is that it is a choice. You can choose not to obey. Sometimes there are consequences, but often there are not. However, there are always missed opportunities. Opportunities to experience the best that God has to offer.
I think that this concept has gotten diluted in our modern culture and replaced with a desire to be on the “nice” list and avoid the “naughty” list. Often our efforts are too little, too late, and for selfish reasons. We totally ignore the fact that only faith in God and acceptance of the gift of salvation through Christ results in our being on the right list. The list of those forgiven and redeemed for whom Heaven is waiting. The good and faithful servants.
Jesus told his followers, and us - “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12