Christmas feels different this year. It won’t be the same. Depending on where in the world we live there are restrictions on where we can travel, how many people we can host in our homes and what events we can attend. The usual bustle of crowded shopping centers is more stressful than ever with plastic screens, masks and temperature checks. The usual excitement and anticipation of the holidays is tainted by the reality of a global pandemic.
We are already fatigued by the changes to our lives. All year we have been adjusting, pivoting and learning to do things differently. We are exhausted by it all and we just want to settle in for a good ol’ family Christmas.
Reading the Christmas story in the Gospels again this week it struck me that Mary didn’t have a very normal year when Jesus was born either. Her wedding plans with Joseph were scandalized by the arrival of an angel and the announcement of her miraculous pregnancy. The subsequent conversations with her family would have been emotional and difficult. Many friends in her community would have doubted her story and shunned her friendship.
The trip to Bethlehem in the late stages of pregnancy would have been very uncomfortable, only to find there was nowhere suitable to stay. Mary ended up giving birth to her first child in a stable meant for animals.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” — Luke 2:6–7 (NIV)
Can you imagine? I have had three babies, all in the comfort and safety of a hospital birthing suite. I feel for Mary, and to be honest, I think it’s a little unfair of God to have His Son born in such a difficult way. Mary’s circumstances were not what I would have planned for her if I were God. But His ways are higher than mine. God has different priorities. The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth send a powerful message about the nature of God.
I love the picture in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I can imagine Mary, bone tired from the journey to Bethlehem and having just given birth, excited after the shepherd’s visit and the news of the angel choir, now taking a quiet moment to ponder, Jesus sleeping at her breast. Through it all, she was truly blessed and aware of God’s presence.
There was nothing normal about Mary’s year. The events changed not only her whole life, but the history of the entire world. The pain, uncertainty and scandal, the unusual and miraculous events, were all part of God’s divine plan of redemption.
This is a challenge for all of us. Let’s not think that because our world is disrupted and circumstances are difficult God isn’t in control. He works His purposes out through the pain and chaos we feel. His plan of redemption is not at risk because of pandemic or politics. God is present with us in our pain.
Like Mary, let’s take time to treasure these things and ponder them in our heart. What is God doing? Where is He at work in our lives? What can we learn from Him this Christmas when everything is disrupted? How can we shine the light of the Gospel in our dark world this holiday season? Perhaps this imperfect Christmas will be the most meaningful of all.
Christine is a wife and mother of three adult kids, who lives in an apartment full of potted plants and drinks more coffee than she’d like to admit. Christine works full time in ministry at her church and writes about faith, self-care, and simple living in her blog, Living with Margins. For more blogs from her, click here. You can listen to our Bible studies by tuning in to your favorite radio station, listening to our podcast on iTunes, or listening through TuneIn, Spotify, or Stitcher online radio.