posted by Robert Hall Friday 20th December 2013
This all started at half past three the other morning, and, in the wonderful way that God sometimes does, he laid this out in front of me. Not wishing to lose any of it, I hastily got to my computer and wrote down the salient points. I hope you’ll think it was worth it.
In a day or two those of us who give presents will be acutely aware of human reactions to the gifts they have been given. We Christians in education learn to read pupils’ faces to get important feedback. I was thinking of the human reactions to the angelic announcements about the events around the nativity. Luke’s gospel in chapters one and two gives us a great deal of information.
Firstly, when Zechariah heard the news that his wife was to produce a child – John the Baptist – “he was startled and was gripped with fear”.
Isn’t it interesting to note that disbelief makes us unable to communicate [Zechariah], whilst belief [the shepherds after they had visited the stable] makes us articulate?
Secondly, in Luke1.29 we read, “Mary was greatly troubled at his [the angel Gabriel] words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” I would imagine that “greatly troubled” could be an understatement. The Message has “thoroughly shaken”, and JB Phillips: “deeply perturbed”.
And the shepherds, rough, hardened men accustomed to fighting off wild animals and not afraid of the dark; Luke 2.9 “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.”
Even days later, Simeon, moved by the Spirit to go to the temple, “took him [Jesus] in his arms and praised God.
Elderly Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2.38
One can imagine that the wise men in the east must have been deeply moved when they observed his star, moved enough to embark on a long and hazardous journey.
For Mary, the implications were of great significance which must have led to a lot of negative comments. But she bore it all, nurturing the Christ-child in her body, regardless of her reputation.
I’m not pregnant like Mary. But then again, I am. We know that God indwells his people. God within us. Christian people are an expectant people. We have great expectations. God plants inside us his Holy Spirit whom we need to nourish, to nurture.
What is the outcome? We are called to give birth to the fruit of the spirit. “…”the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [or patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
So we can thank God for the incarnation: the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh, and thank him for indwelling each of us too.
“Lord, the giver of every perfect gift, may we know your indwelling this Christmas, interpreting, understanding, knowing, believing, healing, prophesying, discerning, articulating. And may these things be increasingly evident in our work with our students in the coming year. Amen.”