What is left when a pandemic takes down our world?
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
-Luke 2:8-19 (NASB)
God choses well the people whom He calls. Mary and Joseph were not perfect people. Nor were they successful by worldly standards. Their decision to follow the calling of God gained them nothing of material value in this life. They endured humiliation, poverty, and gossip. Christ’s birth came in a time of isolation and rejection. Joseph evidently died an early death. Mary watched her beloved son – the one born so full of promise; upon whom she had lavished her reputation, her trust, and her sacred honor – executed as a common criminal.
His life challenged her expectations. His death crushed her.
His resurrection made it all worthwhile.
This year is not like any our generation has known. We who have grown up in middle American Christendom have attached certain expectations to our faith, to our lives, to our dreams. We do not expect pain, isolation, or sickness. Suffering is not compatible with our interpretations of the Scriptural promise of abundant life.
This Christmas, the usual traditions we observe have been disrupted. In the place of a full table, we may be suffering financial distress. In the place of a full house, we may be existing in a place of extreme loneliness. But like Mary and Joseph, the strength of our calling is not dependent upon circumstance. As the trials around us pare down our expectations and traditions, what is left is the pure sound of angels singing glory to God in the highest.
Mary wisely treasured everything she experienced with the Christ and pondered Christ His life in her heart. Instead of questioning the veracity of God’s Word and the faithfulness of our Creator, let’s take this time of hardship to contemplate all He has told us and what our part in His great work of deliverance should be. Even more in a pandemic, people need a Savior. His promises shine all the brighter in the darkness.
Joy to the world! The Lord has come! What else matters?
Be all the more diligent to make certain
about His calling and choosing you;
for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
2 Peter 1:10