Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Advent: A Time to Defy Convention!

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton gave birth to their second child in 2015, a little girl. I'm no "royal watcher," but you couldn't miss the pomp and circumstance associated with this small baby's appearance. Thanks to the internet and celebrity voyeurs, you can know Princess Charlotte's exact weight, length, time of birth -- even if poor Kate had an epidural or not. (She didn't -- Showoff!) From Kate's perfectly coiffed hair and the littlest Mountbatten-Windsor's top of the line layette, from royal midwives to a designer nursery, theirs is a picture-perfect nativity scene. And, really, who would expect anything less? But this infant, who is fourth in line for the throne of England, had a much more ostentatious birth than One first in line as King of Kings. In fact, the entire Christmas story is rife with the unexpected.

First, there was Mary. Based on custom, scholars speculate she was a young teenager. In order to adequately communicate my point, I'm going to need you to do something. Take a moment, look in on your 14-year old as she is allegedly studying. Go ahead. Don't worry, she won't hear you: her iPod volume is at an unhealthy level, and she's on her phone. What did you see? Well, if she's anything like most teenage daughters, you sort of have to shoulder the door open a bit because, no doubt, there are clean clothes rolled up in a ball in front of it. (She figured she'd just try putting a couple of outfits together so she wouldn't be distracted from studying by worrying about what she was wearing to the movies on Friday. And she wouldn't dare take the time to rehang or refold them -- she's got studying to do, after all.) Once you successfully open the door a crack, you'll undoubtedly see her feet moving like one of those inflatable flailing arm men at the car wash , her butt bopping up and down, and her hair and her head moving opposite one another. You'll wonder for a second how she does that without dislocating something. But then it will dawn on you: she is about the same age as Mary was when she was called to mother the Son of the Most High. Where did you go wrong?

We often have this idea that Mary was exceptional. Portraits and crèches depict Mary as this saintly, dignified woman. While it's true our culture is much different and times have changed, one only has to look in the rest of the Bible to know God so rarely chooses the ones that "have it all together." Mary was given a great honor, but could there have been someone who appeared more qualified? Perhaps. But 1Samuel 16:7 tells us God's criteria is much different. God looks at the heart. Judging by Mary's response to the angel's announcement, Mary's greatest qualification was a humble and willing heart.

Then there was Anna. There are three little verses in Luke 2 that are her legacy -- what an inspirational one it is! Anna was married for seven years, and a widow for eighty-four. Do the math. If we assume, like Mary, she was married as an early teen, that makes this woman about 104! And widowed before her mid-twenties! She could have remarried; Levitical Law provided for the support of widows through remarriage. Instead, she served God "night and day," never leaving the temple. She was a prayer warrior. She fasted, which, for a woman in her hundreds, is no small feat; but the true prayer warrior knows, fasting is the secret weapon, the A-bomb. This woman was committed to her commitment! And her mind was sharp. Others missed the Messiah; even as they cried out, "Crucify him!" Not Anna. She'd awaited the hour, and was present and prepared when it came. But for her, it wasn't a final blessing, her "Oh-I-can-die-now moment;" Anna continued working. She "spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." Anna's life did not end in some spectacular public swan song. It ended with Anna rising each day to serve her Lord as she had everyday before, though now with the incarnation of the Babe King before her eyes. A woman given such an honor; yet humble, faithful, tireless and purposeful enough to get right back to work with renewed verve.

A virgin gives birth. A baby King is wrapped in rags for warmth. Angels proclaim the Messiah's arrival to shepherds rather than the spiritual elite. A centenarian widow sends out birth announcements for God's One and Only Son. Unconventional in every way. And He is still defying convention. Will you surrender your heart to be changed by Him? Will you be a humble and willing vessel? How will God use you to turn this Christmas upside down?

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