17. Difficult Times

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.17

17. Difficult Times in God’s Will

Luke 2:5-7 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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 room for them in the inn.

We thought yesterday about the feeling of being trapped in a machine, the machine of circumstances beyond our control. Mary and Joseph are in that machine and it requires them to leave the place where they were living and go to Bethlehem, for no reason apart from the whim of the emperor!

Now the only problem about all this, is that everybody else is doing this as well, and so Bethlehem, being the home town of King David, was the home town of lots of people descended from this family line. There are lots of people travelling back to Bethlehem! And yes, you can guess it, it’s always the same, the authorities hadn’t thought about this, or hadn’t cared about it, but where was everyone to stay? Go to the Inn. Right! But unfortunately several dozen other people got there before us and so there’s no room.

Fortunately a kindly innkeeper, or more likely inn-keeper’s wife, sees Mary’s state and allows them to bed down in what we usually think was the stable round the back. It’s pretty awful, but it’s better than nothing. And then, Oh Joseph, there was a pain, and another, I’m having the baby. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse! A young girl and it’s her first child. How would you have felt? A husband with a young wife who’s having a baby that isn’t yours; how would you have felt? This is not a good day!

Have you caught something of the picture? This is not a fun day! Looked on from a purely human standpoint, from the standpoint of Mary and Joseph, there have definitely been better days!!! We tend to forget all this when we see the children acting it out in the school nativity play. From a human standpoint, what has just happened? Another baby has just arrived in the world. Goodness knows how many other babies arrived in the world on that day or night. Ah, but that’s the point; this isn’t just another baby. What we have missed in the awfulness of these circumstances is that God has just appeared in the world in human form for the very first time ever.

Now that is such a staggering statement that it leaves most of us spluttering over the impossibility of it, or over our incapability to grasp it, but that, the Bible very clearly tells us, is what happened! In a way that totally denies our intellect, somehow, this tiny defenceless baby lying wrapped up in a manger, in the straw, is God. Is he totally God? Well yes he is, but somehow not, because God is all-powerful, all knowing, all-everything and this tiny baby – for the moment at least – isn’t, or certainly doesn’t appear to be! That’s what makes this a mystery, because this little baby that is God in human form, is going to grow up and show himself to be very different from us, is going to provide us with so much evidence that, for any open, thinking person, there is no room for doubt – this is God! But he doesn’t look like it at the moment. The lesson? When God leads you into apparently small and ordinary events, even seemingly bad-news-day events, be careful, they may have earth shattering consequences – you just don’t know with God! What may seem a nightmare may turn out to be the most staggeringly wonderful day of your life!

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