Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Child In The Manger"1 (Lyrics)
It happened overnight: a seasonal change ushered in by a thick blanket of snow obliterating all remnants of autumn. That was early November. Yet, I felt myself launched into the mood for Christmas — with the rich reds, twinkling lights, and seasonal tunes.
It occurs to me that a tenth of our calendar year is easily occupied with this special season for celebrating Jesus' nativity. Yet comparatively, the Bible provides little coverage of it. Two gospels don't even mention it. I perceive that as a caution: We mustn't leave our majestic Lord in His manger too long, lest we diminish the impact of His identity as pronounced to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Her Child was destined to "be great and will be called the Son of the Most High" and "his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:32a,33b NIV)
That's breathtaking in scope! Yet, how easily such a majestic promise becomes obliterated by life's immediacies: tasks, concerns, and uppermost, our selves. Such preoccupations tend to obscure our view of the bigger picture.
The Virgin Mary faced many concerns, such as vulnerability and future suffering. She faced daunting social, political, and religious concerns: infant mortality, poverty, political domination, injustice, and religious discrimination. Yet her Child would never be at the mercy of such forces, and she knew it! Mary's Song reveals her firm grasp of God's bigger picture.
I myself easily get derailed by lesser concerns. I've noticed a pattern in my preoccupations. Generally, it's over things that I can't control: what I could have done or said better yesterday, or what others should be doing better today. There's no joy in such mental fixations — for a reason: It's a focus on human workings, as if it's all about us. It leaves our Lord behind, still in His manger, dethroned from His true identity as the Lord of a vast eternal kingdom populated by those awakened through grace.
Do you see the problem? It's that age-old "works versus grace" dilemma. For centuries, this has sparked theological controversy. We prefer to leave that history behind, and we can … almost. When we examine our inmost thoughts, we still see evidence of the old controversy brewing: our doings versus God's doings. Thankfully, like Mary, we can learn to rest trustfully in God's promise:
Ephesians 2:8-10 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
That's it right there! There's the main thing! Can we keep the main thing the main thing in all our thinking and doing? We do so by entrusting ourselves and others to the work of His grace — inaugurated through that Child destined to be "called the Son of the Most High".
Prayer: Empower us by Your Spirit to know inexpressible joy through the working of Your grace in ourselves and others. Amen.