Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent Reflections: The People

A couple of years ago, I wrote out a self-published e-book of Advent Devotions. You can still buy it from here: Advent Reflections. However, I’m going to re-use the whole thing for daily blog posts here on the blog this year. This week features double-posts to finish by Christmas.

Hymn numbers are from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal/Worship Hymnal from Lifeway. 


Week Four Day One: The People

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” Luke 2:1

It is impossible to think of the Christmas story without dealing with people. Even the most introverted person has to acknowledge that Christmas happened among people. Luke gives us this verse, in which Caesar wanted to count all the inhabited earth. That would be a lot of people! While history helps us understand that Caesar Augustus meant to count the whole Roman Empire, I would not doubt he ordered it as a census of the whole world. After all, for an Emperor of Rome, there were only two parts of the world: Rome and the people Rome intended to conquer. He likely wanted a count of both.

What he got, at least in Judea, was a crowded inn. Here we again see people. People are everywhere in this story! The inn is so crowded that a couple, including a pregnant woman, takes shelter to deliver their baby and lay Him in a manger. Even there, people come. Shepherds from their fields come. These shepherds tell others, who tell others, who tell…well, you get the point.

Matthew gives us the picture of the family in a house in Bethlehem, and then on to Egypt. Guess what there is in Egypt? Yes indeed: more people.

Christmas just does not happen without people. There are certainly key people in this story: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and the Magi. Yet let us not miss on the people we write off as background clutter in Christmas musicals. The people that are choir behind the soloists, the background faces in the painting, all of these are important.

Why? Because Jesus came for them, too. They are important as we look at the story because they should remind us of the background faces in our life. There are people we encounter on a daily basis that we never know. It may be the family that is on the same milk-buying schedule you are on at the grocery store. You know the ones; you see them every Tuesday afternoon when they pick up a gallon of two percent. You have joked together about disregarding the expiration dates because milk does not sit still in your households!

The background people are the rest of the multitude in the doctor’s office waiting room. They are found in the other parts of your school or the next office over from yours. Perhaps they are in the unload section of your hub, while you spend all day in the load section.[1] When you try to think of them, their faces are kind of blurry in your mind. It is likely true that yours is blurry to them as well.

Our challenge is this: consider those faces. They are real people. Real people that Christmas happened for just as much as it happened for you. Jesus came for that guy in the store as much as He came for you. He came, not just for your political party, but for the opposition. Not just for your team, but for the other team. He came for the band members, too, and the groundskeepers and the people who could not care less about sports at all.

If all of these are worth Jesus covering the distance to be born, what should they be worth to you?

Scripture passage for the day: Luke 2:38 (NLT)

She[2] came along just as Simeon

was talking with Mary and Joseph,

and she began praising God.

She talked about the child to everyone

who had been waiting

expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Hymn for the day: O Little Town of Bethlehem #196

Prayer: My Lord and my God, You see people. Help me see them as well. Help me to love others as You love them. Work in my life to be the instrument of Your love for the world around me. Guide me to specific actions to take and give me the courage to do them. As Jesus came to us, I commit to go to others. In His name I pray, Amen.

[1] That’s for my UPS people. FedExers, too.

[2] Anna. The whole story is Luke 2:21-38 and worth your time to read it.

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