OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #245 God Uses Ordinary
Does this happen to anyone else? I sometimes feel caught between two pressures about Christmas. On the one hand I think I should do something new, create a new tradition, do something special, even though I don’t know what this would be. On the other hand, sometimes I think Christmas gets in the way of other things I need to work on.
I’ve been thinking about these things this week since I realized that Christmas is next week. Next week. I tend to put my proverbial nose to the proverbial grindstone and then I get surprised when I lift my head to breathe once in a while. I went to the Christmas accounts in the Bible looking for some kind of answer to this pressure, and was surprised by what I found. I don’t normally find an answer this quickly.
It seems to me that God likes the ordinary because He uses it so much. He uses ordinary people, ordinary places, ordinary circumstances. Look at all the ordinary in the Christmas events. Joseph and Mary were ordinary people in many ways. Would we have noticed anything about them to suggest that extraordinary things would happen through them? Not likely. The census that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem was an ordinary event in Roman life. The shepherds were ordinary folks trying to make a living for their families. The Magi were looking into the stars as they normally did when they spotted the star that led them to Jesus.
That a tyrant like Herod would cause people to flee for their lives is, unfortunately, fairly ordinary in history. Bethlehem and Nazareth were normal places. If anything, they were so normal that more sophisticated folks looked down on them as being backwater. There was a whole lot of ordinary going on in that first Christmas.
And yet in the middle of all this ordinary, a lot of extraordinary happened. There were dreams and visions, angels, angel choirs, visiting shepherds, astrologers with gifts, and words of prophecy about this young Jesus. God works among the ordinary, using the ordinary, to do extraordinary things in extraordinary ways.
I saw something in this for me at Christmas. Extraordinary things happen in the middle of a lot of ordinary. We will do a lot of ordinary things this Christmas, like shopping, cooking, eating, decorating, gathering, opening gifts, travelling, and following traditions. These are the regular things of Christmas but we should not be fooled. In the middle of these ordinary events God can do some very special things, but we need to be prepared to see them for what they are, or we will miss them.
In the middle of an ordinary meal God can spark an extraordinary conversation. A typical party may provide an unusual opportunity. Regular traditions may result in new memories. When we’re least expecting it, someone says something funny. Even the act of merely hanging around together can mean so much, and so we don’t want to underestimate what God may be doing through very normal things.
I realized that ordinary traditions are OK, and that I shouldn’t wish away Christmas. Rather, I need to slow down and enjoy the time I will have those closest to me, not to be planning my next events, but simply enjoying these ordinary things knowing that God is in them.
I hope this helps you in this Christmas season. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Dec 15, 2010. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com.