December 9: Silent Joy!
December 9, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Luke 2:1-7:
This is a scene that has been played out in innumerable Christmas pageants – but what does it mean? There is Mary and there is Joseph, and there is the “inn” in which there is no room for them. It’s a story that resonates with significance this Christmas for refugees, for the homeless, for those struggling to make ends meet, and for every mother that ever was. There’s a mad dash to Bethlehem to fulfill the dictate of a distant emperor, studiously recorded by Luke to ensure that future generations would know this happened and when it occurred, too. Scholars have established the veracity of these events (which you can follow up in classic commentaries like that by I. Howard Marshall), and Luke is as good a historian here as he is elsewhere. They go, they arrive, they have nowhere to stay. And Mary — the virgin Mary as the Gospel accounts have already established – gives birth to Jesus – the child who is so named by Joseph on the instructions of the angel to make it clear that this child is the Savior and is also the divine God with us, Immanuel. He is “God Saves.” But what does it mean? What does it mean for us this Christmas? Is it only a sentimental story that resonates with Christmas cheer around smoking log fires and Christmas lights festooning a Christmas tree? Is it merely a description of an event that truly took place, a factual record that we can acknowledge as true and keep on going on our merry way this Christmas? Or is there a message, designed by Luke, inspired by the Author, that is intended to give us joy this Christmas? There is a phrase now in common usage which relates to the message and meaning of this passage for us this Christmas. The phrase is “under the radar.” The picture is of someone having a radar screen, scanning for incoming threats or opportunities, and something manages to get all the way past this by flying “under the radar,” going unnoticed. Recently a new American Destroyer was released that has a different ability; this “stealth” ship appears only as a small shipping vessel on radar screens. The message of this extraordinary account is how God gets under our radar. We hold up barriers, protective defense mechanisms, designed to protect us from the vulnerability of realizing that we are really and truly loved. God does not come to us with force to overwhelm our resistance, a blitzkrieg of war to destroy us. He comes to us in humility. He is, in the brilliant words of the famous Christmas carol, “silently pleading.” Under our radar of pride, under our radar of insecurity, under our radar of fear that if we “let him in” he will (like so many others have) also “let us down.” And God comes as a baby. Soft enough, vulnerable enough, to soften the hardest hearts, and open up the toughest shells, and get beneath the most vigilant radar watchers trying to keep out divine love.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 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 guest room available for them.
What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? …This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: …Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and donkeys are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading. Nails, spears shall pierce him through, the cross he bore for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.
(“What Child Is This?” by William Chatterton Dix, 1865)]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."