Are you ready for change?
So we have travelled this far together, going deep, and asking life changing questions. The issue facing us right now is whether this will translate into real change. In Luke 2:8-10 it says,
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
The key word here is to behold, “to observe or look.” What you see affects where you go and how you get there. In other words what are you looking at? The major parts of scripture are the great opportunities for God to show us how he operates and what he values when he does it. That we BEHOLD HIM AND HIS WORK. The word behold is used at creation and the birth of Christ. I believe they tell us something powerful about change.
Let’s start with…
What did we learn in creation? Well we saw:
Holy Spirit hovering over dark places to bring life – SOMETHING IS BEING PREPARED
He creates – NEW THINGS APPEARING AND GROWING
He brings order – THERE IS A STRUCTURE AND SYSTEM APPEARING
He beholds his work - OBSERVING – HE STOPS AND REFLECTS
He delegates – HE EMPOWERS HIS CREATION TO DO HIS PURPOSE
He rests – HE REALISES THAT RHYHMN IS ESSENTIAL TO FINISH THE WEEK WELL
What an amazing way to initiate and keep change at the heart of the cosmos! Modelled by God himself. If we lived like this then we would be experiencing heaven. Change was always meant to be a heavenly things. Then things go wrong and disconnect enters the story. What does God do? Contrary to belief, he actually enters the mess and meets us where we find ourselves. I actually think he is more present and more Immanuel in the situations we find most challenging. The grave error by us in the garden was around who we looked at and who we listened to. That haunting question by God, ‘WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED?’
In other words, WHOSE VOICE HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THAT YOU THINK IS HIGHER THAN MINE? That is the pinnacle point of disconnect. You are looking at and listening to someone else.
2. The birth of Christ
If we jump back to the text at the beginning then you will see how change is at the heart of the festive season. What we have lost is all the not so fun things that come with change. What do we learn from this story, as it is awfully messy? Would you choose to arrive this way? Would you expect things to work out this way? Would you recognise such great change in the middle of all the activity?
When the angels announce BEHOLD it is now a change in narrative. It is a challenge to us - are you still looking at that tricky snake? Are you still believing what he is saying? We are asked to behold Jesus at this time of advent. We wait and we look - that is what Christmas is all about - 25 days of advent have 24 days of waiting. Waiting for change, sound familiar? We are told do not be afraid because that is the effect of angels. However, I think it is because of what the change entails.
Look at Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem:
1. Scandal - pregnant and unmarried teenager shipped off to distant relatives for fear of life. STONING.
2. Shame of potential divorce - Joseph and Mary. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR A WOMAN. ‘Blessed are you among women, Mary.’ REALLY?????
3. Dreadful journey on the back of a donkey - the most hideous journey
Joseph and Mary’s hardships would have begun more than a week before the birth of their son, when the couple had to leave their home in Nazareth, in the northern highlands of Galilee, to register for a Roman census. They had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. It was a fairly gruelling trip. And the trip through the Judean desert would have taken place during the winter, when it’s in the 30s during the day rains torrentially.One of the most terrifying dangers in ancient Palestine was the heavily forested valley of the Jordan River. Lions and bears lived in the woods, and travellers had to fend off wild boars. Don’t forget the bandits, pirates of the desert and robbers who were also common hazards along the major trade routes like this one. This alongside being very heavily pregnant, on the back of a donkey. At this point, change sucks.
4. Homeless birth – Jesus is literally born outside of a house in a stable.
5. Genocide of children - fleeing to Egypt was a deadly prospect to escape Herod.
6. Refugees in a foreign country – how vulnerable were these early months being in another dangerous country?
7. Re-entry to Israel was a deadly prospect. They’d just has a census remember! How much harder could this get?
What does this narrative tell us? We aren’t just asked to behold the baby Jesus but everything that is happening around him. BEHOLD – Look in the midst of all the frustration, fear, pain and disappointment. I am there!
Isaiah 43:19 says - See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.The key is whether we can stop, wait and look.
We miss change because we always default to it feeling and looking fantastic.
When the angels asked the shepherds, Mary and Joseph not to be afraid and to behold the great plans and call on them I don’t think they had all these events in mind. May be you don’t have the things in mind that you could be facing today. Could you be getting ready for change?
It is really clear that the main role of a disciple is to wait and watch for the activity of Jesus. The challenge will be - whose voice are you listening to that you think is higher than his. When you think that all is lost or things are going awry you get to look at creation, his birth and many other events in the Bible with the command to BEHOLD and realise that the story always points to redemption.
What are you looking at today?
You may just be getting ready for change…