It’s Christmas plus three weeks. The advent calendars are closed. The presents have been opened or regifted. Families have been seen, stomachs filled, the Christmas lights have lit up our kids faces and the carols have been sung. We’ve started thinking about how long we can leave the Christmas tree up for (mine is down already), and wondering just how long the Christmas left overs will last before we throw them away. (tip: it’s been three week;. throw it already!)
After all the build up, there’s a thunderous silence, and it is deafening.
It makes me think about what Mary and Joseph would have been going through on this day, many years ago. I mean, from big beginnings, and high expectations, you’re left with something that cries, and poops and needs burping. Before vomiting on you afterwards.
I can remember how scared I was with my first child — and that was without the pressure of “dont drop the son of God”. Mary is sleep deprived, recovering from birth wounds, exhausted and emotional. If he was anything like me, Joseph probably wasn’t being as helpful as he ought to have been and they are still probably camping in the stable, without the comforts of home.
I think that we see in Mary (and Joseph) something of ourselves. What maybe started out as a ‘larger than life’ experience is now a very ordinary one that requires hard work. God’s promises didn’t include the bits about the everyday struggle and reality of life. Donkeys and stables and fleeing for your life to Egypt were certainly not in the brochure. Not even in the fine print. So what do we do when we find ourselves in a similar place? When the angels have gone and the shepherds have returned to their sheep and it feels like God has gone and forgotten the promises he made?
God is in our simple deeds
It’s at the times when it is hardest that we often neglect to the little good things that are in our power to do.
Mary and Joseph changed diapers, fed, bathed and generally did everything parents were expected to do. In spite of their circumstances. They found the best accommodation they could. Before the birth they complied with the census, even though it was a huge burden and a form or control by a foreign power. Joseph would have had to go and find work and provide for his family. He took Mary to be his wife and did what was right and good, in an everyday, ordinary sense; as well as in the big moments.
Sometimes we look only at the big mountain top moments in scripture — after all it is full of them, and we forget about the months and years of everyday moments that come in between. We neglect the everyday moments, sometimes, because we put too much stock and weight in the impressive ones that seem larger than life or destiny defining. It’s so easy to look at what we don’t have, and crave it to the detriment off not taking care of that which we do have. It’s in our very nature. We’re like the crowd following Jesus, looking for another free-feed or miracle; only to walk away when things get dull or bad.
But, it’s the hundreds of little small ways in which we do good every day, that give weight and substance to our faith. What’s the point in having a successful ministry if you go home and are a poor father, or a poor husband? Or be celebrated at home, but are a lazy or neglectful employee? Should we neglect the other roles God has given to us — because we consider them menial or unimportant in the scope of God’s great plan? Are we too proud of our call to ministry, or business, to humble ourselves to do everyday tasks like changing diapers? Taking care of the small things is what we will do for the majority of our lives, and it’s important to focus on doing them well. Many who have achieved the big things, have had them all undone by one small thing that was left undone.
A W Tozer rightly says, “Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministry. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.”
Indeed – if we consider our ministry correctly, we should consider it as an extension of our worship. We see that worship does not begin with the slow songs and end with the sermon — but rather it begins at the exit doors out there in the city, in the suburbs and in our families.
Let us be thankful that Mary and Joseph did the everyday simple deeds that life required of them. Let us not grow weary in doing the little good things ourselves.
And please, in the spirit of simple deeds, throw out that Christmas ham.