At Christmas, we often think about the giving and the receiving of things; rarely, if ever, do we reflect on leaving, letting go, or even abandoning.
So much of the Christmas story has leaving at the heart of it. Jesus leaving Heaven, his father, and coming to us; the three kings, or wise men, leaving their environment, all that they knew and going somewhere that they probably knew little if anything about; and the shepherds leaving their livelihoods to go to meet with Jesus.
How much would we be prepared to leave, to let go of, at this Christmas time? Is there stuff that we still want to hold on to? Is there stuff that we are not prepared to let go of? Is there comfort, the familiar that we feel we need to keep a hold of, rather than going to Jesus and all that he might say to us?
If Jesus himself was prepared to leave and go, what could it mean for us today, and what could God be saying to us through this living example of leaving and going?
Are we prepared to leave all that we know, that is comfortable, that makes life easy, to go to Jesus and meet with him, regardless of whatever the consequences might be?
One of the most interesting points of any nativity play is when the inkeeper says that there is no room. It is often said with power, authority, and Mary and Joseph are left in no doubt that there really isn't any room in the inn at all.
All that they wanted was somewhere to sleep, somewhere for Mary to give birth, somewhere for Jesus to be born. And yet, all that they found was rejection, no room, no openness, pushed away and not wanted.
Is the fullness of the inn a representation of life? Was life then, and is life now, too full for us to recognise the Jesus who knocks and wants to come in, be part of life, bring all that he brings? If so many places rejected Jesus at his birth because they said there was no room, do our lives say the same thing? We are too full; there is no room; we cannot fit anything else into our lives!
This Advent and Christmas time, could it be that Jesus is asking the same question again? Is there room? Can I come in? Is there space for me?
Interestingly then, as it is now, Jesus and his family did not push their way in; there was no force, they did not go where they were not wanted. And I guess the truth is still that - Jesus will not force himself, he will not invade a life that does not want him, pushes him away or rejects him.
What do our lives say at this time? Is there room, space, a welcome? Or are we too busy, too full, and reject the Jesus we think we are open to?
Obedience is one of those things which is often spoken about but it really does take a lot to put into action. As we think about Advent and the lead up to Christmas, obedience is key to the whole of the story.
Firstly, Jesus himself had to be obedient to come to earth! It would have been so easy surely for God to have come up with another plan, another idea, rather than sending his son to us here on earth, in the midst of hurt, pain, turmoil, trouble, anger and even risk, but yet it happened. Jesus, the son of God came to earth! Came to be amongst us, his choice, his obedience!
And then there was Mary and Joseph! We spoke about their ability to hear God's voice previously, but to then act on it in total obedience, even when the whole thing would have seemed strange, odd or peculiar to what they knew, their traditions and so on. Yet they did what God said, and were obedient.
Obedience will be tough when everything around us will be saying something different or suggesting that there must be another way! Yet the challenge for us is to think through where we put our trust. Do we trust the culture around us more than God? Do we trust the voice of our culture more than the voice of God? Do we only give part of ourselves because we are uncertain? If God was prepared to take a risk and Jesus was obedient for us, can we rise to that invitation for us to be obedient to what God is asking of us?
So much of the story of the birth of Jesus is focused upon his birth, but on at least 2 different occasions, for both Mary and Joseph, God speaks.
This has been overlooked at times, but it is important to reflect on this, as not only did God speak, but they recognised the voice! Seemingly this was not an unusual experience, or there was something different that enabled them to know that this was God speaking. Even when it meant that things that would go against the norm (Mary giving birth and then having to go a different way home because the king wanted to kill your baby), both Mary and Joseph were aware that this was God speaking to them!!
Are we aware enough of God speaking to us? Do we listen? Do we hear? Do we spend enough time with God to recognise his voice? Maybe this Advent as we reflect upon Mary and Joseph hearing God's voice, we ourselves need to be more aware of him, his voice, and what it is he is saying to us!!