Engaging in the Culture

When we think of engaging with people or an area, we can often go with the mindset that we know best or have something that others need to hear and listen to. This means we often go in a spirit of power. But at Christmas, it is worth remembering how the son of God chose to engage with us, our world and our culture, becoming a dependant with nothing at all, growing up, learning and engaging in the culture that he sought to bring to love, peace, encounter and relationship.

Even though we may well have something of God that we carry with us at all times whenever we engage with others, how we choose to show this is key. At this Christmas time, is there something we can learn from the way that God chose to engage with us, live life with us, and in gentleness and compassion, transform lives and society?

Discipline of Waiting

We do not read much after she is told about her pending pregnancy of how Mary must have felt about what was about to happen. There is some detail in the Bible, but not much. But what is clear is her patient waiting; waiting for what she knew was going to happen; waiting because she knew that what was about to happen was coming from God. She gave herself to God, gave herself to the waiting and gave herself despite of herself.

Waiting is often a difficult thing. It is difficult to practice, especially in a culture that is becoming more and more immediate in its response and activity.

There is something that is both challenging and yet prophetic about the discipline of waiting that maybe our culture could do with experiencing, noticing and even recognising that it is missing out on.

Amidst the activity, all the expectations of all that people think should happen at this time, where are we waiting? What are we showing to the culture around us if we do not engage in the discipline of the waiting?

We can wait expectantly - this is different to impatience - and we should be expectant about what God is doing and will do. But as Mary knew what it was that she was waiting for, what is it that you are expectant for this season? What are you waiting for God to deliver in your life?

Wait in expectancy, but wait in spending time with God, so you know what it is that he wants to give you.

Persistance

So much that we think about in the Christmas happenings only really happened because of a level of persistence of the people involved. Mary and Joseph had to persist through the discomfort of pregnancy, tough weather conditions (probably) and being rejected at so many places, but needing, wanting, believing that there was somewhere for them to stay.

The wise men traveled from afar. They followed the star, not knowing where it would go, but knowing that they wanted, had to, follow where it led, not knowing how long it would take to get wherever it was they were heading.

We have no idea about how long the labour was for Mary, but persistence is one of those things that has to happen when getting through a pregnancy.

Joseph and Mary's travels, both to Bethlehem and then after the birth to keep themselves and Jesus safe, would not have been easy, and they would have had to keep going.No doubt at times they would have wanted to stop and just be.

In a culture today where it is easy to flit from one thing to another, where answers are easier to come by, where things don't have to be worked at for as long, or as hard as maybe in previous decades, have we lost something of what it means to be persistent, not to give up?

Is there a recommitment that God is asking of us at this Advent time, to persist in all that he has called for us, all that he is asking us to be and do, and all that lies ahead for us?

God himself never gave up and never gives up on us, which is why he persisted and sent Jesus for us. If God is persistent for us and about us, could we, with thankful hearts, persist that little bit more in all that he is asking of us?

The prophetic in the lack of room

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?