During Advent and Christmas, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this week, we are focused on reflections on Luke 2:1-7, the story of Jesus’ birth.
1In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Will you do an experiment with me? Let’s break down this passage into some component parts and use those parts as a jumping off point for reflecting on where we find ourselves in this Christmas season and this season of our lives.
1) CIRCUMSTANCES (verses 1-4): Mary and Joseph, like all of us, find themselves in the midst of circumstances beyond their control – the external things that are happening in the world, about which they have little choice. The Emperor has called for a census. They have to travel to be registered, even though the timing is not good with Mary pregnant.
What circumstances do you face right now? What are the external things going on in your life over which you have little to no control? How are circumstances shaping what you can or must do?
2) COMPANY (verse 5): Joseph and Mary are travelling together. They are companions on the journey. They are there to support one another. At the same time, their presence in each other’s lives places demands and expectations on both of them that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Who are your companions in life right now? How are they supporting you and how are you supporting them? What are your relationships requiring of you?
3) CHALLENGE (verse 6): The challenge that Mary and Joseph face – together, amidst circumstances out of their control – is giving birth to a baby while travelling. They have to handle this challenge with flexibility and courage.
What is your biggest challenge right now? What is the difficult thing you face? It could be something happy and hard (like having a baby) or maybe it is just plain hard.
4) CREATIVITY AND CARE (verse 7): Mary and Joseph have to get creative. There is no room in the inn and yet the baby is coming! So, Mary gives birth in a stable. Even in this difficult situation, Mary tenderly cares for her child, wrapping him in cloth and laying him in a manger.
By the Rev. Emily Wilton
For Pondering & Prayer
How can you get creative in facing your big challenge? If circumstances are not ideal, how can you lean on your companions and use whatever you have on hand (whether that’s material resources or energy or skills) to face your challenge? What does it look like to care for yourself and others as you do so? How can you make sure that even when things get hard, you are finding a soft place to land?
Prayer: Lord, help us to see your Word in new and exciting light. Amen.