As believers, we should experience Advent as a time of wonder, surprise, and gratitude-wonder at the great gift that has been given to us through the birth of Jesus, and surprise and gratitude at the blessing that God has poured into our lives by claiming us as God's children.
It's hard to imagine anyone ever being more surprised by a turn of events than Mary, a young girl whose future was changed in an instant with the appearance of a mysterious angelic visitor. It's hard to wrap our minds around the enormity of what was being asked of Mary-and ofJoseph, the man who had promised to marry her. Scripture does not give us much insight into the feelings they had about this surprise announcement, though we know that Joseph's initial plan was to quietly end the engagement. Perhaps they recalled the scriptures that had been prophesied from old and were able to draw some measure of comfort from God's promises. Maybe they were shocked and afraid, needing to process what was happening. Perhaps they struggled and questioned and fought the destiny placed before them.
We don't know what went through Mary's and Joseph's minds, but we do know that the Lord gave them the courage they needed to play their parts in a grand plan that would change the world forever. They chose to follow God and God's plan, no matter how it would change their lives. Whether in fear, joy, confusion, or humility, Mary proclaimed,
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior... He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.Luke 1:46-47, 54-55
Mary and Joseph followed in obedience, but not everyone in the story had the courage to follow. Herod and others in Jerusalem knew of the prophesied birth of the Messiah, including where he would be born. They were paying attention. They saw the star. But still they did not go looking for him. Why? Could it have been that they were afraid of what they would find? If the Messiah truly had come into the world as had been prophesied, then things would soon change; and perhaps those in power knew that Jesus' birth meant they would have to change too. So when the wise men set out for Bethlehem, Herod and the others stayed in Jerusalem. They did not go on a quest for life-change; they stayed home and continued their everyday lives.
The birth of Jesus demands a response from each of us. Will you stay where you are, like Herod, refusing to relinquish the throne of your own life to a new king? Or, like Mary and Joseph, will you run to your good King, eager to follow the One who was willing to give everything for you?
Is anything keeping you from offering Jesus your whole heart? Talk with him about it.