Welcome friends, to this season of Advent 2020.
The calendar arrangement this year already has us scurrying from the start. Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the fridge and today we set our hearts toward the manger. As crazy at it seems, typing those last few words welcomes my heart to settledness and hope.
One of my favorite authors, Walter Wangerin Jr., in his Advent book Preparing for Jesus says:
As a season of the Christian year, Advent is ancient. It goes back at least to the middle of the sixth century. Already then its observance defined not only the One who was coming, but also those who were faithfully and self-conscious waiting. It defined the peculiar people who looked forward to the coming of that One.
I love that! How can we intentionally set our hearts toward being the peculiar people who look forward to the coming of Jesus?
We become those people who look forward to the coming of Jesus when we are remembering people. We read the stories again and imagine what it was like for those who waited with expectation for their promised Messiah. We watch the miracle unfold as God became flesh, and we learn how to wait with hope and longing for Jesus to come again. As we return our thoughts to the prophets who foretold his birth, the faith of Mary and Joseph and the stories that gave them hope, the shepherds, the wisemen, the star, and the manger, may our hearts be calmed and our affections stirred toward Jesus.
Have you had a chance to read or listen to A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion (Week One, Day One from Wrapped in Grace) yet this year?
How will you carve out time to remember the miracle this season?
Prepare Him Room
Hi friends! This post is part of a blog hop for Advent. At the end of my post you’ll find links to some wonderful blogger friends who want to help you prepare Him room. Take some time to read them all. You will be encouraged.
A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion
I am learning that welcoming Jesus is less about perfect preparations and more about scooching over. My sister Karen and I start talking sometime in September about simple Christmas recipes and scheduling well for the upcoming holidays. We long to stay focused on what really matters, but even the best-laid plans sometimes get interrupted with life.
One of the realities that gives us hope is the way God chose to intermingle his divine, holy story right into the everyday stories of ordinary people. If you had happened to be one of the families still living in your hometown of Bethlehem during the Roman Empire, the unexpected news of a census could only have meant one thing.
In those days just before Jesus was born everyone was coming home for Christmas (even though it wasn’t called that yet). Aunts and uncles and cousins would need a place to sleep and food to eat. In the Middle Eastern tradition of the day they would all be welcome to stay at your house.
So when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, family homes were already bulging. Kids were sleeping on the floor. Food was being eaten as quickly as it was being prepared. Familiar tradition tells us that Mary and Joseph sought lodging at an inn, but an innkeeper turned them away and they found refuge instead, inside of an animal shelter. Others believe that the manger-turned-cradle was found in a simple Bethlehem home—a feeding trough built into the wall or floor to feed animals brought in at night.A Manger in the Middle of a Family Reunion
Kenneth Bailey, in his book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, builds a convincing case that the “inn” in Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ birth, is better translated as “guest room.” The well-read NIV translation actually says, “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them”(Luke 2:7).
It is possible that Mary and Joseph were received into the home of a relative, whose guest room was full, but who carved out space anyway for this couple from Nazareth about to have a baby.
Regardless of where Jesus’ birth took place, Mary didn’t miss the miracle. There may have been commotion outside on the streets of Bethlehem and family reunions going on all around, but in that sacred space where she wrapped her newborn baby in strips of cloths and kissed his cheeks while he slept, the chaos around her faded. Her focus was on Jesus.
What you think really matters tends to stop mattering when it comes time for a baby to be born. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a whole list of things absolutely has to be done before the baby gets here, and then the baby arrives and you realize those things didn’t matter as much as you’d thought they did. We all have expectations and plans around Christmas time, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that our plans aren’t more important than the baby.
God could have delayed the census. He could have told Mary and Joseph to head to Bethlehem in a dream, so that there would have been plenty of room in the inn or the guest room of a relative’s house.
But God doesn’t need perfect organization to enter our world. He chooses to be present right in the middle of the messy and overwhelming pages of our lives.
Let’s step away from our to-do lists and linger for a while at the manger during this Advent season. Yes, the little town of Bethlehem was busy and loud, but for those who took the time to notice, the birth of Jesus was a miracle.
Thank you for choosing to come to Bethlehem on a night when there were not enough beds for everyone. It is so good for us to know that perfect accommodations didn’t matter nearly as much as scooching over so that there would be a place for you and your mom and stepdad.
We want to scooch over. We want to make time this season to sit at the manger. When our lives get loud and our lists get long, tug at our hearts and remind us again that you are right here in the middle of real life. Thank you for this season of remembering your birth. May we be among the people who don’t miss the miracle.
In Jesus’ Name,
Condensed from Wrapped in Grace, The Birth Story That Changes Everything, by Deana Lynn Rogers
Be sure to read all these blogs that are part of the Prepare Him Room blog hop.
Lessons from Jonah on Advent – by Faith For Her
Advent Week of Hope: A man, a fish and God’s grace are more applicable to your life than you may think (and very telling of God’s character).
Prepare Him Room – By Going The Distance
Read about the love language of Advent season.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room – by Living for God
Pause, Reflect, Enjoy, Praise, Accept, Rejoice, Exclaim
Prepare Him Room – by Revelations of a Southern Girl
Revelations about celebrating the season with an illness.
This post is part of the Prepare Him Room Blog Hop as part of the Woven Vow Blogger Group on Facebook. Join us for blog talk and faith filled encouragement.
I am sleeping on the plane tonight! Wrapped in Grace is being printed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, my hometown, and the books are scheduled to be ready for pick up on Tuesday. If I take the red-eye, I will arrive in GR Tuesday morning and be at the printer when the books are ready. Why am I traveling from my home in Tempe, Arizona to pick the books up instead of just having them shipped here? Well, a few reasons:
- The first Sunday of Advent is November 29th and I really want to get a book in your hands before then. If I can ship to you from Grand Rapids this week, instead of waiting for books to arrive here in AZ just to put them back in the mail, you will get a book a lot faster.
- A bunch of the books are actually staying in Grand Rapids for family and friends, I would love to give those out in person.
- If you are in the West Michigan area and would like to get a book while I am there, please join me for a cup of hot chocolate and to get your copy of Wrapped in Grace:
Friday, November 20
4:00 – 7:30 PM
151 Lakeside Dr
Grand Rapids, Mi 49506
- Plus, my family is in West Michigan and it is always nice to see them.
Wrapped in Grace is a retelling of the Christmas story from a little bit of a new perspective, with daily readings and space to journal. It is designed to be read during the four weeks leading up to Christmas beginning on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. (This year, Advent begins on November 29th). I will post video readings here throughout the Advent season, and there will be space to connect and respond to the readings here if you would like to.
Thanks for joining me as we celebrate the season of Jesus’ birth!