LUKE 1:26-28 (NIV)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
MATTHEW 1:18-20a (NIV)
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream . . .”
As Advent begins to flow into Christmas, the Christian New Year takes us to the heights of celebration as we remember the birth of Jesus. We call this the Incarnation, the God we worship becoming flesh and blood, like one of us in every respect (Heb. 2:17). Advent and Christmas are part of what we call the “Cycle of Light,” made up of Advent (anticipation), Christmas (celebration), and Epiphany (proclamation).
In the Cycle of Light, we see Christ’s radiance shining in the eyes of Mary and Joseph. Each of these two amazing souls shares a story in the Gospels, and each has their own history they brought to the moment. God does not hit “delete” on our past when it comes to a moment he desires to use us in a special way. Who we have become, over the years, formed by our responses to our challenges, limitations, influences, and family lives, all comes to bear on that moment.
The Lord sees faithfulness in our stories, forged in private moments when we could have turned away, turned back, or turned off when he wanted to work in and through us in the little things. Luke 16:10 says it clearly: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Our faithfulness in the little things will always mean more to God than we may be aware of in the moment. He sees what no one else does. He knows what truly motivated us, moved us, evidenced by how we handled the unseen and seemingly insignificant times of obedience.
And that brings us to Mary. Luke 1:26-28 simply notes that Mary is “highly favored.” It’s possible we could read right over that statement and miss its import. Mary has favor with God. If you have favor with God, you don’t need it with anyone else. Mary was living a life, unseen to us and unrecorded by history, that pleased God. Mary, as far as we can tell, had been living a faithful life up to the point the angel graces her room—a life faithful to the Father, his purposes, and his values.
Joseph seems to have been the same. In Matt. 1:18-20a, we get a brief glimpse into his character, seeing that he is faithful to the law, and in this case, we can read that as a metaphor suggesting that Joseph cares what God thinks about things. When he hears of Mary’s pregnancy, he wants to do his beloved betrothed no harm, choosing to keep her story out of the public eye and to end their relationship quietly. We have no indication that Joseph was anything other than eager and willing to support Mary and to raise Jesus as his own when the angel appears to him in a dream.
Faithfulness in our past gives momentum to faithfulness in our present. Faithful in little, faithful in much. That is the way the Advent story unfolds, and ours as well. Today you and I have the opportunity to trade our fear for Christ’s courage, our apprehension for Christ’s revelation.
And if we will be faithful in little, we will be invited to partner with Christ and other faithful people in the awakening of the world—whether that world be in the home of the neighbor next door, or in the halls of kings and queens.
Jesus, Son of God, son of Mary and Joseph, you were raised by faithful people whose lives were as simple and complex as my own. When you called them, you had already found them to be faithful friends of God, and I want to be seen as the same. This Advent teach me to be faithful in little; let my heart move from disdain for the details to which I must attend, to delight in partnering with you in the smallest, most hidden ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.
In what little ways, public or hidden, do you believe you are partnering with God right now? What areas of faithfulness are you struggling with, and could you give those areas up to Jesus in surrender now? He wants to use you, and you are in training in the little things.
For the Awakening,