Something occurred to me this weekend for the first time about the Nativity. There’s no angel at the stable. The angels, God’s appointed messengers or “heralds” of his kingdom breaking out were not at the stable, but out in the fields. I’ve never thought about it. Sunday, Tony Myles sermon brought up the fact that as the shepherds came to the stable bringing news of their run-in with a heavenly host, Mary pondered and treasured this message in her heart.
The angel, Gabriel, was there 9 months earlier to announce to Mary God’s plan. However, at the moment when Mary was going into labor and there was no home or inn available, God’s messengers were absent. If you were Mary and Joseph, wouldn’t it have been nice to get a little update from God, to touch base with the leadership, to make sure that this apparent set-back was not going to be a problem. Instead, Mary and Joseph had to trust in the messages they had previously received that despite the circumstances, they were still walking in the way of the kingdom.
How many times have I been super-excited about God’s kingdom, a feeling of direct confirmation from the Holy Spirit that I know what to do and where to be, and then 9 months later (or 9 minutes) I’m feeling lost and confused? I’d love to get a message from Gabriel right about then, “Yes, Jesus is on the throne, and you are in the right place!” Instead, I cry out for confirmation and the I’m met with “Sorry, there’s no room in the inn, but we’ve got a stable where you can have that baby.”
Still, despite the absence of angels at the stable, God did deliver a message of confirmation to Mary and Joseph through the shepherds. They come to the stable looking for the sign of a baby lying in a manger. Upon finding the sign, the share with the new parents the announcement of the angels – a second hand confirmation of the kingdom. Often, the Lord uses a second hand confirmation through a fellow member of the kingdom who can see what you are doing and who shares with you their honest appreciation for how the kingdom is expressed in your life. I can often disregard these encouragements as platitudes or flattery. “If you could see things from my perspective, then you would know that this is not as ‘righteous’ as it looks” I think to myself.
The point is, I’m encourage to think of Mary and Joseph in a place of crisis in their “ministry” where they can’t see God’s kingdom at all. Then God sends encouragement in the form of fellow believers. So, maybe I need to look for more opportunities to encourage my friends with how clearly I can see the kingdom being expressed in them.