This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

Even as Christians we can easily become caught up in the busy swirl of the season. But this year may we slow down to celebrate the ordinary.

Many lesser things allure us: $700,000,000 signing contracts, massive stadiums and empires, luxury this, and luxury that. As the spotlight shifts from one elaborate story to another, we might extend our applause here or there. Whether intentional or not, we are tempted to ignore, or even scoff at, the ordinary.

How often do we applaud the mother sacrificially caring for her children? Do we acknowledge the father who consistently wakes up each morning and works to provide for his family/ What about the quiet caregiver who lovingly supports and provides for the infirm or vulnerable? These and many others may not rank high in the list of those worthy of celebrating. However, in God’s record book I think they do.

As we take a brief look at the Christmas story, we quickly discover those whom God celebrates. May it inspire us to also celebrate the ordinary.

An Ordinary Woman

Mary, by all appearances, led an unassuming life of quiet obedience to God. She was just one among many young virgin women, awaiting their wedding day. Engaged to a handsome and righteous young man, she anticipated the time when they would soon consummate their marriage, set up their own home, and begin a family together.

Her life portrayed a vibrant example of how to celebrate the ordinary, like generations of women before her. Until the day when everything changed!

The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

The angel explained how God had chosen her to become the mother of the awaited Messiah — the King who would rule and reign forever. Questions flooded her mind.

“‘How will this be; Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'”
Luke 1:34

The angel reminded Mary that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).

Until now, Mary appeared completely ordinary. But, we see the extraordinary character and godly integrity of this young woman as she gives God her complete, “Yes!” And with that she laid her reputation, and quite possibly her future marriage, on the line. She risked losing everything, choosing to celebrate the ordinary so we could one day receive Jesus as Savior.

No Ordinary Baby

Mary, through the Holy Spirit, conceived no ordinary Baby. This Baby — fully God and yet fully man — would save people from their sins.

“So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

Jesus gave up the splendor of Heaven to be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. He set aside all His power and authority to become robed in frail humanity.

“Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus willingly chose the suffering of human life for our good, not His. He came as no ordinary baby to cancel a debt which we owed but could never pay.

Too often, we end our remembrance of the first Christmas here. And when we do, we miss the opportunity to celebrate the ordinary in another key figure involved.

An Ordinary Man

Joseph, like any ordinary man, busied himself in preparation for his future bride and family. The day was fast approaching when he and Mary would finally become man and wife. As a typical young couple, they held great hope and anticipation for their future together.

The news of Mary’s pregnancy shattered all that! How could Mary betray him? And in the worst possible way? He considered every option. But because he was righteous, he decided to quietly divorce her. Until an angel spoke to him through a dream.

“…’Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'”
Matthew 1:20

Without hesitation, he took Mary into his home as his wife.

Joseph’s ready response should cause us to celebrate the ordinary who became extraordinary. This one ordinary Joe obeyed God completely and sacrificed himself fully for the sake, not only of his family, but ultimately for you and me.

Celebrate the Ordinary

Yes, Jesus, this no ordinary Baby, should be the central focus of the Christmas season. Yes, Mary deserves full recognition for the humble part she played in the birth of the Messiah. But this Christmas may we also celebrate the radical willingness of ordinary Joseph.

Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to the commitment of marriage when divorce would have been the easier option. He said “Yes!” to adopting, loving, and raising a son not his own. Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to sacrificial living for the sake of Jesus. He also said “No!’ to social status and the acceptance of his peers. Ordinary Joe said “No!” to defining his life by the expectations of others.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:24-25

This Christmas may we consider ordinary Joe who allowed God to change his mind, to shift his focus, to soften his heart, and to bring Jesus home. Joseph gave God room for whatever He desired even when it cost, even when it hurt, even when he didn’t understand, and it went against the grain of all human desire.

Value the Ordinary

God has a perfect plan for each one of us. We may feel our lives are far too ordinary to be used by Him. But let’s allow this beautiful and incredible reminder of two ordinary people, Joseph and Mary, to give us fresh vision and assurance that God is able to use our ordinary lives for His extraordinary purposes.

May we be inspired to put God first, to walk in radical obedience to God’s Word, to love sacrificially, to give up our reputation for the sake of Kingdom worth, to live by our convictions not circumstances, and to place the good of others over ourselves. But most of all, may we welcome the living Christ into our hearts and homes.

God calls each of us to lay aside personal agendas and expectations. He calls us to enter a life of divine purpose. He asks us to trust him — not blindly but faithfully. God promises us that no sacrifice will ever be wasted. And He welcomes us to live our extraordinary calling through ordinary lives in unity with Him.

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5 Little Steps To Walking With Our Big God

Vibrant Christian faith includes a series of intentional little steps. How can these little feet walk in step with such a big God? Only with God’s help! God promises to walk beside us. He also welcomes us to walk with Him.

Today a family of three generations walked past our house. A preschooler recklessly led the entourage while riding his bicycle. The father pushed an empty stroller, while the mother kept the little biker from running over grandpa’s toes. Grandma held both hands of a toddler encouraging its every step.

In a similar way, God walks beside me

holding my hands,
guiding my steps,
providing protection,
and encouraging strength.

God joined Adam and Eve for a daily walk. I imagine happy chatter bounced between the three of them as they walked and talked — that is until the fall.

“Then the man and his wife
heard the sound of the LORD God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and they hid from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man,
“Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8,9

“Where are you?”

God still calls to us, “Where are you?” as he waits for us to walk with Him. The same intimate relationship Adam and Eve experienced with God before the fall has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were,

“…Surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Where am I? Too busy or preoccupied? Hiding like Adam or blaming like Eve? Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged?

Where are you? Have you struggled to develop a consistent faith walk?

Every journey, including our walk with God, contains a series of little steps. “S-T-E-P-S” form an acronym for reliable practices that have proved beneficial for generations of Christ followers:

Scriptures
Take away
Early
Prayer
Sacrifice.

Scriptures

God’s Word creates a solid footing. Like that grandmother holding the toddler’s hands, the bible establishes sure principles for us to walk in and live by. Its eternal truths endure through all seasons, for all generations.

God’s Word is perfect in every way;
how it revives our souls!
His laws lead us to truth,
and his ways change the simple into wise.
His teachings make us joyful
and radiate his light;

his precepts are so pure!
His commands, how they challenge us
to keep close to his heart!

The revelation-light of his word
makes my spirit shine radiant.
Every one of the Lord’s commands is right;
following them brings cheer.
Nothing he says ever needs to be changed.
The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.
That’s why I prize God’s word
like others prize the finest gold.

Nothing brings the soul such sweetness
as seeking his living words.
Psalm 19:7-10

This small passage illustrates just a few of the benefits God’s word provides. Reading, mediating, and studying the bible deposits immeasurable “treasures” within us. God holds our hands as we read, protectively guiding our faltering childlike steps —little steps with big God.

If consistent bible reading is new to you, start small. Choose a “quiet” spot where you can keep a bible, a small notepad or journal, and a pen handy. Establishing even a modest goal of 15 minutes a day will reap benefits.

Take Away

As you read the Bible seek Holy Spirit’s help for a practical “take away” — something you can begin to incorporate into your life. Ask yourself several questions as you read,

“What application can I pull from this passage?”
“How does this relate to my circumstance or relationships?”
“What can I learn about God’s character?”
“Is there a point of growth for me to pursue?”

The Bible documents God’s journey with people from eternity past to eternity future. Though the bible was written by over 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, its relevance never diminishes.

“Such things were written in Scriptures
long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us
hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently
for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4

It’s helpful to record the daily “take away” in a journalGod’s voice to your heart for that day. He may reveal something new or affirm an old lesson in a new way. Recording the “take away” helps us retain His truths. It propels us, through little steps, as we consistently walk with our big God.

Early

A day quickly becomes cluttered with activity or clouded with responsibility. Taking time early in the morning gives God our priority. Jesus said overcoming the pressures of life becomes possible by putting God first.

“But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness
and all these things
will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

For some people, early in the morning may be the hardest but most important step. Jesus consistently patterned the example for us.

“Very early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
Jesus got up, left the house
and went off to a solitary place,
where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35

Prayer

That leads into the next “little step” — prayer. Reading the bible allows God to speak to us. Prayer is our response in this ongoing conversation.

After spending time reading the bible and considering a “take away”, prayer flows naturally from our full heart. Aspects of prayer may include:

  • coming into agreement with God’s word
  • committing oneself to follow Him
  • thanksgiving or praise for who He is and what He has done
  • presenting the needs of others
  • laying personal requests before Him
  • or silently waiting in His Presence.

Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Consider writing a prayer in your journal as you confirm this little step with God.

Sacrifice

Jesus called his followers to count the cost of discipleship. Walking with God means abandoning our way and desires. Little steps yield to God’s direction.

When you fast,
do not look somber
as the hypocrites do,
for they disfigure their faces
to show others they are fasting.”
Matthew 6:16

The word “when” implies followers of Christ would fast. Fasting goes beyond dietary restrictions. All the previous steps focused our attention on God, fasting turns our hearts away from other attractions and distractions.

Food is the most basic need of humanity. The conscious decision of fasting professes God to be our highest essential requirement. Though few Christians in North America fast regularly, fasting acknowledges God as sufficient.

God out-measures any sacrifice we might make. With eternity in mind and joy on our faces, He empowers our little steps of sacrifice.

Five Little Steps

Anne Graham Lotz writes about two basic rules needed for anyone to walk together:

“The first rule is that we must walk in the same direction.
The second rule is that we must walk at the same pace…
If we want to walk with (God),
we must walk in His direction…at His pace.”

Many generations of followers have incorporated these five little steps in their walk with God: reading of Scriptures, finding a “take away,” seeking God early in the day, prayer, and sacrifice. God walks with us encouraging our every step. So, let’s keep walking with him. Step by step we will reach the finish line!

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