Generally Speaking: More on AdventBy MARILYN TINNIN COLUMNIST,
I have read and reread Luke’s familiar Christmas narrative this afternoon and I am struck by how something so familiar can spawn a fresh thought — almost as though I had just missed a part of the story that has always been in plain sight!
I am looking right past the bright star, the angels and heavenly choirs heralding the birth of Jesus. As spectacular as that scene may be, I am imagining the cast of “ordinary” human beings, who in the course of their mundane duties, found themselves in the middle of the greatest God-ordained miracle ever.
Maybe there is a lesson in that word, “ordinary.” God clearly does not approach “special occasions” in the same way we tend to do.
We pull out the good china and the silver and see that every nook and cranny sparkles. We occupy ourselves with details that may enhance the ambience but add little to the meaning of the occasion.
The guest list for human beings invited to Jesus’ royal birth included no noble wealthy important members of society.
The setting in the completely obscure little village far from five star accommodations reminds me that what is usually uppermost in our minds is rarely the thing that is uppermost in God’s.
All those fortunate travelers who had filled the inn and taken the rooms that Mary and Joseph would have hoped to be theirs, had no idea the extraordinary event occurring just outside in the stable even as they slept. What, pray tell, of any importance could possibly take place in a smelly stable? I know—but it was good to be reminded—that, for most of us, unless we look for Jesus in the ordinary places of our everyday lives, we will not find Him at all.
And wasn’t the ordinary the whole point of the name, “Immanuel?” God with us. God with us in the happy places as well as in the hard places; in the everyday places as well as the extraordinary places. He is as engaged in the life of the ditch digger as He is in the life of the CEO. There is nowhere His children go that He stands apart and refuses to enter.
I love good music. In fact, my first career and legitimate credentials involve the piano. My husband also loves good music, and it is almost always playing in our home although my keyboard collects dust these days. I was in the middle of busy work recently and barely aware there was any music at all in the background. Pachelbel’s Canon in D began to play. It called me to attention and made me stop just to listen. I guess I have played it a million times and heard its simple chord progression adapted to about every tempo, instrument, and style there is. But it never gets stale. It never gets old. And it never ceases to inspire me or move me. And it has the ability to cut through the most menial task in the middle of a very ordinary day, not because it is loud, but because it is simple, authentic, and quite beautiful.
Christmas is like that. If you look beyond the secular distortions to the origins, you can’t help being completely enthralled by the simplicity, the authenticity, and the beauty. The God of the Universe so loved the world that He wrapped Himself in skin to become “ordinary.” Well, it’s just impossible not to stop and remember how special “ordinary” and “simple” can be.