The shepherds are gone back now to watching their sheep. The angels have long since gone away back into the heavens. Simeon and Anna will be waiting for the next week or so in the temple to see the Messiah they have long prayed and hoped would come in their lifetimes…They will die in peace. He has come. But who else knew?
A few observant star-gazers will bow at this toddler’s feet. Herod will be notified that a rival has been born and order the murder of all Bethlehem’s infants…Mary and Joseph, forewarned, will sequester the child in Egypt for a while…But who else knew that their Messiah had come? This one born to save the world from its helpless estate had been announced to a select few but now the excitement is over, the unsung days and years settle in.
Isn’t this the way it is after the height of the Christmas season? The music fades. The tree comes down. Routine returns as the crumbs of Christmas baking are swept away…And a whole lot of unsung days ensue. And who remembers that a Savior has been born and life can never be the same?
For Mary there’ll be the rounds of diapers and feedings, of cuddles and training, of meals and mundane. The King of Kings must learn to walk, to talk, and to become an ordinary little Jewish boy from Nazareth--an apprentice in the carpenter shop perhaps. These are the unsung years.
But all the while Mary knows salvation is coming. “God Saves” she repeats every time she calls His name. And little by little Jesus will grow and become strong and be filled with wisdom. The favor of God rests on him. But what a long slow march fills this gap between promise and fulfillment. How slowly the darkness is overcome by the Light of the world. How slowly salvation seems to come.
All the heavens rang at his birth. Ages of prophecy climaxed here. And yet it was only another stage in the unfurling of redemption…a story that continues all around us and in us.
People sit in darkness still, unaware that there is a better way to live. And even we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit wait eagerly for the hope of righteousness which will come with the redemption of our bodies(Rom.8:23) (Gal.5:5).
A few shepherds were privy to the glorious announcement of God’s redemptive plan—“A Savior has been born to you!” but the bulk of Bethlehem’s population missed it. And with each passing year of celebrating Jesus’ birth, still Hope eludes so many. Personal redemption remains a mystery. For many the new year will be very much like the old one…a year of working out one’s own salvation as though life depended on it. Only a few saw the starry sky, the hosts of angels. Only a few heard God’s revelation that a Savior had been born for them…
And yet, salvation has come. Hope was born that night. And for those who have seen God’s glory as revealed in Jesus--for those who have believed-- the Light shines in them and through them. God’s redemptive work has begun. God is with us, His Spirit at work in the night of our culture, in dim places we cannot fathom Him reaching. You know the places—those ‘impossible’ situations you wonder how the Gospel can ever permeate…there are names and faces we each carry in our hearts… And we, like Mary ponder the passing of years and wonder when ‘the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ’ (II Cor.4:4) will shine in these places. How will their redemption be accomplished? The Savior has been born but who knew then? Who knows now? And how long before they are saved?
But as I reflect on the passage of time from Jesus’ birth to His ‘It is finished’, and from then till now…it is clear that the timetable of redemption is not in our control. God is in no hurry; nor is He slow to keep His promises. Our part is to present ourselves, living sacrifices, for His purposes, whatever that entails, even as Mary did: “Behold, I am the bondservant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” Lk.1:38.
We have not been called to give birth to the Savior, but we do carry Him with us into the world day by day. And though we cannot personally effect a single soul’s redemption we can believe that “nothing will be impossible with God.” Lk.1:37,38 And we can pray for eyes to be unveiled to the Gospel’s glory.(II Cor.4:4) Only God can accomplish this.
So as we wrap up another Christmas season and lay to rest both its sweetness and its sorrows…as we face another year and wonder when and how redemption will be accomplished in the myriad of situations we carry on our hearts…let’s continue to hold onto the hope of Christmas. A Savior has been born to us. He is still the answer. He alone can reconcile man to God--the crucial need at the heart of every woe. His Lordship alone can bring peace on earth and within our own hearts.
We who know Him, who have glimpsed the glory of the Gospel, have every reason to maintain a joyful expectation regardless of the blackness of the night. God is at the helm of redemption’s plan. He will accomplish it—our salvation is nearer now than when we believed! Who knows what He will do in the coming year? Let’s be attending to our sheep on the hillsides alert to the glory of the skies. Our redemption draws nigh!
“…who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 1:5-7 ESV
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
I Pet.1:8-9 ESV
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Cor. 4:6 KJV
“…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Rom 13:11-12 KJV
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:27-28 KJV