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My son is just shy of 2 ½ years old, making this Christmas season a little more interactive (or hyperactive?) then years past. He asks to read about baby Jesus in his new toddler Bible almost daily, and I’ve been singing “Away in a Manger” on repeat at his request. At his age, I just try to highlight the main characters in the story, hoping that through their eyes he understands one simple thing: this Baby is pretty darn special.
As I read the scaled back toddler version of this often retold Christmas tale, I’m struck by one simple thing myself: obedience.
The obedience of Mary, of Joseph, of the Magi. Their unwavering obedience, without a second thought, without delay.
Of course, the Baby is the hero of the story, the center piece of all Scripture. But the cast of characters God uses to take part in His tale, the grand arrival of His Son, our Redeemer and King, have inspired me to expand my focus this Christmas season. Moving beyond bowing down before the thrown to include worshipful obedience on my way there.
I always have the same picture in my head during the holidays, the classic Nativity scene with all the players in place. Mary, Joseph, the animals, the manger, the Magi, the shepherds, the star, and of course, “the Little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay,” as the song goes.
This scene has always spoken one word to me: worship. Clearly, it should. The shepherds came to worship. The magi came to worship. Undoubtedly, Mary & Joseph were moved to worship and perhaps even the animals bowed down in their own way. They were all in the presence of Emmanuel, God is With Us. God was with them in the flesh for the first time, His first moments, and all of creation would be changed for eternity. The birth of any child is miraculous, but this Child, this Son of God. He wasn’t just a miracle, but The Miracle foretold to come and save us all.
Beneath the obvious bowing down to worship Him, I see the underlying beauty of worshipful obedience. This blessed group had begun their worship of their King weeks, months, years before in choosing obedience to God, and that obedience lead them to this glorious day.
A young girl was visited by an angel (What?) and told that she, a virgin, would become the mother (Huh?!) of God’s Son (Seriously?!!). Her response? “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word be fulfilled.” No second thought. No negotiation. She didn’t cling to her own expectations or dreams for her wedding, her marriage, her first born. She just went with God’s plan, instantly relinquishing her own.
Man! I wish I had a heart like hers, that I would respond as she did. "I am the Lord's servant." That I would set aside my dreams, expectations, fears, desires and instead yield to God, not just for me and my life but for my husband, my son, my daughters. That I would yield my dreams and expectations for them, too. "May your word be fulfilled." Though it may be frightening, though I may not understand it or even grasp "How will this be." I pray I will find joy and hope in His work in each of our lives, and eagerly anticipate its completion. That I would obey and find joy in His plan being fulfilled instead of clinging to my own.
Then there’s Joseph. An honorable man finds out his fiancée is pregnant and decides to break off their engagement quietly in order to save her from public disgrace. An angel appears to him in a dream (What?) and explains that his fiancée is still a virgin yet pregnant (Huh?!) with God’s Son, Immanuel, “God is with us” (Seriously?!!). His response: he wakes up and obeys.
Ugh! I wish I had a heart like his, too. Wake up and obey. No talking myself out of it or waiting or procrastinating or running in the other direction. That I would immediately obey. No matter the repercussions or potential public disgrace. No matter what people might think or say. No matter the blow to my pride or reputation (you think Joseph had to endure the gossip of “raising another man’s son?”). Just immediate obedience. Period.
Enter: the Magi. Wise men from another land obediently travel for months following a star, looking for the King of the Jews who had been foretold in prophecy, to bring Him gifts and worship. They may have harbored a secret hope that when the star did show up it would be at a convenient time and lead them to a convenient location. But regardless of the great distance or effort required, regardless of what they were doing when the star appeared, they went. They embarked on a journey without any assurances of its degree of difficulty or length. They just went, the entire purpose to obey and eventually worship.
Again, I wish I had a heart like theirs. Constantly at the ready, waiting patiently for a sign, a word, a command, then jumping into action, regardless of the difficulty or effort involved. I pray that I will live my Christian journey as the Magi fulfilled theirs. Ready, waiting, listening for Him and His command. Just go. Obey. Now. Daily obediently continuing in my journey toward the great finale, bowing at His throne.
Yes, Christmas is about the King. About our glorious King and his heralded arrival on Earth. It’s the beginning of a beautiful story that culminates in the Resurrection and our Salvation. But I see worship not just in the angels’ song, the Magi’s gifts, the bowing down and praising God. I see worship is the obedience of Mary, Joseph, and the Magi before the arrival of the Christ child. The example of loving God through everyday actions, not just grand gestures.
I pray for my young son, and myself, as we read, and re-read his toddler Bible. That we would look beyond the baby Jesus in this story and see the people standing beside him in the scene. That my son would grow to whole-heartedly sing songs of worship to His King, but also live a life of worshipful obedience to His Lord. That he would follow the examples in the Christmas story and live a life that says, “I am the Lord’s servant.” No matter when, no matter what.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.