The Christmas story in Scripture is embedded with some extraordinary stuff. Angels announcing salvation, visionary dreams, prophetic songs, mouths being struck silent. This is no ordinary moment in time!
Yet, in my recent reading of the first chapters of Luke’s gospel, I’ve been struck by something quite the opposite. I’ve been noticing God’s redemptive work within the ordinary.
Looking at the details of Luke 1-2, I’m struck by the everyday sense of life that we find in the details of the story.
Zechariah getting on with his priestly duty.
A census of Rome.
Joseph and Mary preparing for their marriage.
Shepherds living in fields, caring for their sheep.
We know the whole story, so we kind of gloss over these points. That’s understandable. Yet, in my current reading, I’m seeing how each of these relate to everyday human life. Like those in the gospel account, the details represent reality for us on a day to day basis as well.
People taking up their assigned post.
An engaged couple prepping for their great day.
Blue collar workers following through on their work.
The day-to-day activities. But that’s when God shows up. That’s when God makes himself known. Whether his arrival is extraordinary or not, he arrives in the midst of our ordinary, day-to-day lives. That’s the testimony of the gospel account; that’s the testimony of all Scripture; that’s the testimony of all history.
In a play off a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem, Eugene Peterson entitles one of his books, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Some particular words from the poem go like this:
For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father though the features of men’s faces.
Christ truly does “play in ten thousand places”…and more. Peterson goes on to offer how Christ can be seen playing within creation, history, and community.
The Christmas-Advent story reminds us that God is acting in the details of life. At times, it will knock us aback. Angels will arrive, glory will shine forth, God will speak directly. At times, it won’t be so obvious. A friend will arrive, a smile will shine forth, that friend will speak life directly.
But let us not despise the details. For it is our God who paints the sky with a billion stars and erects mountains like that of Kilimanjaro, yet also holds every molecule together behind the scenes and knows the hairs on each head.
God is ready with redemption as we work, as we cook, as we sip, as we play, as we type, as we call, as we drive.
People are still taking up their assigned posts.
Governments govern today.
Engaged couples continue to prep for their great day.
Blue collar workers put their hands to work even now.
Can we see it? Can we glimpse the extraordinary redemption at work in those ten thousand places?
It is there.