Will God Ever Show Up For You?Dec 12, 2022
Have you ever had the experience where you think, “Just this one time I’m not going to fix my hair/put on my makeup/change my scruffy clothes because I'll be in and out of the store in no time."
And that’s exactly when you encounter three friends – or that acquaintance who is the last one you’d ever want to meet in your unmade condition! “Aggghh, when will I ever learn?” you think.
It’s just when you least expect it...
What do you think Mary was doing when Gabriel showed up? Did he come at night and wake her from sleep? Was she hanging clothes to dry in the hot sun? Had she just returned from the market and was putting groceries away?
Was everyone else out of eyesight and earshot? Or were there others – children, women, friends, strangers – who couldn’t hear the conversation but saw Mary talking as if someone was there? Did her mother sigh two minutes after Gabriel had disappeared, “Were you talking to yourself again?” Did she sit wide eyed the remainder of the night pinching herself to confirm she was awake and wondering how exactly everything would play out.
The Bible seldom includes such details about divine encounters. Precious little ink is spent detailing people’s looks, clothing styles, or home designs. Few features about time, place, weather, or attire are included. Reactions are summarized concisely, if at all. When this information is included, it’s a “sit up and pay attention” notice.
We don’t know what time of day or night it was, whether it was pouring rain or sweltering hot or balmy and breezy, and whether it was in a house, marketplace, field, or street when Gabriel arrived with his message. We don’t know if Mary’s garments were spotlessly clean or spattered with residue from the day’s work. We don’t know if her hair was fashioned or thrown up, her face glistening and radiant or pimply and sweaty. We do know God interrupted her customary routine.
He also interrupted an unremarkable group: sheepherders. Why at night? Perhaps during the day they were all spread out, separated, alone. Maybe they needed each other to confirm their divine encounter wasn’t just a dream. Perhaps the dark night scenery was a more impressive backdrop than sunlight skies. Why night was important to this divine interruption is a mystery.
God’s been interrupting people’s ordinary days and nights ever since. Just usually not with Gabriel or angelic choirs.
Still, the big deal wasn’t the messengers – it was the message. (No disrespect to Gabriel or multitudes of heavenly hosts. I don’t want to end up like Zechariah.)
But divine messages, even when they arrive via ordinary mortals, still interrupt our ordinary lives – if we’re willing to hear them.
The child who interrupts your day with “Look at what I made, Mommy” and points to another drawing where you can’t tell if they’ve constructed a whale or a truck may be a divine interruption pointing you to see the glory of creativity and imagination God’s given your child – and you.
The spouse who interrupts your day with, “Let’s go for a walk! It’s beautiful outside!” may lead to an encounter with Beauty which restores your soul and strengthens you for the unrelenting demands of a struggling adolescent.
The friend who interrupts your day with, “Can we talk?” may be God showing up to say, “Hey, the gift of your presence and listening will keep this person believing in me in spite of all that’s conspiring to declare me AWOL.”
As a planner, I don’t like interruptions. I don’t get up every day with the attitude, “I hope my plans today are thrown entirely to the wind.”
I’ve never prayed, “God, today just bring me a multitude of interruptions.”
Divine encounters, Gabriel and angelic hosts style? Oh sure, those would be awesome! (At least I’d like to think that would be my response to angels, one or more, showing up.) But kid, spouse, friend, family member, stranger at the store? How can those be seen as anything more than annoyances?
I’m still working on this perspective change. But Advent helps. It reminds me that God shows up on ordinary days, to ordinary people, with extraordinary messages.
No, there’ll never be a repeat of Gabriel’s message to Mary. That was a once-in-the-world’s-lifetime pronouncement. But part of the news – “[Jesus] will be great…and of his kingdom there will be no end” – is for each disciple. For every person seeking this world’s redemption and renewal.
God's kingdom isn’t built with bricks or cement blocks, by swords or votes, but by people with acts and words of kindness, love, joy, peace, and truth. That means you.
You. Right there in your ordinary life. Yeah, with the laundry that’s been waiting for three days to be folded and put away.
You, whose been up with sick kids three nights in a row and feel like one more night of this and you’re going to drink the entire bottle of cough medicine so you can get some sleep.
You, with the sullen teen you just can’t seem to reach, your heart wrenching with pain which defies expression.
The sum of the message to Mary and sheepherders was, “I AM coming! I AM on my way! I AM will soon be with you.” It wasn’t just for Mary and men who listened to "bah, bah, bah" all day; it was for the world. For you.
Whatever your “ordinary” life now holds – whether pain or peace, despair or delight, plenty or poverty – remember, God shows up to ordinary people on ordinary days and changes everything.
Advent is a time of looking back to Christ’s first coming, not just to check a Christmas spiritual practice or tradition off the list, but to impact how we live. Where we focus. Why we hope.
Determine to live with the expectation God will interrupt your ordinary life. His message may be just for you. It may be one to share with others – even perhaps to the world. Remember, I AM is coming. His kingdom – the one you’re a part of – will never end. It will endure, as will your place in it and contribution to it.
©Stephanie D. Smith 2022
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