As we begin the second week of Advent, now is a good time to take stock of how our preparations for Christmas are going. Have you bought any presents yet (never mind having actually finished your shopping)? Have you put up any decorations? Did you finish off all of your Thanksgiving leftovers?
What about the spiritual side of getting ready for Christmas? Often we start strong, but then we fade after a few days or a week. If that describes you, don’t be discouraged; today is a great day to restart!
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. It’s the day we light the second candle on the Advent wreath—the Bethlehem Candle. Like the Prophecy Candle, the Bethlehem Candle is purple, signifying seriousness, repentance, and royalty. The Bethlehem Candle recalls the preparations Mary and Joseph made for Jesus’ birth.
Their preparations were probably not unlike ours when we’re looking forward to the birth of a child. Joseph and Mary undoubtedly wanted to be sure their son would have the necessary food, clothing, and shelter for life in this world.
But, while they were getting ready for Jesus’ birth, they were interrupted by a Roman census.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)
Joseph had to go to Bethlehem, his ancestral town, and he brought Mary with him. From their point of view, the 90-mile journey was probably an annoyance they could have done without. Mary was nearing the end of her pregnancy, and they had better things to do than spend the better part of a week traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But, that’s not how God saw it.
About 700 years earlier, God had spoken to His people through the prophet Micah.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Micah 5:2 (NIV)
Though the census intruded on Mary and Joseph’s preparations, it was part of God’s plan. They lived in Nazareth, but God wanted Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. Enter the census. God used a Roman emperor to accomplish His purposes, and Jesus was born where God had promised.
For many of us the days leading up to Christmas are among the busiest of the year. We don’t relish interruptions to our plans at any time, and especially not now. But, sometimes God interrupts our plans in order to accomplish His purposes.
As we’re getting ready for Christmas, let’s make our plans and carry them out. But, let’s not get so wrapped up in our own preparations that we’re too busy to appreciate what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Rather than seeing these interruptions as annoyances, we can see them as opportunities to partner with God in accomplishing His purposes.
Reflection and Discussion
- How do you usually respond when your plans are interrupted?
- Can you think of a time when God used an interruption to bring you a blessing?
We are so busy at this time of year. With all that we feel we have to do, it’s difficult for us to focus on what You are doing and what You want to accomplish. Please help us not to get so distracted by our preparations for Christmas that we miss the whole point of the holiday. Please help us to focus on You and on Your Son, whom You gave to us because You love us.