Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wonder in the Ordinary

[image via Pinterest; graphic mine]


I've been moving too fast to think much about Christmas--I mean really think about it, settle into the Scriptures, stare out the snowy window, and journal whatever comes to mind. I plan to make time for that soon. In the meantime, though, a single thought has nestled into my heart. A tiny thought. Not a new thought or flashy thought, just a true one. In fact, this little thought starts with a single word:


ordinary



After being repeated for millennia, the Christmas story is sometimes glossed over like a too-beautiful-to-touch trinket we bring out once a year to place on a shelf where we can admire it from afar. At times I forget how very humble, tangible, and imperfect it all was. How very ordinary.


Mary, an ordinary young woman. She was probably going about her wedding preparations like any other fiancée at the time would have done. Maybe she was planning the feast or washing dishes or sweeping the floor when an angel interrupted her ordinary day and dropped life-shattering news into her lap.


Joseph, an ordinary young man. Also preparing for his upcoming wedding. Startled by Mary's news that she was pregnant, of all outrageous things. And then an ordinary night gave way to a decidedly extraordinary vision confirming Mary's words.


A census. A dusty travel, uncomfortable and inconvenient. (Surely we've all been there? Road-weary and impatient and wanting nothing more than a meal and a familiar bed?)


A stable with ordinary animals, ordinary stink, ordinary cold. Nothing special about it at all, except for the baby born inside.


Shepherds--oh, the shepherds. I've always been fascinated by them most of all. These men weren't all that high on the social ladder. I don't imagine they made much money at their jobs. Just think--long hours out in the elements. Smelly, bleating sheep all around. Sore feet in worn sandals. Only the stars above their heads as they stared blearily into the darkness, trying to stay awake and watch for predators. I'm sure this particular nightly watch looked and felt and smelled much like any other, with the same old frustrations, little pleasures, and predictable routine. It was an ordinary night. Perhaps boring. Quite likely unremarkable.


That is, until the heavens exploded with light and song and the kind of news that drives you to your knees.


Emmanuel--God with us.


After half a millennia of utter silence between God and man, even the staunchest believer might have wondered if the faith of their history was little more than a fairy tale, or if God was ever planning to speak again. Maybe He'd moved on. Lost interest. Shut mankind out. Forgotten the rescue He promised.


But no, not even close. On this ordinary night, above an ordinary field, an indescribable army of angels sang of the long-awaited Answer.


I have to smile at what the first angel announcer said: "You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough." (Luke 2:12, the Voice)


He didn't announce a king or conquering warrior. He didn't point the way toward a coronation ceremony or a battlefield or a palace or even a busy corner of the city.


The angel sent the shepherds to look for an inconspicuous newborn, wrapped in a definitely not new blanket, sleeping in a rough-hewn, straw-filled feeding trough. A kid in a barn. That was Jesus: fresh from heaven, expelled into an ordinary, messed up world fighting to hold onto hope.


And that's when the ordinary was never the same again.


This Christmas might not be anything special for you this year. It might look the same as it's always been. Maybe it looks a little gloomy this time around. Maybe it's good and happy. Whatever the case, chances are it's a fairly ordinary Christmas. But keep your eyes open for a glimmer of the extraordinary--a glimpse of majesty, a flicker of awe-inspiring wonder--nestled in amongst the trimming of just another day.


Because the ordinary is exactly where you're living right now, and it's exactly where Jesus loves to meet you.

Merry Christmas, dear souls! He is God with us indeed.


P.S. Currently listening to Brandon Heath's The Night Before Christmas, which fits pretty nicely. I won't be active online for the next couple of days, but afterwards I'll be back to reply to comments!

22 comments :

  1. Oh, Tracey. I...how do I even express how meaningful this post was? So...you made me cry. Like actual teary, blurry vision, sniffley nose crying.

    This brought the story of the Birth so CLOSE. So intimate and real. Of course I know it's real, obviously. But sometimes you don't think much about the details of the Bible stories. About what the people were feeling and thinking. About the, well, ordinary-ness of it all. This was real, actual people and real, actual events, and when you really, truly THINK about that, it makes it so raw and powerful and beautiful.

    This whole post moved me in ways I can't even express. I needed this. I so, so needed this. I was literally thinking just earlier this morning how I've been so busy and haven't really thought about the "reason for the season". I've been so caught up in DOING, I haven't been still and focused on the Birthday Boy. On why we're celebrating in the first place. And then just a little while later I come read this post and it all flooded out. My gratitude for what He did. I could feel His love while reading this. It was the very reminder I needed, to remember to let go of the stress of the holiday and focus on HIM.

    Thank you. Thank you so much for this. I wish everyone in the world could read this meaningful post! It is so important.

    Merry Christmas, my dear Tracey! I hope you have an absolutely blessed one! <3333

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    1. Christine! You precious dear! *hugs* I'm so glad it was impactful. And I know it wasn't just me--God definitely did the real work here. ;)

      Sometimes I wish I could LIVE through some of the accounts in the Bible, just to see and feel what was really like! To see the flawed but faithful heroes up close. I love how you put it!

      How is it that we're so often on the same page?? Because *I* have been running around this December too, doing lots of DOING but not as much BEING as I would like. I'm sorry it's been that way for you too, but also so very glad that the timing of this post was good! <3

      Thank you so much, m'dear! I had a wonderful Christmas and hope you did too!

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  2. What a beautiful post:) thank you for this. A reminder of the meaning of Chrismas and when Our Beloved came to Earth to begin His journey. That's good news :) blessings and Merry Christmas to you and yours <3

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    1. Thank you, Loie! What a truly marvelous arrival it was. Hope you had a merry Christmas as well!

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  3. "And that's when the ordinary was never the same again." I LOVE this! It immediately brought to mind G. K. Chesterton's quote (of course...I'm a little obsessed with Chesterton quotes), "There is nothing more extraordinary than an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children" and the Catechism passages I've heard ever since I was a little girl that by becoming an ordinary human, Jesus made ordinary human life and everything in it SACRED. Thank you for this excellent and much-needed post, Tracey!

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    1. Thank you, Lucy! GK Chesterton has some great quotes, that's for sure. ;) What a beautiful perspective, that Jesus made ordinary human life sacred! There are SO many things to unpack from the Christmas story, aren't there? I'm amazed every year how something new jumps out at me.

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  4. This post is so beautiful, Tracey! Ahhh--I don't even know how to describe how much I love this. :)
    Merry Christmas!!

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    1. Oh, thank you, dear! <3 You're so sweet. Merry (belated) Christmas to you as well!

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  5. What a beautiful post... Thank you, Tracey! <3

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    1. Thank YOU, Zane! I hope your Christmas was amazing. <3

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    1. Merry Christmas, Mrs. D! Thank you so much. :)

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  7. 'At times I forget how very humble, tangible, and imperfect it all was. How very ordinary.' I love the paradoxes of Christmas. Thank you for this beautiful post, Tracey!

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    1. Thanks, Blue! The paradoxes grab my heart too! Not just in the Christmas story, but throughout the whole Bible. I was just thinking the other day about the theme of God using the weak and foolish things to shame the wise...

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  8. Merry Christmas. :) This is a very fitting post for the season... I often get caught up in the majesty of Christmas and forget Jesus' humble beginnings.

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    1. Merry Christmas, Abbey! I'm so glad it served as a timely reminder. :) I tend to forget His humanity too often as well.

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  9. Every once in a while I almost grasp a bit of that majesty. I almost catch a glimpse of the immense glory that comes with the Christmas story, but yeah, it can also be pretty detatched and ordinary.

    I hope your Christmas was lovely, Tracey!

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    1. The paradox of His majesty and humanity is incredible! Even just a glimpse stuns me.

      It was lovely! I hope yours was too, Meaghan. <3

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  10. I was just reading a review of a film where the reviewer mentioned that Joseph and Mary have had their personhood stripped because we think of them with such reverence and often forget that these were just two normal young adults. They weren't divine. Mary was anywhere from 13-16 years old and Joseph wasn't that much older. When you think of them that way they seem almost more special than thinking of them as if they were somehow more divine than anyone else.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. So true! Many Bible figures seem to be thought of in a similar way--we forget sometimes that they were as human as we are. Details of their imperfections often aren't included in the Sunday school versions (because they're not always age appropriate *cough*), so it can be easy to gloss them over. Remembering that Mary and Joseph were REAL (and so young!) makes them all the more special to me too.

      Hope you had a great Christmas!

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  11. I'm a bit late, but gah this is so beautiful Tracey!! Really reminds me why we're celebrating. <333

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    1. I'm rather late myself in replying this week! >.< But thank you, my dear! I hope your Christmas was lovely. <333

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