The Remarkable is seen in the Unremarkable
Thoughts on Luke 2
One of the remarkable features of Christ’s birth is that it is, for the most part, unremarkable. That is not to say that the incarnation was unremarkable, but the circumstances and the people involved most definitely were. It is safe to say that God’s divine providence is more often than not, carried out in the normal, unremarkable experiences of life.
For example, Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth describes the beauty of the incarnation in the midst of the chaos of displaced citizens returning home for governmental registration. God used a common man and a common woman, in a humble setting for an uncommon purpose (Luke 1-7). Or notice that the angel’s announcement of good news was made to common shepherds carrying out their normal duties with regular sheep in a regular field (8-21). Even Simeon and Anna, although noted to be devoted, faithful and reverent, were simple people living their lives in the final season of their lives (22-38).
Of course, this is not a foreign notion in the scheme of biblical revelation. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8), Abram was called out from among his own to be a people of God (Genesis 11:27-12:3), David was called from tending his sheep to be anoint king, each disciple of Jesus were called from common lives to follow Him and Paul confessed that he was humbled so that God’s strength might be made strong in weakness.
For His own glory, God’s divine providence is more often than not, carried out in the normal, unremarkable experiences of life. As God’s own, the pursuit of the Christian is to glorify Him in the normal, unremarkable experiences of life. The stay at home mom caring for her little ones, day after day, changing diapers, picking up toys, refereeing endless fights can glorify God in the midst of the fray. The working mom, waking early to get her kids going so she can get to the office on time can glorify God in the busyness of life. The laborer in a “dead-end” job can work “as unto the Lord” to add value to what he is doing. The Christian is to show forth the glory of God in every area of life even if it is, in and of itself, unremarkable.
Luke’s Christmas narrative (Luke 2) presents four factors to consider as you live in the normal, unremarkable world around you.
Practice living in the presence of God
There is no indication that Joseph or Mary realized Caesar’s required registration placed them exactly where they needed to be to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, but every circumstance they experienced was brought about by God’s providential hand (Galatians 4:4). The same might be said about the shepherds, Simeon and Anna.
The follower of Christ is to live in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. The theologians call this Coram Deo. It is the understanding that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God.
R. C. Sproul explains that…
“Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.”
Determine to align your life with God’s Word
A cursory reading of Luke 2 makes it clear that God’s Word alone took each character from the norm of everyday life to experience the wonder of the incarnation. Read it carefully and notice that, outside of what God chose to reveal, nothing was out of the ordinary.
In a very real way, God’s Word transforms His people into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and illumines the eyes of his spirit to know truth (1 John 2:21, 26-27). God’s Word counters the conforming influence of the world and renews the mind of the believer (Romans 2:2). God’s Holy Spirit works exclusively through God’s Word in the life of His people and apart from it, the Christian will fail to walk in the presence of God.
Live with purposeful anticipation
The testimony of Simeon in Luke 2:25-35 bears witness to a life lived in anticipation of what was promised. For Simeon, the promise that he would not see death until he saw the Messiah was a promise that gave him purpose in waking each day. He responded to God’s Spirit in his life and stayed close to the Temple, waiting for the promised fulfillment.
The writer of Hebrews rehearses the hearts of Old Testament saints awaiting God’s promise to them. He writes…
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13–16
Rather than settling in to the creature comforts of this transitory world, the New Testament saint lives in anticipation of God’s promised return and victorious reign over all creation. The New Testament saint lives with purpose as he anticipates Christ’s glorious return.
Give yourself to holy behavior
Not much is said about Anna except that she was “advanced in years”… and that she had devoted the whole of her life to serving the Lord. After seeing Jesus, she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to those awaiting Jerusalem’s redemption. The man of the world may see this as a said, unfulfilled life. And yet, in the scope of eternity, Anna lived a full life with purpose, to be lived without regret. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary should help in serving, Jesus argued that Mary’s worship of Him was of greater value (Luke 10:41). Jesus said, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). Life and labor is a part of life in this world and for most, they must be pursued, but it is holiness that sets life and labor on a different plane of eternity.
The glory of God’s divine providence in the life of His people is often carried out in the normal, unremarkable experiences of life. Thanks be to God and glory to His name. Soli Deo Gloria.