Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Leaving Bethlehem

BY THE TIME you read this, some people’s Christmas will already be done and dusted. Presents opened, lunch served, tree packed away for next year. Not me. I like to linger.

But whether your celebrations end on December 25 or extend through Epiphany on January 6, for all of us there’s a time when we have to put the season behind us.

Maybe this year you’re sad to do that. It’s been so joyful you just want to keep it going. Perhaps this year you’re glad to stop. It’s been so painful you welcome putting it behind you.

Whichever camp you fall into, as you turn to the days ahead you might find some comfort in considering how some of the characters in the first Christmas dealt with things. How they left Bethlehem.

Leaving with devotion
For a moment, the shepherds were at the center of it all. At that time in history shepherds had bottom-of-the-barrel social standing; their testimony was not valid in a court of law. Yet God had chosen some of them to be the heralds of His great news.

Then they went back to their marginal lives, literally on the fringes of society. But they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

They were not grateful for what they had received physically, but for what God had done for them. Nothing had changed in their material circumstances—but everything had changed. They had seen the coming King.

And the same is true for you. Your situation may not appear to be any different, but everything has changed because Jesus has come. If you go back to difficulty, remember He is Immanuel, God with us.

Leaving with discernment
The magi also went back to what was familiar, but it was not so bad for them. These wealthy men clearly had some standing in their home country.

We read in Luke 2:12 that “being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

They returned to the same thing, but from a different angle. Maybe you need to do the same. That difficult situation—at work, at home, in your family, in your career, in your finances. What might happen if you go back to it with a new approach?

How? Through discernment—by listening to God and doing what He says. Though we often call them the wise men, they weren’t—certainly at first. Remember they arrived in Israel and basically told Herod: “We’re looking for your successor.” Not very smart.

Only after God spoke to them did they wise up. Perhaps He wants to do the same for you. Seek His discernment for the way to go back to that same old situation.

Leaving with dependence
If anyone could be forgiven for thinking they were spiritually committed in the Christmas story, it’s Joseph. He had already shown himself to be a godly man, scrapping his plans to quietly divorce Mary. Through standing by her, he had opened himself to gossip, and yet without complaining.

He probably arrived in Bethlehem expecting to return to Nazareth, only to face another curveball. “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matt. 2:13).

There is a lesson here for anyone seeking to be part of bringing God’s kingdom. When you step out, it is going to be contested. Jesus’s birth prompted Herod to kill all the baby boys. Pharaoh did the same when another deliverer, Moses, appeared.

Joseph had to be prepared to up his game, to heighten his dependence, to act quickly when God spoke. He gathered Mary and Jesus that night; instead of going back to Nazareth, he went into exile.

Maybe God wants to disrupt your plans for the coming year in a similar way. Are you so dependent on His leading that you are ready to change direction without question if He speaks?

God has a way of doing that. Happy New Year.

Photo on Foter.com

2 Responses to “Leaving Bethlehem”

  1. Jim Orred

    Andy, you keep killing it. This was so good, I had to repost.

    I do love seeing someone who has not plateaued.



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