We suggest taking 1-5 minutes of silence to prepare your heart.
Scripture: Luke 2:15-19 (New Living Version)
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart . . .
Pause - By Angela Nelson
Mary was told the baby in her womb was the son of the Most High. He would sit on David’s throne and reign over Israel forever. What was she expecting at his birth? Surely not an unplanned trip out of town, riding on a donkey while nine months pregnant (I can’t imagine!) Surely not a stable for animals with no bed, and no mother or relatives or woman she knew for support. How easy it would be to react in panic, fear, anger, or resentment. It’s not hard to imagine these kinds of thoughts running through her head.
First births can be frightening and overwhelming. We don’t know if Mary had a quick labor or if it went long, but I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable in a stable, or pain free. Then a group of complete strangers shows up, from the lowest strata of her world, who’d come straight from the fields. There are so many negative reactions Mary could have, which would have felt fully justified. Instead of reacting instinctively, Mary paused. She kept her mind and heart open to what was happening, even if she didn’t understand it. And she stored it all up in her heart to think about later.
"Instead of reacting instinctively, Mary paused. She kept her mind and heart open to what was happening, even if she didn’t understand it."
I often wish God’s work would be clear and plain and instead it’s hidden and subtle, or long-term instead of short-term. When people say, “God is doing xyz,” or I want to pray, “God, just do xyz!” I’ve learned to pull back. I’ve learned the hard way I often don’t know what he’s doing. My intentions (for myself and others) are sincere, but I’m usually wrong! It’s natural to react to people and situations out of our own emotions and assumptions, instead of waiting for God to reveal himself. And even when he doesn’t--even when we don’t understand--to wait, and store it up in our hearts for later.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
What are everyday situations where you tend to react instead of pause? Are there people you instinctively react to, when it would be better to pause? It’s easy to justify negative reactions because of physical discomforts. Can you think of times you’ve done this?
God, help me to pause--to reserve judgement--and to remain open minded and open hearted to people and situations around me. Help me to sense your presence in people and situations I don’t expect. Expose my assumptions, and help me feel at peace even when I don’t understand.
Take a few more minutes of silence to allow God to speak to you through todays devotional.