Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Holy Family : A Lesson in Humility

By Megan James

For Advent this year, instead of my usual Dairy Milk Advent calendar, I opted for a snazzy Nativity themed one. So, every morning, when I open the door of this calendar, not only do I get chocolate for breakfast, but I also get given a line from the Nativity story. Yup, it’s prayerful and delicious. Win.
                Now, my Advent calendar is essentially made for children, so its basic outline of the Christmas story doesn’t do the Nativity all that much justice, after all, it’s hard to capture the beauty of a miracle on a small cardboard window. But, what the simplicity of its narration has made me realise is this: the Nativity story is not really simple or child-like.

We all too often recall the Nativity in this beautiful, but basic, story-like sense. I know I do. It’s easy to do, especially since it’s been a part of how many of us have been raised. For me, the Nativity was acted out on stage every year at school and in church. The Nativity was read to me like a bedtime story by my grandmother from my Marks and Spencer ‘First Bible’ that had adorable illustrations and a gold spine (that I thought was beyond fancy). The Nativity has almost become romanticised to the point where I can forget just how truly incredible it is, and how hard it must have been to live through.


            When looking at the picturesque Nativity scenes full of serene faces gathered around a cute little manger, it’s so easy to forget the reality. It’s easy to forget that those parents looking down at our Emmanuel were once people just like you and me. It’s easy to forget how much they had to give up.

It’s easy to forget that Mary was probably quite a bit younger than many of us. That this young girl was approached by an angel and told, despite her being an unmarried virgin, she was going to give birth to the Son of God. Not just a baby, no (as though that wouldn’t be terrifying enough). No, she was going to give birth to God himself. And what we often forget is that after that bombshell was dropped, the angel vanished and Mary was left to go through 9 months of watching her body change, not really knowing what was going to happen to her. But she did it, no questions asked. She fearlessly and humbly said yes; casting her own ideas and anxieties to the side, fully embracing His will over her own. That amazes me.

‘Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord.
May it be done according to your word.’

Luke 1:38


                But it wasn’t just Mary who showed this incredible level of humility. Joseph also would have had his own plans; I mean, I’m pretty sure helping raise the Son of God was a bit more than he thought he was signing up for when he asked Mary to marry him. But when an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to stay with Mary, as unconventional and dangerous as it  was in their society to be unmarried and expecting a child, Joseph went against his original instinct to leave, and said yes to God.

‘When Joseph awoke, 
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him 
and took his wife into his home.’ 

Matthew 1:24

                Both Mary and Joseph did what I find so hard to do today; they both laid down their lives for God; their hopes, their dreams, their futures. They literally let Him into their home. They understood the real power of humility; they knew that the humble would be exalted, that the meek would be rewarded, or in words their son would speak years later:

'Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.'

Matthew 5:5

They knew that when they said yes, God would not leave them empty handed. They didn’t try to bargain with God, they didn’t say to the angel, 'Maybe we can meet half way?’ No. They just said yes. And God provided a way for them. This level of humility and surrender is something we should all strive for.

Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up’ 

James 4:10


             But if Mary and Joseph show us human humility, Jesus, from his first moment, show's us the humility of God.  As we admire the quaint Nativity scene this Christmas and look upon the peaceful baby asleep in the crib, we shouldn’t forget that God could have chosen to come to us in any form; He could have come mightily as a tremendous force of nature. He could have come as anything. But God chose the humblest form and the most modest of beginnings. He chose to draw near to us defenceless and dependent on human parents.

              It was the furthest thing from what was expected of the arrival of the messiah. But that is what our God chose. Humility, humanity, and reality. He chose to come down to us and to struggle, suffer, and live, with us. He didn’t see himself as better than any of it. That is humility.

‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor
so that you through His poverty might become rich.’

2 Corinthians 8:9

                So, the next time I question God’s plan for my life, the next time I feel impatient waiting for answers, or I feel hard done by, or neglected by God, I will remember the Holy Family. I will remember their humility. I will remember to surrender my plans and to humble myself. If Mary could say yes, if Joseph could say yes, and if God could come down as a baby and lie in the dirt for me, then who am I to think I am above anything life throws at me? Who am I to cling stubbornly to the idea of the life that I want? I am a humble child of God, and I want to move my heart to be ready to say yes to Him whenever he calls.

‘But rather, He emptied Himself
taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.’

Philippians 2:7

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