December 2


“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”

No one expected it—not Joseph, and certainly not Mary. A child before marriage. A son conceived without having sex, however that might work. He would be a holy child, someone set apart to God. He would be the Son of God, whatever that might mean. That’s what the angel told Mary.

Naturally, Mary asked how this would happen. The angel said the Holy Spirit would come upon her. Who ever heard of such a thing? Joseph and Mary expected that any child they might have would be a gift from God. But they sure didn’t expect this.

Though their son would be conceived in an extraordinary way, he would be born in the usual way. He would eat and sleep in the usual way. He would grow up in the usual way. And he would learn the family trade in the usual way.

For a long time, there wouldn’t be much unusual about their son. Not until the Holy Spirit, who would come upon Mary, would also descend on their son (Luke 3:22). The Spirit would send their son on a mission to be the Savior of the world.

That mission would unfold in ways no one expected. But their son would keep moving forward. With a generous heart, with a courageous spirit, and with toughened soles, he would stick to the path of that mission for the glory of God.

Jesus, you are the pioneer and perfecter of faithfulness. Your feet walked the path ahead of us. May our feet keep moving as we walk along behind you. Amen.

Unusual Baby

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. . . .

At the very heart of Christmas we find a rag-wrapped baby lying in a makeshift crib. By itself, that’s not so unusual. Babies show up when and where they happen to be born. Mothers have to deal with it, ready or not. And they do, whether the baby is delivered in a hospital, in a taxicab, or on a kitchen floor.

What’s unusual here is not the rags. Mary improvised, using what was available. And what’s unusual is not the manger. That was just a smart solution to an urgent need. No, what’s unusual here is the baby ­himself.

Now, this baby has the usual number of fingers and toes. You just know that Mary counts them. This baby has the usual smooth, soft skin. You just know that Mary adores his little cheeks. And this baby makes all the usual sounds: coos and gurgles and wails. You just know that Mary takes in these sounds as sweet ­music.

What’s unusual about this baby is not his actual flesh and blood, not his appearance, not his behavior. No, what’s unusual about this baby is the identity veiled by his helpless human form. Because this baby is the God “through [whom] all things were made” (John 1:3). This is a wonder.

Son of Mary, help us to wonder as we wander through your story this month. Deepen our faith as we encounter your genuinely human glory. Amen.