I was having dinner with some good friends a few nights ago. One of them shared that she was pregnant, her first pregnancy. We rejoiced with her. I marveled again at this experience of bearing a child, an experience foreign to men.
A child conceived in love as this one was, would require the mother to go through a number of stages. First there would have to be the initial decision to have the child. And the need to act on that decision! (The next step is God’s. He gives the miracle of new life.) Then, there is the pregnancy itself, the 9-month gestation period. Then comes the day when the new life emerges into the world. Decision-Conception, gestation, birth. Three stages.
In this Advent season my friend’s pregnancy, like every pregnancy, is a reminder of that pregnancy recorded in Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7. There the angel Gabriel comes to a simple Jewish girl and tells her that she would bear the promised Messiah. There was no way she could understand all that the angel said. But she must have understood enough to know the attendant dangers. And that life would never be the same again if she said yes. She knew enough to make a decision. She said yes and in doing so becomes a model disciple. She said yes and allows God to work through her and change the world forever.
It seems this is God’s basic modus operandi. When He wants to do something significant He chooses a person and makes him or her an offer. And if that person says yes, then God’s purposes flows though that person and into the world. But there are still the three stages.
This Christmas, how many of us are at stage one? How many of us have encountered a vision, or a burning bush? How many of us have an angel waiting for our answer? It has become clear that God wants us to do something with our lives. We too are bewildered and wonder if the angel got the wrong address. We don’t fully understand what is going to happen. But we know that it will be scary and exciting. And it will further the Kingdom in some way. And that God is waiting for an answer.
Some of us may have said yes already. And things have begun to happen. But we are yet to see the fruit of our obedience. All we know is that we carry a heavy burden. We are at stage two of our mission. In some ways this may be the tougher stage. We have gone through all the excitement of wrestling with our choices. We have taken our step of faith and obedience. And then, nothing. No parting of the Red sea. No chariots from heaven. Just this waiting. We need to understand that God cannot be rushed. His purposes are timed perfectly. And that sometimes waiting is ministry.
Of course some of us see the delivery date approaching. Or indeed we have seen some wonder from God emerge into this world through our lives. At last the waiting is over! But new life also comes with blood and pain! I recall being at my wife’s side at the birth of our second child. I recall the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’s side in John 19:34. It seems that nothing good enters this world without sacrifice. All mothers know this. The greater marvel is that God allows us to be part of His plans!
As we approach the end of 2003, we need no extra reminders that we live in a turbulent time and that the world remains in desperate need of God’s love and God’s life. God is still sending out His angels to His people with His assignments. What is yours? What is your answer? At what stage of the ‘pregnancy’ are you?
2000 years ago, Mary said yes. And the Messiah did come. And that though the whole world is still groaning as we await the birth of the new heavens and the new earth, that birthday is coming! And in that truth we rediscover strength and joy. A Blessed Christmas to you!
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan