On Christmas Eve, we sat around our lit Advent wreath and asked our kids this question, “How does each character in the Christmas story take a risk?” Though our older kids are only 7 and 9, they were able to identify risk with each and every character. Here are just a few thoughts on each person:
Mary – Risked so much as she carried the Messiah. She risked her life since at that time, a woman pregnant before the marriage ceremony could be stoned to death. She experienced shame as she risked her reputation in a culture bound by honor and shame. She risked disappointing her parents. She risked believing a heavenly being – an angel!
Joseph – He risked his reputation by choosing to support Mary and allowing his shame and honor culture to believe he had lived unfaithfully before the actual wedding. He chose to treat Jesus as his own child, in effect adopting the baby Messiah.
Shepherds – They risked hoping in something that might not be true. As social outcasts, their lives were likely rough and lonely. But when the angel appeared to them, they dared to hope and dared to travel to see the baby, though again they could have been cast aside. They weren’t!
Wise Men – They risked losing face in a culture that esteemed their intellect. They chose to bow and worship a child who was poor and uneducated at the time. They risked the comforts of home during their long travel. They risked believing beyond what their minds could comprehend, laying expensive gifts at the feet of little Jesus. As people moved by intellect, they submitted their intellect to wonder.
Jesus – And of course, Jesus himself took a risk through the entire process of Incarnation. Just think about it. The Creator of the universe submitted himself to the limitations of humanity, growing inside a young woman’s womb. Then as he took his first breath, he humbly risked needing food, his diaper changed, and learning to walk and talk. Then of course, he risked the very real possibility of sinning during his life. (Do you think Jesus could NOT have sinned? If he could not have sinned, then temptations were not real temptations, and he cannot identify with frail humans.) Jesus came for the very purpose to live with perfect holiness and then to die in absolute agony becoming sin. He came in order to lay his life down to offer the greatest gift for humanity – forgiveness.
As our children talked about the risk required of each character we asked what character trait allowed them to risk like they did. They nailed it, “faith.” Only those with faith take risks.
Where does your faith reside? Is it in the reality of God? Are you consumed with His story on the earth? Are you passionate to live out your purpose that fits into His global purpose?
The Christmas story invites us all to examine our lives. Do we live by faith? If we are consumed with our comfort, with the things that make us happy, and with a “my four no more” mentality (only our immediate family), then perhaps we are living the way of the world. Yes, God wants us to enjoy life. But somehow in God’s economy, just as Jesus entered into the human story, the greatest way to enjoy life is to enter into God’s story in the broken world.
For every person in every village, ethnic group and nation to hear of Christ it will require each of us choosing to live a life of risk – a life of faith.
May the coming year 2018 be a milestone in our lives and yours of recommitment to risk something for the sake of a Gospel that is Good News to all the world!