When a young Jewish girl was confronted by the startling news that she was to give birth to the Son of God, she gave a reaction which is as much a testament to her character as her subsequent obedience.
Mary, after asking how such a thing is even possible, answered,
"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
I think there is an example for each of us to follow in 2011.
On Tuesday, December 21st, 2010, the inhabitants of earth witnessed a total lunar eclipse. These happen every so often, but what made this one rare was it coincided with the northern hemisphere's winter solstice and the southern hemisphere's summer solstice: the shortest and longest days of the year in each hemisphere.
As I stood looking up into the sky, I thought of several things. Firstly, I thought, "What a dud. This was not worth getting up for." Thankfully it was on at around 8pm so I only had to get up out of the lounge chair. It was supposed to glow red and have that once-in-400-years look about it, but it looked pretty much the same as normal to me. Apparently, in the northern hemisphere it was spectacular. "At least they had to suffer an early start to behold the sight," I said comforting myself.
Secondly, I wondered how many people around the world were staring at the moon at that very moment. It was a sort of unifying feeling. The whole world coming together etc.
Finally, I thought of the birth of Jesus and how the good news of his birth was flagged initially by a star which shone brightly in the sky.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Exactly what this star was we are not told. It does not seem plausible that it was simply the alignment of certain planets because it firstly traveled from east to west, then south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and then remained stationary over the house where Jesus now lived.
I know many have attempted to give scientific explanations as to how such phenomena could reasonably have occurred according to the laws of physics, but these all seem to reside with people who are looking to keep the moral lessons from the nativity narrative without any of the miraculous. I'm not interested in doing any of that. I'm quite happy to see it as a miraculous sign for just this moment in history & never again.
What impresses me the most when looking again at the response of Mary, the Magi & the shepherds is how eagerly they obeyed God's Word. Even Herod seemed to take it seriously as he inquired of Israel's religious authorities as to the messiah's birth place.
When the shepherds heard the angels' announcement, the left their flocks & hurried to see the baby. The Magi left their country & traveled as far as the star took them. And Mary gave up her life to become the messiah's earthly mother. None of them doubted or hesitated.
I do not believe a total lunar eclipse is anything like the star which traveled to Bethlehem that year. Nor do I think we will ever see such a star again. But I do believe what God is calling for is a similar response.
If the Bible says something, do you believe it? If God has promised he will do something, do you believe he will? Do you believe immediately & without questioning?
In 2011, let's have as our goal 100% obedience to God's Word: God's Word in Scripture and in the person of Jesus.