At The Belfrey this Christmas week we’re having a special offering for refugees of the Syrian crisis. We’re giving to Medair who are doing a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances, helping displaced Syrians construct makeshift temporary homes in refugee camps. Families are given some wood and tent material and construct a basic but functional shelter. This is important because they have nowhere to go. There’s no room for these families in Syria this Christmas.
It was the same for Jesus’ family a few miles further south in Israel, at the first Christmas. There was ‘no room‘ for them in Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). Away from home, his parents had to make do in temporary accommodation. Jesus’ mother Mary (like the Syrian refugees today) had to improvise. So she wrapped Jesus in cloths and laid in a manger, which was probably made not of wood but of stone. Mary didn’t know it but her actions pointed prophetically to Jesus’ death, for thirty three years later his broken crucified body was similarly wrapped in cloths (John 20:6) and laid in a stone tomb (Matthew 27:60).
All this reminds us that Jesus didn’t need all the home comforts to fulfil God’s purposes. We can sometimes think that when everything is comfortable we will serve wholeheartedly. When things are settled we will pray regularly, give generously and make a real difference with our lives. But the circumstances of Jesus’ birth (and death) remind us that many of the things we think are important probably aren’t. We don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect. In fact God has a way of using the imperfect, the unusual and the makeshift – and turning them into something significant. That’s what he did for Jesus and he will do it for us as we improvise and allow his Spirit to guide us.
As I’ve read and re-read the Advent Scriptures and then blogged every day over the last twenty-four days, I’ve been especially reminded that Christ came not into a make-believe world, but the real world. Our world. My world and yours. He came to transform and use ordinary people for God’s extraordinary purposes. So this Christmas, don’t wait for perfection. Instead, allow God to use ordinary you. Be prepared to improvise. Learn from the people God used that first Advent. And like the shepherds, ‘spread the word about this child’. He really is the reason for the season. He’s God ‘in human flesh who has made his home with us’ (John 1:14).
He is amazing!
Do you expect God to use others, but not you? Are you waiting for a change of circumstances before you can really serve God? Instead, is there something you just need to get on with, even if it involves some improvisation? Why not ask God to help you to do so, starting now – starting this Christmas?