As Christians, we know the familiar characters of the biblical account of Jesus’ birth: Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, and wise men. But, our familiarity might cripple our experience of advent. What if we asked some different questions this year to experience the manger of Christ in a renewed way? What if the familiar characters of the Christmas story are not only there for us to marvel over but also to imitate? What if we, as Christ-followers, modeled our lives after parts of theirs? I think we should.
Will we be submissive to God like Mary and Joseph? After grappling with the unexpected and out of the ordinary birth announcement from the angel, Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant … May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Her fiancé Joseph was equally befuddled by the announcement and had real questions and doubts of his own. But, he also “did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24). God’s plan doesn’t always make human sense. Obeying His word isn’t always easy or popular. But, like Mary and Joseph, we should submit to God’s way rather than our own.
Will we be expectant like Simeon? We don’t know much about this obscure man. We know he was a Jewish man who is described as devout, righteous, and expectant (Luke 2:25). He was one of the faithful remnants among unfaithful Israel. For generations, God’s faithful believed and longed for the coming of God’s Messiah. Simeon was one of them. He longed to see the arrival of Jesus Christ. At baby Jesus’ dedication in the temple, Simeon not only saw Him, but he also held Him. What about us? How expectant are we? Do we long to see God? Do we yearn to know Christ? Ask God to give you a heart that longs for Him like that of Simeon.
Will we proclaim the good news like the shepherds? Culturally speaking, the shepherds were some of the lowliest of society—not shameful or embarrassing, just lowly. They had very little to offer. But, this was the group to whom God first announced the arrival of His Son. So, they came to see the baby. Then, they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard” (Luke 2:20). This is God’s spiritual physic: we come and see, then we go and tell. We may not think we have much to offer. But, the shepherds give us a great example of how God uses very ordinary people to proclaim the extraordinary things of God.
Will we be radically generous like the wise men? We don’t know a lot about the Magi, but here’s what we do know: They were well-resourced and well-educated. And, they used what they possessed to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:11). They sacrificed months of time in order to travel to Him. They lavished Him with extravagant worship and expensive gifts. You and I probably don’t possess the means of the Magi, but we can have hearts like theirs. We can be sacrificially generous with our time, intellect, abilities, and possessions. We can leverage our lives for the sake of God and others, imitating the wise men.
Will we live incarnationally like Jesus? The “Incarnation” is the theological term used to describe the fact that Jesus Christ left the comforts and royalty of His eternal home in order to enter the suffering and poverty of our earthly home. Perhaps John sums it up best, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a). Jesus became like us so that we might become like Him. Ultimately, Jesus entered into our world in order to bring us to His. Neither you nor I are Jesus. But, we’re called to be like Him. And, just as He incarnationally entered into our world, we should incarnationally enter into the lives of others, “dwelling” among them, telling them about the way of the gospel with our words, and showing them the way of the gospel by our lives.
So, what about you? Will you imitate Christmas?
Chris James serves as Boston Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England where he serves as Pastor of Mill City Church & Christian Student Fellowship, a multi-site ministry reaching students at UMASS Lowell. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).