Many Christians have grown to expect that following Jesus should be easy. Whether we believe it’s just about ‘inviting Jesus into your heart’ or we believe that if we follow God’s will then everything should be easy and without conflict, at times western Christianity has joined following Jesus with the middle-class values of safety, security, comfort and convenience.
In Jesus’ birth we see this dispelled. A census was called that would have required Mary and Joseph to travel approximately four days journey south to Bethlehem when she is in the very late stages of pregnancy. When I was in the late stages of pregnancy Brian had to drive like there was a pavlova sitting on the backseat, I can’t imagine what four days travel on foot or donkey would have been like, but I can imagine it wasn’t easy! Not only that, but on arrival there is no comfortable place to stay, no medical or family support to give birth, so Jesus is born in a manger. Was it that God messed up? Did he not provide for his Son, the one coming to save the world?
Today’s passage makes it clear that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David, and that Joseph was from the line of David. God had promised to David that “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam 7:16). The Prophet Micah also spoke about the Messiah coming from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Jesus birth was no accident. This is where God intended for Jesus to be born, to fulfil all he had promised to Israel. God always intended for Jesus birth to be in humility and hardship.
As believers, who live the other side of Jesus life, death and resurrection we know that Jesus message to his disciples was to be humble servants. Phil 2:5-11 demonstrates to us the humility of Christ in seeking to become human and being obedient to his father even to death. As Christians and members of God’s family we are promised eternity in his Kingdom, the provision of His Spirit in our lives to enable, sustain and shape us as his disciples, but we are not promised an easy life. Yes, we are promised that as we respond to the Spirit’s guidance we will grow in love, faith, joy, hope and peace, but also in learning to be content in all circumstances! Jesus modelled a live of servanthood, of humility and hardship. We should not be surprised when we face such difficulties, rather we should seek to follow God faithfully, drawing near to him in all circumstances. Spend some time praying that God would help you to be faithful to him no matter the circumstances, that you might be his humble servant wherever he places you.