During Advent, stories of the miraculous emerge from our scripture readings. An angel appears to Mary, then Joseph, to ready them for a virgin birth. Angels appear to shepherds as they keep watch of their sheep during the night. Ananias and Sapphira, long awaiting the coming of the Messiah, confirm Jesus’s mission to his parents in the temple on the day he was circumcised. A star leads astrologers on a very long trip from the East and they finally arrive in Bethlehem to meet Mary, Joseph, and the newborn King. Joseph is warned in a dream to take his family and flee South in order to save the child from King Herod’s wrath.
Whether you see all of these as miraculous or not, you can see God at work and His providential hand guiding the process. While it stirs our faith, can you imagine what each of these events must have done for the faith of Mary and Joseph?
Many people can testify to God’s providence, to His guiding hand through stories of their own. While people often yearn for some earth-shaking sign of God’s presence in the world, our narratives are not likely to read like Mary’s and Joseph’s.
While God may still choose to have an encounter with us like He did with Isaiah, who experience God as “High and lifted up with his train filling the temple,” those kinds of God-like experiences are rare. Instead, we need to look for God in the ordinary.
In the Genesis story, God gave light to the earth on day one, but it wasn’t until day four that God made the sun, moon, and the stars. Then the stage was set for God to be present in the ordinary. What could be more ordinary or dependable than the rising and setting of the sun and the moon moving through its various phases?
We are told that God made both the evening and the morning. These are ordinary events that occur every day, but if we continue to view them as God’s gifts to us, we should find God present in both.
The evening and the morning can be reminders to find God and listen to God through the ordinary events of our lives. God shouldn’t be exiled to the extraordinary.
Why can’t we discover God when we are going for a walk, when we are eating a meal, when we are holding a child, or when we are grieving with a friend? Why can’t we hear God in a Christmas carol, in someone’s request for help, or in the laughter of a friend? Why can’t we feel God in the crisp air of the morning breeze, in the hug of a friend, in the chill bumps we get when our heart’s been touched?
Where there is darkness, God wishes to walk with us and teach us what He wants us to learn.
And where there is light, God wishes to walk with us there, too. In the light, we often think we know the way, but there, it is easy to become proud or arrogant, and think we have no need for God.
Like the Pharisees, we can become blind to our own sin, even though God has provided plenty of light.
In pondering the ordinary, the Psalmist confessed to God:
2You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139: 2-6)
When we think about it that way, the Psalmist reminds us that even God’s ordinary interactions with us is rather miraculous.