Monday, December 25, 2017

Interruptions During the Nativity

Recently while I was homeschooling the boys I was interrupted by a woman at the door selling beet roots and cilantro.  I wasn't particularly happy to pause our lesson to answer the door for a persistent woman who wouldn't stop knocking.  And I really wasn't interested in the beet roots.  But cilantro was cause for excitement, so the interruption seemed worthwhile.  Later as I prepared lunch I was interrupted by a man at the door selling potatoes.  I didn't need them, but I'd turned the guy down the previous two times so I felt obligated to buy potatoes again.  Then the phone rang while I was putting Asa down for a nap and the caller was ignored because I wasn't willing to let the naptime routine be interrupted.  That afternoon I was interrupted by someone else at the door wanting to borrow a cup of sugar and that night we were interrupted during a rare movie night by someone calling Eli with a medical question.  Not to mention the constant interruptions from three little boys throughout the day who need noses wiped and sippy cups filled and fights broken up and band-aids applied and toys reclaimed from the black hole under the couch and so on and so on.

Sometimes our life seems to be nothing but a constant stream of daily interruptions.  And sometimes our life is barraged by bigger interruptions like my recent bout with a bacterial infection that kept me in bed for 10 days - let me tell you, it is a huge interruption when Mama is down for the count for that long!  And I must confess that I am not a fan of being interrupted.  I find myself cringing whenever there's a knock at the door from someone selling something or seeking monetary assistance.  When the kids don't leave me alone for five minutes I struggle to reign in my frustration. And recently I was begging God to heal me because the major interruption of being seriously sick meant that I couldn't do normal life and take care of my family, which was rather annoying.

I was reflecting on this a bit when the Christmas season came upon us, and as I read the Christmas story again I realized there are many interruptions throughout the narrative.

First of all, the lives of Mary and Joseph were forever changed because of the virgin birth.  Neither of them planned on the sudden influence of the Holy Spirit to ruin their original notion for a proper marriage and subsequent family life.  Nor did Mary's birth plan include hiking to Judea because of Caesar Augustus' ill-timed yet obligatory census.  I imagine these interruptions were inconvenient at best.  

Then Mary gave birth to a son, a Savior.  His arrival had been announced to a crew of shepherds in the nearby fields, but Mary and Joseph weren't aware of the impending visit from neighboring herdsmen and no doubt were ill-prepared for them all.  (I sometimes wonder if Mary was nursing the baby and quickly tucked him back into the manger because a group of shepherds suddenly appeared at her door!)  But at least this interruption was one of awe and joy.  It was an interruption that caused Mary to treasure these things and ponder them in her heart (Luke 2:19).  And presumably Mary and Joseph weren't too cranky about the unexpected visit since the shepherds left the stable praising and glorifying God (rather than stewing about disagreeable hosts).

Then, at some point the Magi appeared out of nowhere (or at least somewhere east) and proffered extravagant gifts.  Gold!  Incense!  Myrrh!  I imagine Jesus' parents were pretty happy with this interruption even if they were caught off guard by a group of strange men worshiping their child.  

But then a "big picture" interruption happened: the flight to Egypt because of Herod's death sentence against the Messiah.  No one saw that coming, but it altered their life once again.  They got up in the middle of the night and fled, not knowing how long they'd be forced to live in a foreign land.  This interruption most likely caused anxiety and fear for both the present and future.

What I had never noticed about the Christmas story before is that God the Son took on flesh in a world fraught with interruptions.  From the moment He was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit, Christ demonstrated yet another way that He became fully man: He assumed a life marked by regular interruptions.  Therefore, we serve a Savior who understands what it's like to receive a knock on the door at an inconvenient time.  We also serve a Savior who teaches us how to respond to the knock.

Jesus was interrupted over and over again, especially by crowds who saw and experienced His powerful teaching and miraculous healing.  When the crowds followed Him, Jesus healed diseases and drove out demons (Mark 1:32-34), taught them (Mark 2:13), healed the sick and fed them all (Matthew 14:13ff), healed the sick and fed them all again (Matthew 15:29ff), and gave sight to the blind (Matthew 20:29-34).  Although Jesus also intentionally avoided the crowds at times, He exemplified how to be patient and welcoming even at the most inconvenient times (like the time people followed Him even though His cousin had just been beheaded and He really wanted some solitude and rest).  Jesus understood the value of giving people His time and attention, even if it was at an inconvenient time, which is something our American culture does not understand well.

As we've lived in Kenya and dealt with what sometimes feels like a barrage of daily interruptions, I've been faced with the reality that it is not in my nature (or cultural makeup) to handle interruptions well.  It's humbling and frustrating to realize this about myself, especially when I want to value people and relationships more than tasks or time.  But as I look to Jesus, who was born into a life of interruptions and who exemplified throughout His life how to handle them, I am being challenged to face my instinctual response to the plethora of interruptions that happen here and to find a better response: to open the door with love, to let God lead our every step (whether in our daily routine or on the days we're crossing borders), and to find what joy can be had in whatever interrupts us.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I just read your post on "Life on Mission" and I followed you to your blog. I would love to chat more via email, if you have time as a busy mom! My husband is a surgeon (we are high school sweethearts and i also worked through medical school with him! but many years ago! We have four boys 22, 19, 16, 11). He has been traveling yearly to work in a medical clinic in Guinea, West Africa, for about 6 years now and we as a family have joined him a few times. We are preparing to head out Feb.8 for a trip as a family. I would love to chat with you more. My email is if you'd like to connect!