Summary: No one wants to be “average”, or “ordinary”. No one, except, strangely enough, God.
The Ordinary God
Luke 2:41-51; Phil 2:1-8 Dec 28, 2008
What did Jesus do for the first 30 years of His life on earth?
We’ve just come through the season of Advent, the waiting and preparing, and then celebrating the birth of Jesus, the arrival of God in human flesh, the “incarnation” (to use the fancy theological term that sums up all that it means for the God of the Universe to take on human flesh, become completely human and live and walk around and experience all that it means to be human). We have read the story in Scripture. We have sung the story. We have given gifts, feasted, gathered with friends and family, all brought about by our desire to celebrate Christmas – the birth of Jesus.
But now the presents are all unwrapped. The feast is over, and the leftovers in the fridge are losing their appeal and are quickly headed for either the freezer or the garbage. The tree, with all its beauty and color, starts to feel more like a chore waiting to be done. We have the New Year’s celebration to look forward to this week, but then what? January. A return to “normal”. But does it really have to be that way?? Yes, actually, it does. The thing is to make sure that “normal” is actually Christlike.
Many of us don’t really like “normal”. “Ordinary” is an insult; it is like “average”. In a culture that worships stardom, that exalts “overachieving”, that loves the hero, that constantly seeks the triumph, that must always win, and where there is only one winner, no one wants to be “ordinary”. No one sets out to be in the middle of the bell curve. No one wants to be the “average”. Even in our spiritual lives, we sing the praises of radical transformation, we desire the miraculous, we want to hear the stories of exceptional and “supernatural” acts of God: we don’t hear very often about how a person grew up in church, gradually came to love Jesus more and more, has “kept their nose clean”, and is just daily trying to live in obedience to God. Those stories don’t get book deals or appearances on 100 Huntley Street. Because no one wants to be “average”, or “ordinary”. No one, except, strangely enough, God.
A couple weeks ago I started reading a book called “Exiles”, by Michael Frost. He tells the following story:
The great Spanish painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo was the youngest of fourteen children of a Sevillian barber, Gasper Esteban, and his wife, Maria Peres. in 1627, his father died, and a year later came the death of his mother. Because his elder sisters and brothers had already grown up and left home, the ten-year-old Bartolome was adopted into the family of his aunt, who was married to a wealthy Sevillian doctor. There he encountered a strict religious household and was often in conflict with his pious Catholic adoptive father. In pride of place in the sitting room of the doctor’s house hung a large picture entitled Jesus the Shepherd Boy. Murillo said that the picture dominated the family, and its depiction of the young boy Jesus was in keeping with the devout tenor of the household. Murillo, himself later known for his religious paintings that emphasized the peaceful, joyous aspects of spiritual life, claimed that the picture haunted him for most of his years with the doctor’s family.