SERIES: A Very Merry, Holly, Jolly, Happy, Sappy Christmas
What is something you can do (talent, skill, trick) that surprises others when they find out? What fun fact or random bit of knowledge do you have that surprises people when shared? (Did you know there are 119 ridges on a quarter and 118 on a dime?)
This week we continue processing the goodness of God in our lives. Many wrestle with the question, “Would God show favor to me?” We don’t question God’s goodness because we are necessarily living sinfully or wickedly, but simply because we feel “just so…ordinary”. Yet this is what we see in the account of the Shepherds at the birth of Christ. God loves to use the ordinary for His extraordinary purposes. He’s just so good in that way. And He wants to show His goodness in your life as well.
Luke 2: 1-20
Sometimes we can feel very ordinary. What other words come to mind when you hear the word “ordinary?” What in our world and in our lives make us believe being ordinary is not good enough? Why is being described as ordinary a negative thing?
Since there seems to be such a negative view of being viewed as “ordinary” we might find ways to fight against those lying whispers that we should be disappointed in ourselves. Some turn to packing their days with being busy. Instead of being “just a mom” you become the mom who always volunteers, always brings homemade cookies, always drives the carpool, or other things to show others that you’re more than “just an ordinary mom.” Some decide to force excitement through extreme or dangerous activities or being known as the guy everyone knows at their local bar who has his own bar stool. Some hide away and decide that being ordinary means nothing good will ever come their way. They spend their time wallowing in self pity, complaining, critiquing others, snapping at innocent bystanders. What are some ways you deal with feeling ordinary? What are you so busy doing that there is no time to invite God into your ordinary life?
Where do you feel most inadequate as a Christian? Look at 2 Corinthians 11:30. Weakness is not normally an attribute we praise in the world in which we live. However, in God’s economy, when we are weak in our own strength, we are strong in the Lord. We try to hide our weaknesses and ordinariness but here we are told that Paul is boasting about his. Why would Paul want to tell others of his lack of exceptional abilities? How can God use you at the point of your inadequacy?
How can we achieve the proper balance between accepting our ordinariness without using it as an excuse to not lean into what God is calling us individually to do?
How does God show His goodness in the lives of the ordinary? If I’m an ordinary person, should I even expect the goodness and favor of God in my life?
In Jesus’ day, shepherds were probably considered to be completely ordinary. Why would God choose shepherds as the very first people to announce the arrival of the Messiah? The religious leaders of the time were conspicuously absent from this announcement. Why do you think God would bypass the educated and admired and call out first to the ordinary?
Read Luke 2:8-16. Imagine the shepherds going about their ordinary routine. They’ve got a job to do and it’s just another night like hundreds of nights before that and, presumably, hundreds of nights after that. Suddenly the sky lights up! They’re not just back row witnesses to this amazing event – they’re the VIPs! Front and center! Note what the angels told them. What were the words of the angels? How did the shepherds respond to that birth announcement? Look carefully at verse 16. What action did the shepherds take and how quickly did they do it?
The shepherds could have acknowledged the incredible news of the Savior’s birth and then started planning how to get to Bethlehem at a reasonable hour, figuring out details, and creating a well-thought-out plan, but instead they hurried off immediately. What do you have trouble leaving in order to experience what God has waiting for you? What keeps you anchored in place instead of hurrying off to find Jesus?
Send Out Question
There can be a type of comfort in believing that we are so ordinary God will pass by us and pick someone else more worthy for the “big” gifts, but God often uses the “ordinary” to accomplish His will in this world.
Find a piece of paper, something to write with, and a quiet space where no one will interrupt you. Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin writing down all the things you can do – no matter how ordinary they may seem. Start writing and don’t stop – this should be a free flow of writing out what is going on in your mind. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or sentence structure. You might start with “pump gas, mow the lawn, make a sandwich, prepare taxes, juggle, make homemade eclairs…” If you’re thinking, “I don’t have anything to write”, then write down ‘I don’t have anything to write.’ Trust the process. Allow yourself to just keep writing – don’t stop no matter how tempting. Even if it’s just “umm” and “this is weird.” Don’t think about what you’re writing – just write. When the timer goes off, stop.
Now, put that paper aside.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:27: “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”
Consider all the times Jesus inserted Himself into the lives of ordinary people and used them for His glory. It’s okay if you’re new to the Bible and its stories. You can do a Google search! If you’ve been reading the Bible for the past twenty years you might still want to do a Google search to help you remember the many different ways this happened! (The list is impressive!)
The miracle of healing for the blind man, Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus, the woman with the endless bleeding, the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. What about when Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and called him down from the tree?
Can you think of anyone in your life who might also go on this list? Maybe it’s an aunt or co-worker? Maybe it’s someone in your community who is just an ordinary person whose life was transformed through God?
Let’s go back to the stream of consciousness paper we wrote earlier. Go through what you wrote and cross through any filler words or sentences. This should leave your paper with just the ordinary things you do.
Now, go back and read it out loud. Highlight or circle the things you’re most proud of or that bring a smile to your face.
I can make a bed. Sounds incredibly… well, ordinary. But making the bed makes me happy because it’s wrinkle free in the best way! It’s cozy, inviting and clean. When guests come in they can immediately see their comfort is important to me. This is considered a gift of hospitality but can be so quickly brushed aside by believing it is such an ordinary task that God has no use for someone whose greatest talent is pulling sheets over a mattress.
Feeling really bold? Take your list and your highlighted or circled ordinary skills and share them with someone you trust: a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a best friend. Tell them boldly and unapologetically that this ordinary thing you do actually brings you joy and why that is.
If you want to be used by God, lean into your ordinariness and ask Him to work in you. Then watch what extraordinary things He will do through you!