It can be difficult to think of Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon or Anna as real people. Because the Christmas story may be the best known story in the whole world, they’re often just considered characters in the story. When we think of Nazareth and Bethlehem, we don’t think of gritty, small towns in Israel but merely settings for a Christmas play or movie. Yet, these are real people in a real place. The Christmas story is real.
The entrance of Jesus into the world turned these people’s lives upside down. Mary and Joseph are engaged and suddenly she is pregnant. Zechariah is worshiping God in the temple and unexpectedly an angel appears telling him Elizabeth is going to have a baby. Some think she was over 80 years old! Think about being outside the temple when a suddenly mute Zechariah comes out and tries to communicate to everyone what happened inside.
This Christmas season, remember the characters in the story are real people, in a real place, dealing with some fairly atypical—but very real—life circumstances. As you kick off the week, read through Luke 1 and 2. Look for points of tension in the story, those times when the real characters’ lives were suddenly turned upside down. Put yourself in those moments. Ask yourself, “How would I have reacted?”