THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS

For who has despised the day of small things? - Zechariah 4:10

 One of the prejudices endemic to the human species generally, but especially to those of the American variety, is a tendency to measure quality by quantity and significance by size.  There is nothing wrong with that except when it hinders us from seeing the importance of small things and small beginnings. After all, every one of us began as somethings smaller than the head of a pin.  And even things that began and remain small in comparison with other things still can have enormous significance.  Take our little planet, for instance.  In relation to the rest of the universe, it is vanishingly small.  Yet, as our telescopes and probes venture further and further into the vastness of space the picture that is emerging is not that of, as Carl Sagan once said, “an insignificant planet of a humdrum star” but of an astonishingly rare, beautiful and possibly unique place in the universe.  When our astronauts were finally able to look back at the earth from the barrenness of the moon, they were struck with wonder and a sense of earth’s incredible value to them as weighed against the rest of the universe.

As we enter now into the Advent season and prepare to celebrate our Lord’s birth, we see another and even more amazing illustration of the importance of small things and small beginnings.  Could there be any more important an event than the entrance into space and time of the “Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7:13) who “dwells in eternity”, (Isaiah 57:15) whose presence “fill[s] the heavens and the earth” (Jeremiah 23:24) and whom even “the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain” (2 Chronicles 2:6)?  Could there be anything more significant than the personal union of the Creator with His creation?  The answer is a resounding “No!”  This eclipses every other event of all history, past, present and future, in this, or any other world. The only thing that might be seen to rival it but does not because it is actually part of it, is the death of that Creator, for man, the creature’s sins and the consequent triumph over sin, death and the devil that followed from it.

And yet, see how small, lowly and obscure the circumstances of that event were.  It is heralded by an angel, to be sure, and not just any angel but the angel Gabriel who five centuries before appeared to Daniel and foretold the timing and circumstances accompanying the Messiah’s advent. (Daniel 9:20-27)  This heralding is not, however, in the Temple or a Coliseum, to a king or to an emperor but to a young peasant girl in a small backwater village for which there was a proverb:  “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)  The birth, nine months later, of that Divine child took place in another village, one the Bible says was “too little to be counted among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2) in a stable.  The child’s parents were homeless and His cradle was a cattle trough.  Again, an angel is the one to make the first announcement but it was not to the priests in the Temple or the king in his palace. No, it was to shepherds on the hillsides outside of Bethlehem, watching over their sheep.  Shepherds in those days were considered very low, socially, just barely above lepers.  Yet they were the ones to whom the angel gave the first “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)  And it was these lowly, despised shepherds who were sent to see the baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” and afterward to tell the startled inhabitants of Bethlehem and the surrounding region the story of their amazing encounter with angels and the message they were given:  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (2:11)

So we see that God is not impressed by those things which usually impress us and that He uses the humblest of means to accomplish his great ends.  That should alert us to the fact that though we are very small on the scale of things, and will never be noted in the media of our day or the histories that will be written, still our lives count.  We should not live as though in the shadows or on the periphery for we are in the center of God’s attention and important to His plans.  Every human being is infinitely more important than a government, an empire, a work of art or even a whole universe of stars and galaxies, impressive though they are.  These things will pass away but a single human soul will endure forever and the decisions it makes will affect other equally precious souls for time and eternity.  We need to remember also that time is not divided into “important” and “unimportant” periods.  Every minute of every day of our lives count.  The smallest acts, done in the love of God and love of neighbor, make waves that will ripple across eternity toward its furthest shore.  We are every minute having fresh opportunities to glorify God and advance His kingdom.  Therefore, do not despise “the day of small things.”