The Christmas Story would never be complete without an examination of the friction between human customs and traditions and the promises and ways of God. In our text, Sarai is getting old, yet she has never conceived a child. She knows that God has promised a son to her husband, but so far, God hasn’t come through with the heir. Custom in those days dictated that if an important person like Abram didn’t have an heir by his wife, then she could conceive a child through her slave girl, and Sarai encouraged Abram to use this option− to help God get the job done, one might say. Abram took his wife’s advice, and Hagar, the slave girl, became pregnant.
From this point forward, there would be no end of grief for Abram and Sarai; there are consequences to such things as they had done.
Hagar, realizing that her stock was rising, became unpleasant with her mistress, and Sarai complained of this to her husband who seems to have tried to wash his hands of the entire matter. Sarai sent the pregnant Hagar away into the wilderness… where Hagar had an encounter with the angel of the Lord. It would seem that God was disapproving of such treatment as Hagar had received at the hands of Sarai.
For our purposes in this survey, I will leave the details of this continuing saga for you to read on your own should you choose to do so. I must point out however, that there is a great lesson for us to apply as we celebrate Christmas, for in doing so, we must come face to face with the awesome promises of God, promises that have been fulfilled as well as a few which have yet to be culminated. At the same time, we deal every day with human custom and tradition, especially at this time of year, and sometimes these come into conflict.
I am curious to see if you have any thoughts on this: This Christmas season, when custom, tradition and God come into conflict− which will we choose? I know that in my personal case, I always say that I will choose God’s promises over tradition and custom, and yet I often find myself under pressure to compromise so that we can have both. There’s always a way to justify doing things, don’t you agree?
Yet this is what Abram and Sarai did, they compromised, and they came to regret that compromise, in fact it nearly tore them apart at one point.
Or… maybe you don’t see any conflicts at all. If so, I’m sure we’d be interested to hear about that view as well.