For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:5 ESV
Merriam-Webster’s defines shelter as “something that covers or affords protection.” It includes establishments providing food and a place to stay.
Most often, we think of shelters as places of protection from imminent danger. Storm cellars and bomb shelters come to mind.
Seeking refuge from danger is not one of the things we usually associate with Christmas. Yet, when we look at the Nativity story closely, understand the magnitude of what was happening on a spiritual level, the need for protection, and the places provided for cover, become evident.
Several caught up in the birth story of Jesus sought shelter.
And found it.
Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, the soon-to-be-mom of John the Baptist, sought shelter at home after discovering her postmenopausal pregnancy.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among the people.”
Luke 1:24 ESV (Emphasis added.)
At this point in their lives, well past their prime, decades of infertility left Elizabeth and Zechariah childless. The Jewish culture of their day viewed a barren womb as a curse from God. A houseful of children proved His favor and blessing.
In her old age, pregnant for the first time, she stayed under the covering of her own roof. For five months, she kept the knowledge of her pregnancy to herself. She protected it — guarded it. And she praised God for the baby sheltered within her. He took away her disgrace of being childless, lifted the weight of shame she bore in her community for failing to have children.
But why did she hide such blessed news for so long? Well, who in the world would believe her?! Perhaps new rumors of senility would begin to make their way through town. Poor old Zechariah… his wife has lost it. What a shame.
Imagine if she told friends and neighbors of her coming birth. They might belittle her even more, remind her of the reality of menopause: No, dear, missing a period at your age is not a sign of pregnancy.
So, she waited. She didn’t go out in public until proof of a swollen belly revealed God’s blessing. She rejoiced. She protected herself and her family, taking shelter in her God, the One who blessed her beyond belief.
Mary took shelter under Elizabeth’s and Zechariah’s roof, too, hurrying to their home after the angel delivered the news of her pregnancy.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”… And Mary remained with her about three months and returned home.
Luke 1:41-45, 56 ESV (Emphasis added.)
None would believe the story of Mary. A virgin overshadowed by God Most High to bear His Son?! No. Sharing that tale opened Mary up to all sorts of ridicule.
But with Elizabeth, another faithful sister filled with a miracle baby, she found refuge, a place of protection. A safe place to come to grips with what was happening, the needed space to solidify her faith for the call God placed on her life. Build the resolve to let it be as He had said.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
When the time came for Jesus to be born, there was no room in the usual places for travelers to stay. Taken far from home by the government’s required census, they found shelter in a stable and a feed trough filled with hay.
Jesus, covered in swaddling cloths, received a lowly welcome into the world He created.
Following God wholeheartedly, serving Him, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus can lead us into treacherous territory. The world is very unfriendly to those who surrender their lives to His use.
The world and the worldly don’t welcome His wonders (remember Herod). Often those who serve God set themselves up for ridicule in the world. Unbelief leads to attack against Believers. Those without faith chastise the faithful as fools.
The shelter of Christmas is the covering of His grace and forgiveness swaddled in a manger. The One who came to show us His Father is a trustworthy refuge in an unfriendly world.
I’ve found myself needing shelter from time to time. This present season of life is one of those moments.
God’s call on my life, my willingness to serve and love His way, has left me a little beat up by the world. In places I would have previously sought shelter, I find myself under attack.
No place seems safe.
During this season, I’ve run to Him. He has provided confirmation, truth, and peace. He’s also supplied faithful fellowship with a few others where I’ve found comfort, refuge, and encouragement. Others who understand the raging battle, the unseen warzone, tearing apart both home and church.
Shelter. It’s something we need as His followers in this dark, dangerous world.
And praise God! It’s something He graciously provides.
Mary, Elizabeth, even Joseph offering Mary the protection of marriage, ultimately left behind the culture’s protective covering. Instead of coming under socially acceptable standards, they found refuge in their faith.
Because God called them to something new, the world saw them as targets for attack. Especially Mary and Joseph in their religious community. This miracle broke all the rules, the expected, righteous way of doing things. Elizabeth most likely got a lot of flack from family for taking in the shameful harlot and her bastard child.
But these, they chose to trust the only sure Shelter, even though He led them into stormy waters. In faith, they took refuge in His covering and withstood the storm of the spiritual warfare raging around them.
God is our Unshakable Shelter, come what may.
He alone is the one to trust with calls to obey, confess, give, take blame, and be crucified as His messenger. He is trustworthy. The shelter He provides is an eternal refuge. Not just for today or this lifetime. His blessed covering is for ALL time… and beyond.
His heart is to shelter and collect into His care all He created. But some — dare I say, many — don’t see or trust. And it breaks His heart.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” –Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem near the time of His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.
Matthew 23:37 ESV
When He captures our hearts through faith and grace, we become willing participants in His mission on earth — drawing the lost to the covering of His sacrifice and resurrection. Trusting not the ways of the world or the worldly-wise, but trusting Him alone as the Sheltering Power in which to abide.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2 ESV
Have you felt attacked as a follower of Jesus? How did you respond?
Were you caught unaware? Did doubts stir?
Where do you seek refuge when the storms of life stir? How much protection do your chosen shelters really provide?
Ask God to become your Ultimate Unshakable Eternal Shelter. Tell Him you’re ready to serve wholeheartedly, to help others find their way in from the storms of life too.