It’s Christmas time, and while skies darken, lights get brighter and more numerous. The year is closing fast.
This week my children’s school did a “Herdertjestocht,” (“Sheperd’s trail”) throughout the neighborhood, where live-action posts were setup and the kids performed different parts of the Christmas story in the night. It’s a really special event and got me thinking, beyond the “christmas spirit,” about what kind of spirit Joseph and Mary had.
5 Ways Joseph & Mary can be examples in today’s socially-connected but sometimes emotionally-distant, lately right-leaning, often power/money-focused, sadly justice-lacking world:
1. They weren’t wrecked by a Divine intervention.
Joseph got a visit from an angel but didn’t lose his mind. Mary also kept rolling despite learning she’d get miraculously pregnant and become a social outcast. Divine appearances or natural phenomenon are rare, but if we see things like fire falling from heaven or talking statues, let’s not lose our heads (and let’s be sure we know which side we’re on).
2. They weren’t afraid to buck tradition, culture, or scripture of the time.
Mary’s baby-situation meant Joseph had to walk; that was the cultural and ostensibly scriptural prescription. But God flipped the script and told him to stay. Joseph did, though no one could or would understand. Likewise, Mary had to literally carry her “shame”–at least in the eyes of her peers. But God saw what the people gawking or focused on tradition and ‘correctness’ could not. She persisted.
3. They stayed humble and quiet about the wonders they witnessed.
While some may have shouted from the rooftops, “I’m God’s Mom!“, or gone ballistic at the Cross– “Do you know Who you’re beating up???!!” Mary, every time we see her, kept things in her heart. From the visit of the wise men with gifts, to the prophetic words of Simeon and Anne (Luke 2: 25), to the incident at the temple when Jesus was 12 (Luke 2:46), or the cross—-there was no pride, bragging, or profiteering. Just soft humility and pain in heart.
4. They weren’t afraid to go where no one had gone before.
Mary was carrying a baby that no man put there. Joseph was signing up to be a dad for a boy he didn’t help conceive. This couple of meager means, with possibly no great aims, was walking through something amazing, unfathomable, and infinitely bigger than themselves. While some may have said, “pick someone else” or, “it’s not a good time now“, Mary and Joseph said: I’m in.
5. They accepted everything and every hardship that came their way.
From the decree to leave the comfort of home and families to travel to Bethlehem, and having to stay and deliver in a farm shack, they accepted their fate–and God worked through it all. No one could ever say Jesus didn’t know homelessness, poverty, hostility, hardship… When Joseph understood King Herod would come in fury and every boy under 2 years was murdered in the process (you rarely hear this agony in the Christmas stories) the family fled to Egypt. Jesus knows what it’s like to be a refugee and immigrant. And even when he was on the cross, his parents had to accept this fate too. And again, God let nothing be in vain..
When you look at the manger, what do you see?
This Christmas, as we enjoy the lights, time with loved ones, extra opportunities for fun, and some quiet moments to ponder a wonder, we can also remember this special couple from 2,018 years ago, who set an example of:
love without understanding,
determination without hope of comfort,
endurance despite grief and unknowing.
Because under all of it, there’s #Hope: Our stories are not in our hands alone. (click to tweet)
Warmest wishes this holiday season,
Other (Christmas) posts of interest:
-The Baby in the Feeding Trough: A Secret of the Manger
-The Torch & The Oven: A Christmas Story You Didn’t Hear
-Jesus: Homeless, Refugee, ‘Moocher’ Not Welcome in Today’s Church?
Cover image, edited from Ray Stevens CD image
Mary and her son painting, from LizLemonSwindle
King Sized Bed image sourced here.