Lessons From Characters of Advent/CHRISTmas…

“Joseph and Mary – Faith, Humility and Gratitude”

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, ‘Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.’”  Luke 1:37-38

Love and Lordship in Focus…May we have the faith, humility and courage of Mary and Joseph to be obedient to The Lord in all things no matter how the outcomes may appear, what others may say, or what it may cost.

I ran across this quote in one of my daily readings recently, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” (C.S. Lewis)  Let’s apply that to Mary and Joseph…

One of the most powerful texts in all of Scripture comes directly from the Advent/ CHRISTmas narrative, “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:26-38 (emphasis v. 38) A lowly peasant virgin teenager is visited by the angel, Gabriel, to declare that she would give birth to a son without ever having known (had sexual relations with) a man. Can you imagine the stares, the disdain, the ridicule and humiliation…the scandal!

Yet in faith, Mary responds, “be it unto me according to Your Word, O Lord.” May your Advent/CHRISTmas season and every day The Lord gives you be lived accordingly as must rely over and over each day on The Lord as if nothing had yet been done!

Continuing with our focus on Mary’s faith, obedience and role in the Advent of Christ and CHRISTmas, we reflect on all God asked Mary to consider and her continued response of obedience and humble gratitude.  She literally worshiped God and gave thanks for Him putting her in this very dire and uncomfortable situation! God asks Mary to become an unwed mother complete with all the scorn, ridicule and mockery that accompanied that lifestyle, potentially even being legally killed (stoned for adultery). In no way was God condoning sex and pregnancy outside of marriage and yet in the same incredible stroke of Grace we can see His forgiveness when we have failed or fallen in our relationships and sexuality. In one incredible, supernatural act God’s Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is conceived! Luke 2:26-38

What an awesome blessing and yet an overwhelming burden…ever been there? God has a plan and will see it through but He desires that we respond by faith the same way that Mary did. Upon receiving confirmation from her relative, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, of the Baby that she carried being the Lord and the Son of God (Luke 1:39-45), what does she do?  Right in the middle of her plight and knowing she was returning to her family and people with an extended belly and no way to hide her pregnancy, she breaks out in what is known as the Magnificat, an unparalleled song of praise and glory to God (Luke 1:46-55)!

As we look at the incredible faith and humility found in Mary through her complete obedience in a very unpleasant situation, let’s not forget Joseph’s conundrum and his response.

Gentlemen, what would you do if you were told your fiancé was pregnant and had been told that she was a virgin? Likely we would have the same immediate response that Joseph had… quietly divorce her (betrothal, or engagement, was the same as marriage in every way except sexual consummation). So, Joseph was planning to do the reasonable thing that anyone would have expected and accepted…until an angel visited him and shared the Good News of the Baby that Mary was carrying and that He was of The Lord (Matthew 1:18-25)!

Now before we too quickly claim that we would have listened to an angel and done the same thing that Joseph did, let’s ask ourselves, “What was at stake?” Only his entire reputation and livelihood. How often have we received the very Word of The Lord in His Scriptures and chosen what was most comfortable, convenient and favorable for us rather than the cost of obedience? Obedience to God (Matthew 1:24) may likely cost us everything but it is the only thing that is worth it all.

In reading and contemplating the story of the Advent and Incarnation of Christ, it struck me that of all the players involved directly in this incredible narrative, Joseph, while very prominent as God’s choice to be Christ’s earthly father, says nothing at all. Look at Scripture…we simply see Joseph ponder “putting Mary away” after he finds out that she’s pregnant and knowing he’s “not the father.” We see him fall into a deep sleep and be visited by an angel that sets the record straight for him…and then without a comment we see him accept God’s message by faith that the Babe in Mary’s womb is the Son of God and His Name will be called Jesus! And he will be Jesus’ earthly father and that will not be looked upon with the favor of men.

Joseph actually had four choices that would have all been considered righteous according to the law. 1) He could have had Mary stoned for “adultery.” 2) He could have had her exiled from Israel, which would have been either a death sentence or a cruel fate as a woman of “ill repute.” 3) He could quietly divorce her and let her fend for herself in a culture that saw her condition as completely sinful…sexually immoral and pregnant outside of marriage. This last one was what a “good man” would do and all of these previous three would have been very appealing to his flesh and perfectly just before the law. Or, 4) he could do the most difficult thing and keep her as his wife and care for her and this Child as his own. His choice, in obedience to God and the angel’s message, was the last and by far most difficult option…and he likely paid a price for the rest of his life. But he knew he was in God’s will and that was enough.

We can only ponder what Joseph may have thought but we need not think about what he did because God’s Word tells us that he was obedient to the message of God from the angel. What a powerful example of a man who simply listened and obeyed. Oh, that we would listen, receive God’s Word and obey it, regardless of what others may think or say…just as Joseph did. God knew what He was doing in choosing Joseph (and Mary) to be Jesus’ earthly parents (Matthew 1:18-25).

Joseph was the earthly father of “God With Us”…Immanuel!

Mary and Joseph were basically minor characters in Israel until they were chosen and visited by angels to fulfill God’s perfect plan. It was God’s choice and their obedience to Him that projected them onto the stage of History and Eternity as much more than “bit players” (Luke 1:26-38). Their obedience allowed God to work in and through them to raise His very Son to fulfill His purpose and bring salvation to a condemned world (John 3:16-17)!

They could have chosen, legally and with little or no repercussion, to follow their feelings and act in their best interest knowing the price they would pay…BUT they chose to walk in faith rather than their feelings and the circumstances, not knowing what the future held in store…simply trusting in God!  Regardless of the cost or what others thought or said of them (fear of man) they both chose to obey, walk with and trust God (fear of God).  May we do the same.

Food for Thought – We have all, in faith, been recipients of Mary and Joseph’s obedience! So by faith may we follow in their footsteps and share His love as well! What is God calling you to today in obedience to Him for His Kingdom and Glory? How are you responding to God’s work and call in your life?

Love in Action
1) Ask The Lord to show you where He’s calling you to obey Him;
2) Honestly assess any area in your life that you’ve chosen yourself or fear of others over obedience to The Lord;
3) Ask The Lord to forgive you for any selfishness and sin and to give you the courage and humility to obey Him in all things, and;
4) Begin today to follow through on your obedience to Him in all things!

Prayer Focus – Heavenly Father, let me follow the example of faithfulness, humility and obedience of Mary and Joseph. Often I have options that are okay and much more appealing. However, I desire one thing only…to be in the center of Your will, obedient to Your Word, allowing You to be responsible for the fruit of a faithful life for Your Kingdom and Glory! Thank You for the powerful and touching story of the Advent, Incarnation and Nativity.  Thank You for the Christ of CHRISTmas! In His Name I pray. Amen.

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Make it a great day and have Blessed Advent and Merry CHRISTmas season in CHRIST (Matthew 1:18-25)!