by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro copyright 2020
Oct 22 to Jan 6 reflections from an upcoming book for tending hurting hearts at Christmas
Much of the festive hoo-ha implies that the joy of Christmas is found in the romanticizing of a barn stall where Jesus was born. However, in this focus on waxing nostalgic, we have smoothed the birth of Christ over to be different than it likely was. Taking off all its rough edges. In sighing out a long “ah, sweet Baby Jesus!”, we have forgotten how difficult this must have been. Consider Joseph.
What was it like in first century Israel to marry a woman already pregnant and therefore societally deserving of death? What kind of raw guts did it take for Joseph to consider the dreams he received were messages from God, believe these and follow the instructions? Did he vacillate? (Worse yet, what if he had?) Did he think himself a fool for considering the dreams as if real? Do you think this was easy for him? (Would you have believed?)
He was like you and me. The times in which he lived and the issues he faced were not quaint! They were terrorized and terrifying. The dreams were not sweet and comforting. They were not nostalgic sentimentality but jolted him with threats against hoped-for futures. They were serious dreams that were likely traumatizing. But here was Joseph trusting unseen God through it all. Faith! Daring to believe. Braving to obey what he could not prove. And by his obedience, the adversary’s strategies were defeated. God’s kingdom advanced. Not by mighty prayers with special words or a miraculous deliverance, but by a dream with practical instructions and Joseph’s readiness to pay attention to what God was saying and willingly obey without question. (Even though each time it was only after he obeyed that Joseph could prove the messages in the dreams had been real.)
Out of a life of devotion to God, Joseph was repeatedly willing to appear the fool. Because of his courage to worship, pray, listen and obey, the Child Jesus, who had humbled Himself to put His life (care) in the hands of mere human parents was saved.
To believe the dreams was risky. Consider the dream to go into exile. Joseph may have thought about the distance to Egypt or the safety of the roads. Joseph who was from Nazareth likely had no contacts there. He was a carpenter. He was walking away from his business and home with a wife and small child, both of whom were relying on Him. Would they as a Jewish family from Nazareth face prejudice in Egypt? How long would it take before he found work and enough of it?
Courage not to return home. Courage to believe he could make it to Egypt. Courage he could find them a place to stay—that God would provide this. That there would be enough work. Joseph believed, trusted, acted and did the God-thing the Lord laid before him at each particular moment. The accompanying God-provision.
Right before the dream with instructions to flee, the Magi came with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold was not so Jesus could be rich in monetary terms. These gifts also were not random offerings, but God-inspired (whether the Magi were conscious of this or not). The gold was a currency Joseph could use wherever God directed the Holy Family to go to ensure they had what they needed.
Worship, pray, listen, obey. Each time that was Joseph’s decision. To believe instead of disbelieving. To dare to listen and follow even if he had doubt. To trust God’s sufficiency. Though Joseph may not have felt equipped, God did make sure the Holy Family had enough. Lord God Most High will do the same for you.
Where is God leading you right now? What is God calling you to do? What is He calling you not to do? He is concerned about your heart and souls. He knows your deepest needs. Listen to Him. Ask Him to help you hear Him well.
Holy Spirit, how graciously You accompanied the Holy Family, leading, guiding and empowering. It is by Your power and guidance all things are possible. Sometimes in this life now it is so difficult to see and know what would be good or best. I think I know, but also am utterly aware that my view is limited. Lord God, thank You for Your love and care that goes beyond what I can evaluate and continues working on and working out Your plan for all humanity. It makes it so easy, that all I have to rely on is You. Thank You. And here is ever my cry. Lead on, Gentle, Warrior King!
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: When His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit.
19 And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.
20 But as he was thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit.
21 She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Savior], for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent them from [a]failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God].
22 All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet,
23 Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel—which, when translated, means, God with us.
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him: he took [her to his side as] his wife.
25 But he had no union with her as her husband until she had borne her firstborn Son; and he called His name Jesus.
SONG Recommended: NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS –Christmas Worship album
If you are just joining in these reflections, read the Introduction here to learn what these are all about.
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