A Bewildering Christmas — Adam’s Angle
If you were so bold as to give God a gift this Christmas, what would you get Him? He’s the creator and owner of all things, so you won’t find that perfect gift at your local mall.
But there is something you can give Him that will delight His heart — faith in Him as we pass through hardship.
Why do I think faith in the tough places is something God hungers for? Consider the Christmas story. For Joseph and Mary, at least, it was a bewildering time.
On the one hand, it was a time of great promise. An angel told Joseph that the coming child would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Mary was told that He was to be given the throne of David (Luke 1:32). As if those angelic e-mails weren’t enough to convince the young married couple, God also sent them people to confirm what He had already promised them.
Some of the people God sent were reputable in their eyes. The aged Simeon and the prophetess, Anna, both led godly lives and prophesied about Jesus when He was dedicated at the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25-38). Other messengers from God were a little odd — the shepherds who knew that Jesus was the savior (Luke 2:8-20) and the Gentile mystery men, the magi, who came from far-off lands to catch a glimpse of the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-12). All these messengers had the same thing to say: God was doing something marvelous in this child that was born.
But what good are the promises of God when you live in the real world? This “season of wonder” was also a season of disappointment and hardship. Mary had to travel all the way to Bethlehem during her pregnancy. Gossip would be flying about this “immoral” teen who got pregnant out of wedlock. And you can imagine the townspeople speculating, “Joseph must be the father because he didn’t get rid of her! What’s happening to the youth of today?”
On top of all that, money might have been tight. When Jesus was presented at the temple, Joseph and Mary gave “A pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). We know from Leviticus 12 (especially verse 8) that two birds were to be offered only if the family could not afford a lamb. Joseph and company might not have been dirt poor, but it seems, at least, that they weren’t upper crust.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
If there was financial hardship, then Joseph must have breathed a sigh of relief when the magi showed up and offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to this humble King of the Jews. He might have thought something like, “Finally! Maybe all those promises from God are going to pan out after all. Now we’ve got something tangible we can use to send this kid to a good school.”
Don’t spend that money too quickly, Joseph. You might need it for something else.
Sure enough, just when things seemed to get brighter, they got worse. God sent Joseph a dream and told him that Herod and his flying monkeys (so to speak) were on their way to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13). Joseph, Mary and the King of Kings went for a little unexpected detour in Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15). How would you like to move to a foreign country at the drop of the hat because your life and the life of your child were in danger? And the threat was not empty. The blood of baby boys was spilled all around Bethlehem in Herod’s murderous rage (Matthew 2:16-18).
That’s not usually what we think about when we think of the Christmas story. But it’s reality. And because it is real, we can relate to the Christmas story.
A Not-So Picture Perfect Christmas
As followers of Jesus, we too have lives filled with both the promises of God and the cold realities of the world. Not everyone will have a Christmas lounging around the fireplace, digesting the perfect slice of turkey, hearing the warm laughter of family and friends. Some of you are alone this Christmas. Some may have had a family tragedy, like the suicide of your brother. Others may be facing an uncertain future because you were laid off.
But unwelcome circumstances do not negate God’s promises to us. He could make the circumstances of our lives easy. He could have made it easy for Joseph and company. But He sends the promises amidst the trials so we have the chance to take Him at His word.
What good are the promises of God in the real world? They are far more valuable and far more dependable than any frankincense, gold or myrrh you may think you need this holiday season. Give God a gift He longs for — your trust in Him.
“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)
— Adam Pivec