This morning, I've been thinking about all the complications surrounding the birth of Jesus. Just think with me -
Mary was pregnant out of wedlock.
She was under threat of stoning.
Hanging over Mary's head was the question of whether or not Joseph would believe her, divorce her, or throw her to the wolves to be judged and executed...
Joseph had to wrestle with the same question, then when he thought he'd finally decided....
Joseph was asked to sacrifice his reputation to take Mary home as his bride.
The gossip they endured because of this alone was severe, but add to that the curiosity that raised people's eyebrows when Joseph and Mary claimed the child was "born of the Holy Spirit, would save people from their sins, and was, in fact, the long-expected Messiah..."
In Mary's last days of pregnancy they had to make a long, and unplanned trip to register for tax purposes, along with a huge crowd.
There was no easy way to travel, so they went by donkey.
Along the way, Mary went into labor.
Along the way, Mary went into labor.
We think the lines at the grocery store are long this time of year - I can't imagine the lines in Bethlehem that year with everything recorded by hand in the "old-fashioned" way.
There were no rooms available, no doctor or mid-wife, no epidurals or pain meds, only straw, the undercurrent of noisy barn-animals, and a feeding trough.
Once the child was born, they were forced to move frequently, literally overnight, as the result of angelic-sleep-interrupted dreams.
Their lives were in danger - often.
Baby boys two and under were slaughtered as King Herod tried to wipe out the potential political threat of another King who might usurp him (Mary and Joseph had to feel the weight of that horrific event).
All this to say, Jesus' birth-story was not easy for his earthly parents.
Even by the time Mary & Joseph reached the eve of the birth of God's Son, it had been difficult enough. I wonder then - just what was running through their heads? I'm thinking I'd be screaming, "I didn't sign up for ALL THIS! I take it back! I'm not your woman!"
HOWEVER...I expect, even in their humanness, this was not the response from this young couple. I imagine they had to be doing, just what we need to be doing, when life is hard, confusing, unplanned, and the road ahead extraordinarily foggy: they were remembering. (My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember...Psalm 42:6b)
Remembering angels sent from God.
Remembering dreams and visions, too real to be made up.
Remembering validations from godly fore-runners (such as Zechariah and Elizabeth) who supported them with affirmation.
Remembering prophecies of the Old Testament scrolls - the Words of God literally coming true before their eyes.
I expect, even in their humanness, they were doing exactly what we should do amidst the difficulties of life: they were looking forward with hope. (Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why in turmoil within? Hope in God...Psalm 42:11)
Looking forward to new life.
Looking forward to watching the unfolding of God's plan.
Looking forward to being a part of a future of freedom, peace, and leadership
Looking forward to being a part God's intentional purpose.
Looking forward to God-with-them their hope of glory.
Looking forward to a coming salvation...even their own!
I expect, even in their humanness, they were doing exactly what we should do when life catches us by surprise and takes our breath away: they were clinging to every little blessing they could tangibly see. (Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to Him, and bless His name! Psalm 100:4)
The blessing of being on a journey together.
The blessing of understanding and knowing they were a part of something bigger than themselves.
The blessing of provision.
The blessing of insight, wisdom, and direction.
The blessing of shepherds showing up at their door, even unannounced, to remind them they were still in the middle of God's Great Unveiling.
I can just hear them counting and re-counting all God had done and was doing day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute to take care of them...
This Christmas eve...these are the gifts I desire to unwrap. Three gifts: 1) remembrance of God's faithfulness, 2) hopeful forward-looking, and, 3) an attitude of gratitude.
Above all...May I take away the obvious fact, God is still at work all around me, even when things seem a little (or a lot) dim.