You Think You Have It Hard?!
Christmas is challenging.
I felt this all too acutely the other day while I was on the porch
wrestling with the Christmas lights. I could hear my wife in the
living area rifling through our many buckets of Christmas
decorations. Simultaneously, the kids were bouncing off the
walls, fueled entirely by the Christmas high of hot chocolate,
candy canes, and the general mayhem of getting the house
ready for the season.
As I threaded the Christmas lights in and out of the railing, I
mentally ticked off all the things I had to do to get ready for
the big day. As the list got longer and more complicated, I
began to feel a little sorry for my predicament—how was I
going to get it all done? Then it hit me. I have it pretty easy.
My challenges don’t even come close to holding a candle to
Mary and Joseph’s difficulties on the very first Christmas.
Can you imagine what it was like for them? Can you imagine
how you would react to those kinds of asks during those types
of circumstances? I can’t.
First Challenge: Mary’s Predicament: Mary was asked to
take on the ultimate challenge of birth at what many biblical
historians believe to be the tender age of 12-14 (the usual age
many girls were married during that period). At the time, she
was betrothed to Joseph, and this sudden encumbrance would
have scandalized Joseph and the whole community around
them. When Joseph found out that “before they came together
she was found to be with child,” he “being a just man and
unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
(Matthew 1: 18-19)
Second Challenge: Joseph’s Predicament: Joseph was
asked to remain betrothed to a girl who, by all intents and
purposes, looked to be dishonorable and unfaithful to him.
Think about it. How would you react? Would you be
humiliated, angry, or jealous?
Instead, “As [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel
of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son
of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which
is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'” He was given the
context to understand that his soon-to-be wife was not ruined,
but instead the holy vessel of the Son of God and took up this
Third Challenge: The Census: It’s hard to imagine that there
was a time when every man, woman, and child would gather
their belongings and travel to the hometown of their ancestors
to be enrolled in a census. Can you imagine what it must have
been like? It was not just a matter of packing for a simple trip.
Provisions had to be made for their animals, homes, and
businesses while they were away. Packing food and clothing
would have been a significant undertaking — and it had to be
carried by man, woman, or animal, on this most wearisome of
journeys. In the case of Mary and Joseph, not only did they have to
contend with this, but they also had to travel 90 miles to
Bethlehem while she was pregnant.
Fourth Challenge: No Place to Stay:
When Mary and Joseph finally arrived in Bethlehem, she was
ready to give birth, and there was no place for them to go. Can
you imagine being a scared, young girl, about to give birth to
the savior of mankind, and you have nowhere to go and no
one to help you? Can you imagine being the husband and not
providing a safe place for your wife and soon-to-be child?
As I catalog each of these obstacles in the First Christmas
story, I find that I’m not in want this Christmas season. I’m
spending the holidays with a wonderful wife and three healthy,
smart, and funny kids. I have a warm home, money in the bank,
a profession, a purpose, and a calling. Most importantly, I
know my God personally, and I know I’m loved and provided
for by Him. Although God has sent me many challenges over
the years, they are small and inconsequential compared to the
challenges Mary and Joseph faced on that first Christmas.
I, for one, am glad they were up to it!
DO NOT GRIEVE, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH.