CHRISTMAS: The Helper

Mary had agreed to a monumental task—to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, who, it turns out, was God’s own son. It was a joy and a privilege, but it also was perplexing and sobering. By the very nature of the assignment—carrying a child who had no earthly father—she would either be whispered about or stoned as an adultress. (She was already pledged in marriage to Joseph). The Lord expected a lot of her.

College studentBut God is so different from most “bosses.” A glimpse into his heart is this statement from the God-Man Jesus:

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).

It bothered Jesus to see someone placing requirements on people without pitching in to help them succeed. That is not what God is like. And Mary’s story is a perfect example of his care for someone who is “working” for him.

First, he inspired the angel to tell Mary that her elderly cousin Elizabeth was pregnant. It gave Mary the perfect pretext for getting out of town for a few months to process her own miraculous news—and to receive support from someone who would not doubt her story.

When she returned to Nazareth, she had to tell her husband-to-be that she was pregnant. He did not believe her God-is-the-father story, but God intervened in a big way. He sent an angel to Joseph (that’s what it would take, alright) to confirm Mary’s story. (He also had hand-picked the right man to be her husband—one who was willing to stand with her in the privilege and challenge of parenting the Christ.)

Then there were all the individuals God sent to Mary and Joseph with amazing stories of God showing them that their infant child was the Messiah, the Son of God. People like the shepherds and wise men, Simeon and Anna. God knew the chosen couple would need all the confirmation and encouragement they could get when things turned ugly and they had to flee to Egypt.

They were on their own for several years—a young couple far from home with a child to protect and teach, but that was part of God’s protection too. In Bethlehem and in Egypt, no one knew Mary had been pregnant before marrying Joseph.

When they returned from Egypt, they tried to settle again in Bethlehem, but the political situation was too dangerous. They had to return home to Nazareth. Bummer. Back to the gossip and hostility. But, no—the last anyone from home had heard of Joseph, Mary, and their child was that they had been in Bethlehem during Herod’s massacre of young children there. When they suddenly appeared back home, the townsfolk’s relief and rejoicing no doubt drowned out most of their disapproval.

Then there was one more circumstance that would have vindicated Mary in her neighbors’ eyes. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Ah! Folks thought well of Mary’s son. That made her look very good.

There’s a touching picture in Isaiah 40:11 :

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

God gave Mary a special child. And he himself gently led her through the hardships of being his mother.

Making It Personal

• What assignment has God given you? Expect him to pull strings for you; to guide, protect, encourage, and enable you all the way. He’s not like those who weigh people down and then don’t lift a finger to help carry the load.

 

CHRISTMAS: I Wonder . . . about the Nativity

Boy with creche

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into the Bible

When you hear or read the Christmas story, do you wonder about these things?

Do you wonder how Matthew and Luke got their information about Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it?  Did Jesus know? Had his parents told him as he was growing up? Or was it only after the Resurrection, when Mary joined Jesus’ disciples, that she told these stories? Were there others—a nephew of one of the shepherds, the steward of the high priest—who remembered and shared?

Do you wonder who Matthew was referring to when he said “all Jerusalem” was as disturbed as King Herod when the three wise men appeared, talking about a newborn king. I’m thinking it must have meant all the powerful people—the ones who would have something to lose if the administration changed. That being said, it is doubtful they let this rumor leak to the common folk. They might have gotten all stirred up at the possibility of a king other than the ruthless Herod.

Do you wonder if any of the people who knew about Jesus birth . . .

the shepherds, the people who heard the shepherds’ story, the people in Jerusalem who knew about the wise men’s announcement, the worshippers in the Temple who heard Simeon and Anna prophesy over the infant Christ Child

. . . realized who he was thirty-three years later when he showed up as a teacher and miracle worker? Or did they all believe the Babe must have died in the Bethlehem massacre? Surely, some believed that he truly was the Messiah and God would not have permitted him to be destroyed . . . and this amazing teacher must be the Messiah and King.

There’s so much to wonder about in this story. Practical things and eternal things and life-changing things.

INVITATION ≈    This season, as you ponder Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of these amazing events, please share what is wonder-ful to you.