This time of year, we often read the remarkable “Christmas Story” of the lowly girl from Nazareth, betrothed to a humble carpenter, of the promise to her from an angel, and the ultimate birth of the Savior of the world.
Our Lord deserves all attention this season (and every other season too.) But, I’ve recently been thinking about the divine purpose of the two people chosen by the Father to care for His Son during His time as a child.
It would be tempting to assume that Mary & Joseph were somehow extraordinary, certainly much more so than you and me! I suppose that’s possible, since the scripture doesn’t tell us much about them prior to this introduction. But, we do have some clues about them.
Mary says of herself, “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,” LK 1:48 NLT. In fact, in verse 47, as she exalts her “Savior,” we can infer Mary’s recognition of her own need for a savior, the same need we all see in ourselves today. If I could be so bold as to suggest it, it sounds as if Mary knew about herself that she was just a normal, and unworthy sinner… just like us, no doubt astonished at what was happening.
Of Joseph, we hear even less. As a Jewish man, he would know of the prophecy that a child would be born to a virgin. But, upon hearing Mary’s story, He apparently thinks, “surely not this girl.” He is an honorable man, but filled with doubts and ready to put Mary away, until he is assured from the angel that this is indeed the child who “will save His people from their sins” MT 1:21.
Later in Jesus’ life, folks from his own home town are even astonished at His power as they consider the family they know, Mt 13:55-57. Apparently, nothing about this holy family caused their neighbors to suspect God’s divine purpose for them.
So, two ordinary folks are suddenly thrust into this odyssey; “blessed” as Mary will say of herself, not because of what they have been, but because of God’s divine purpose alone. As I was considering this post, I was inclined to wonder if possibly… these two blessed individuals… were really just like you and me. Does it seem bad somehow to place them on our level?
But suddenly, because of God’s choosing, they find themselves in a very different world of angelic announcements, visions and dreams, instructions of where to go and when, visits from the magi who already know the child is a King, visits from shepherds with incredible stories of heavenly hosts, a frightened Herod who orders the death of all the baby boys.
The story is so amazing, I’m guessing these two must have felt all the things we now feel ourselves as we see the calling and purpose God reveals in our own lives. “God MUST be out of His mind. My life is filled with mistakes and regrets and uncertainty, and even sin. How could He speak to me? How could he find such an important purpose for my life and even my mistakes? Out of all the people on Earth, how could it be me?”
In your mind, might the thoughts be even slightly worse? “With all my mistakes, it never could be me. If there was any chance for that, I messed it up a long time ago. The people I see God using mightily haven’t lived the way I have. They haven’t made my mistakes, and THAT is why God can do those things with them.”
I’d like to suggest humbly, that THAT is so far from the truth. You were never made to be an “extra” in someone else’s movie. The Lord created you with an essential purpose and a set of gifts to fulfill that purpose, 1 Cor 12:4-7. ALL of us have waited longer to respond than we should, long enough that God’s favor SHOULD have passed on to someone else. But, it HAS NOT! That’s just not the heart of the Father; His favor is STILL on you to fulfill His purposes. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” Rom 11:29. What, you don’t see it? Could it be, perhaps, because you see you through eyes that aren’t His. He sees in you what He has created.
I think there IS one thing we can say about both Mary & Joseph that was key to their amazing purpose in the history of the Earth. Once God’s plan had been revealed to them, they said yes. I’m wondering if that might really be all that separates them from you and me. That is the voice of faith, submission, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word,” Lk 1:38. Despite hardships I know will accompany His plan, despite ridicule from others, despite my own fear of failure, “ok God, I’m in.”
Mary’s blessed state has elevated her to a place of incredible significance in history. But, in Luke 11:27-28 when a person in a crowd calls Mary blessed, our Lord says “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” So, there’s your formula; you can be one who in history going forward will be called “blessed.” Say yes, do what He asks. Be willing to pay the cost. Our Lord promises, He will be there with you, Mt 28:20. Then, trust Him that He is good; it is still His will that His original plan for you be fulfilled. He is powerful enough to make that happen.
Bless you all this Christmas.