Dec 17

What Mary and Joseph Heard at Christmas, Part Two

This week I have been reflecting on Mary and Joseph’s experience at the first Christmas.  What did Mary and Joseph hear from God?  Yesterday I pointed out that Mary and Joseph heard answers to their questions.  What else did they hear?

I’m always amused when I look at a nativity scene, or watch a christmas pageant, because it always seems like Mary and Joseph’s experience was this peaceful, calm and easy process. Having gone through pregnancy twice, I can tell you nothing is further from the truth!  Mary and Joseph went through some difficult times. Once they overcame the hurdle of doubt, confusion and suspicion between themselves, they they had to face the community. Mary and Joseph’s reputation was at stake. As soon as Mary started showing that she was pregnant, people might have started to ask questions, and make accusations. “We heard the announcement of your betrothal….did we miss the ceremony?” “Were we not invited?” I would suspect there were whispers, gossip, circles of people turning away from them as they walked by. Perhaps they were alienated, or even accused of blasphemy. To the average hearer, this story might have been “totes cray”…(that’s Teenager for totally crazy)!

To be honest, it is a little bit of a crazy story. To personally identify with, or even comprehend the idea of a divine conception might be difficult for some people. But that is the point. To understand God’s ways we need to identify ourselves with Christ. It is in Christ that we identify the ways of God, and are able to respond to God’s call. If God never identified Joseph in Christ, he could have simply followed through with his plan to divorce Mary. Joseph could have just said, “nope…not worth it.” If God didn’t identify Mary in Christ, Mary might have made a run for it and hide from her problem. How else could she have been protected for nine months from a community for who could have determined on their own that Mary was guilty of adultery, and demanded the death penalty? But that is not what happened. Because Mary and Joseph heard their identity in Christ, they responded in faith. We read in Hebrews 11 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Mary and Joseph’s hope and assurance came from their identity in Christ.

Mary’s response was:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Joseph’s response was:

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Mary and Joseph’s response model two things for us; our identity in Christ and a response in faith. We do not find our identity in the things the world derives its identity from. We don’t find our identity in our careers, our accomplishment, in how much we have, in how good we look, in our relationships, in our sexuality…in our …fill in the blank. Why don’t we find our identity in those things? Look at the words found in 1 John 2:15-17 (The Message):

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

When we find our identity in the world we squeeze out the love for the Father.  How do we live out our identity in Christ? We respond in faith.

  • “But I need more concrete, theological answers first!” No you don’t, you need God’s word.
  • “But I need to fix myself up, and get my act together first. No you don’t, you need God to do that for you.
  • “But I need justice for what has been done to me!” No you don’t, you need God’s comfort and care.
  • “ But I need …….. What we need, is to be identified with Jesus.

God did not just come to Mary and Joseph that first Christmas, God came to each one of us. Israel had been longing and waiting for the Messiah, and God broke his silence not just by bringing an audible word; God was the word. The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  Where do we find our identity? We find our identity in Jesus Christ. How can we know all this? By hearing the word of God.