Christmas is almost here – right around the corner as a matter of fact! And year after year we sing songs and hear sermons about how God sent His Son to earth as a human baby to live among us, and then died for us, because of His great love.
But for some reason this year I’ve really been thinking about all the difficulties Jesus’ earthly parents endured in the days leading up to that first Christmas.
It all started with me being very down-in-the-dumps. Why? Because this Christmas we would not be sharing it with our son Jeffrey. His choice, not ours. I was sad, a little mad, and quite frankly was having a really hard time focusing on the true “Reason for the Season.”
Then came a sermon a couple weeks ago which jolted me wide awake. A large chunk of it was about Jesus’ mother Mary. But the more I’ve been thinking about Mary, the more I’ve started to think about Joseph too, during the weeks and months leading up to Jesus’ birth.
Let’s warp back in time, and really think about what it must’ve been like for them.
We know that the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she was going to conceive supernaturally a baby, whose name was to be Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).
Later Joseph was visited by an angel, who confirmed that his bride-to-be was going to give birth to the Messiah, the Savior (Matthew 1:18-25).
However think about the culture they were living in at that time.
Nowadays, unfortunately, pregnancy and sexual relations outside of wedlock is quite common. But back then? TABOO! Remember the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11? When she was caught having sexual relations with a man the Pharisees wanted her killed. If it hadn’t been for the mercy of Jesus, this woman would have been stoned to death.
So here’s Mary pregnant, but not yet married.
And then there’s her husband-to-be Joseph, engaged to her.
Yes they both had been visited by an angel from God, but the people who lived around them hadn’t been. And as we know, people aren’t always nice.
Think of Joseph’s friends and people he worked with.
Why are you following through with this, Joseph? If you didn’t get Mary pregnant, who did? And don’t even try to tell me it was a “God-thing” because that just doesn’t even make sense! Dump her!
And think of the stares Mary received as she became larger with child. Yes, she probably kept herself hidden away a lot of the time – but as we all know, gossip spreads quickly.
Then in Luke 2, close to Mary’s due date, the Roman emperor calls for a census. Everyone must travel back to their home town to register. Joseph’s hometown? Bethlehem – about 80 miles away from Nazareth where they were living!
So there they go, probably walking about 4 days. A very pregnant Mary… I can’t even imagine how difficult that must’ve been.
To top it off, shortly after they arrive she goes into labor, and they can find no shelter except a stable – certainly no hospitals close by!
And there baby Jesus is born.
But their stress isn’t over yet. Joseph again has a dream where he’s told he must pack up his wife and baby, and leave immediately for Egypt as King Herod wants to kill their child (Matthew 2).
So off they go again, this time with an infant.
Can you picture their fear at times? The questions they probably had?
God, why is this happening to us? Why have we had to be subjected to so much pain and suffering?
Friends, let me tell you that contemplating that first Christmas has shifted my perspective regarding the sorrow I’d been feeling.
And so, for those of you who are having a tough time this year – whether it’s because of loved ones who are no longer around, or maybe just a lot of things that have gone wrong which have made you question “why,” please remember that just like God kept Mary and Joseph safe through those long perilous first months of their lives together, so He is with you.
May you be blessed this Christmas, and may you feel God’s ever-present love surrounding you each and every moment.