Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.Luke 1:38, Matthew 1:24-25
Today, December 23rd, is the day celebrated in song as “The day before the night before Christmas (and I’m busy busy busy being good).“
Well I’m not so much busy being good as I am busy trying hard to find a little of that elusive “Christmas spirit” and – to be honest – it just isn’t happening. There is just too much “stuff” in the way this year.
Of course, thinking about this, being a little bit reflective, meditating even, the non-Christmasy funk is probably more in line with the reality experienced by two of my Christmas heroes two thousand-plus years ago.
Not Frosty, nor Rudolph; not Santa, Father Christmas, or Saint Nick; no elves; not even a reformed Grinch.
Just a teenaged expectant mother, Mary – weary and overwhelmed, and a young man, Joseph – suddenly burdened by responsibility, a reality that interrupted whatever plans he had brewing.
I feel a lot like Joseph this Christmas. Not the young part but the interrupted piece of the story, the plans dashed aside, the sense of being caught up in burdens and responsibilities he didn’t necessarily ask for.
So let’s talk about Mary and Joseph, using some thoughts inspired by one of Rebekah’s Advent messages a few years ago:
Mary was just a girl. So let’s not sell her short. I believe religion diminishes Mary when it elevates her beyond the simple story as recorded in the Gospels.
Legend and tradition have created a semi-divine figure who is revered and worshipped. Fitting Mary with a halo and other glorified attributes suggests her role is something less real than the story we learn from reading scripture.
The real beauty of the Mary story is not the mythological construction but the fact that she is no different from any one of us. Then Mary said “yes” to God and allowed the intrusion, the disruption, and the danger that comes with submission to God’s plan and purpose. She did not earn this privilege by being without sin or unusually religious. God used her because of her willingness to listen and then to follow.
Joseph, likewise, listened to God and willingly took both Mary and Jesus into his home.
Just a girl, just a carpenter. Nothing any more remarkable than faithfulness and trust. Nothing outside of what is possible when any one of us makes the transformational decision to follow Jesus.
This Christmas, when we go to church and celebrate the birth of Jesus, and when we humbly serve in whatever capacity God calls us – something we had planned for or otherwise, let us all be like Mary and Joseph.
Thanks Derek. What a precious reminder that we need to take on board.