It’s Christmas time. We all know that Christmas is a busy time, but yet it’s a wonderful time to catch up with friends, enjoy family, and celebrate the beauty of Christ’s birth. This Christmas season, I’ve been reading the different gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. We hear these passages ever year at Christmas programs and in candlelight services, but this year they’ve hit home a little more than usual.
This year, I’m realizing even more how hard it was for Mary and Joseph to go through the struggles that they did. We see the story of Christ’s birth as a pretty little drama on a stage at church, but we don’t really think about all the less than “nice” parts of the story.
Mary and Joseph struggled too.
We don’t think about a teenage girl finding out that she was pregnant and trying to explain to her parents that she really was still a virgin. We don’t think about Joseph deciding to “put her away privately,” but instead having an angel tell him that he needed to go through with the marriage. As accepting as our modern society can be with regards to illegitimate children, Israel in Jesus’ day was not so accepting. Lawfully, Mary and Joseph could have been killed.
We sing about a little town of Bethlehem, but we forget that Bethlehem was not “home” for Mary and Joseph. Certainly, Mary had to have felt bleak as contractions began and she knew she’d be delivering her child in a stinky barn with no midwife and no comforts of home. I can only imagine how scared Joseph was knowing that he was going to have to help his wife deliver the Son of God! Yet all we read is “she brought for her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.”
I’m amazed that God chose to allow poor, country shepherds to visit Jesus first and to worship him. I can only imagine what Mary and Joseph were thinking while all of that took place.
I marveled this year realizing that God brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy. Then He brought them to Egypt to avoid Herod, then back to Nazareth, still fulfilling prophecy and keeping the Christ-child safe. I know moving over and over would have been frustrating, but they trusted that God was in control.
God sent wise men to worship tiny Jesus. It’s amazing that they gave gifts to honor Him and bless His family. I have always wondered what Mary and Joseph did with those gifts. Perhaps they used them to provide for their family’s needs.
“Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
One verse that has always stuck out to me is Luke 2:19, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It’s easy to think that Mary knew everything God intended. Really, she only knew Jewish prophecy and what the angel had told her. Mary had to trust that God was in control. Mary had to learn things along the way.
This year, I’m realizing that I need to be more like Mary. Like her, I need to be open and humble, ready to obey God in whatever He has for me. I need to dig into God’s Word and find things to keep and ponder in my heart. I need to dwell on the beauty of His grace in sending Jesus to earth to die for my sins and redeem me.
Christmas is remembering the beauty of Jesus’ birth.
It is so easy for me to be frustrated. I love the holiday season, but the busy times of shopping and preparing, concerts, and church events make life hectic. This year is the first year that I will not be in my parents’ home on Christmas. I didn’t think that would be a very big deal. After all, I’m a married adult in grad school, I’m not a kid. (Let’s be honest, I’m still a kid.)
It’s hard though. I will miss the traditions of Christmas caroling and hearing my dad read the Christmas story. It will be hard to adjust to different family traditions. But, that doesn’t mean that Christmas isn’t just as important as ever.
Christmas is not just important because it’s a lovely time of year with lights and decorations. It is not important just because we get to give and receive gifts and blessings. This season is not just a time to love your family and be with them, as important as that is. Christmas is keeping things and pondering them in your heart. Christmas is remembering the beauty of Jesus’ birth and looking past that to the beauty of His death and resurrection.
I must remind myself that God is working His intricate plan. Jesus came as a baby and died be a perfect substitute for the death that I should have died. He resurrected proving His eternal power over death, and He’s living right now . He will return for those who have accepted Him. Christmas really is a lot to keep and ponder.
Remember the God who created it all is great.
This season is special regardless of where we are or who share a holiday meal with around the table. This season is special because we pause to ponder God’s plan of redemption in our hearts. We pause to remind ourselves of His infinite grace. We look around at the blessings of beauty, friends, and family and remember that the God who created it all is great and greatly to be praised.
Don’t forget to take some time to really ponder the beautiful struggle of the Christmas story and the Gospel. I know it has meant a lot to me this year, and I hope remembering the love and power of Jesus will affect your heart this season.