Monday, December 8, 2014

What about Joseph?


Christmas is right on the horizon and even though it is only Dec. 8, I have already enjoyed “holy Christmas moments”: my church’s Women’s Christmas Event, the CrossBridge Church Women’s Christmas Tea in Ishpeming (one of the many small communities in the U.P.) where I was blessed to share a message of hope, and a concert this afternoon at a local church in Escanaba with amazing music and bells.

This week we are gearing up for a quick visit to see our west coast children and grandchildren – and that is one of the best gifts we will enjoy this side of heaven.

Yep, in our house, Christmas preparation is in full swing.  However, the most significant preparation is taking place in my own heart as I ponder that Biblical story, yet again.  And whenever I take time to do that, God so faithfully reveals yet another piece, another thought, another understanding that adds even more depth of understanding and awe.

Do we think much about Joseph and his reactions, his fears, his insecurities?  What was his life like when God was preparing for Jesus to enter this world?  We give Mary the spotlight (and rightly so) when it comes to the actual birth event but let’s take a few moments to ponder and imagine what it may have been like for Joseph.

Imagine this: Joseph is a hardworking man, a carpenter.  He is surrounded by sawdust and the noises of other hardworking men around him.  The Bible indicates he was a man of faith (well, he kind of had to be!).  Joseph has a future planned with Mary.  But Mary comes to him and tells him she is pregnant.  MARY IS PREGNANT! And she gives him this story about an angel and the Holy Spirit, etc.  I don’t know about you but if I had been Joseph I would have been majorly stressed! But, remember, he was a man of faith….and that makes ALL the difference.

In that culture, at that time, Mary could have been stoned to death for being pregnant before she was totally and officially married.  But God had other plans and when God has other plans, nothing on earth (or anywhere else for that matter) can stop them.  (I find that comforting.) While Joseph, in his great kindness, was considering ending the (betrothal) relationship quietly because he did not want Mary to be shamed, that same angel visited him.  What was the angel’s message?  DO NOT FEAR!  What was Joseph’s response?  OBEDIENCE.  We don’t really know if he was fearful but he moved forward as God had instructed.

Now, let’s just let this story speak to us, shall we? Especially if you are a man or woman of faith (as Joseph was described), I challenge you in the same way I challenge myself.  How does God speak to me, to us today?  Dreams can be interesting but He always talks to us through His Word, the Bible.  He loves it when we set time aside regularly just to experience His quiet presence…called “prayer”.  Giving you a peek into the personal side of this…often when I am struggling with something, the tears flow during my prayer time. Those are sweet moments when God really gets my attention.  But He also speaks to me through sermons and messages, the ones based on God’s perfect Truth.  He speaks to me through fellowship with other believers and definitely through Sunday morning worship.

Ok, so….when we hear His voice…then what?  Ah….this is the next big challenge, right?  Do I take Him seriously?  Back to Joseph; I can envision him waking up from that monumental dream but instead of reacting with a “really, God!”, I am imagining that he was actually thankful, joyful, relieved.  He knew for certain that he had heard a message from God, he now had a plan and it was a joy to move forward, no matter how scary.

That can be our response as well.  When we are faced with something challenging or monumental and we know for certain we have heard from God, we can RELAX!  We can claim joy, no matter the circumstances.

 What is going on in your life this year as Christmas arrives… in such a short time?  Are the finances tough?  Do you have a loved one far away, unable to come home? Do you have a fractured family?  Is illness threatening to steal your joy?  Jesus broke into history at just the right time and we can celebrate that fact!  And God tells us Jesus is coming again!

When God, through His Word says, “DO NOT FEAR”, He means it!  And the great news is….we can choose not to fear!  Is it easy?  Sometimes but not always.  NEVERTHELESS, within us (believers), all of God’s power resides and we can choose to trust Him instead of indulging in fear.

In closing, consider Joseph.  Let his story, his faith, his obedience remind you that there is no better place to be than inside of God’s perfect will.  To quote Oswald Chambers, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you cannot understand at the time.”            

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