It’s December and you’ve probably already decked your halls and hung the stockings by the chimney with care. You’re ready to bask in the traditions you and your family have enjoyed for years. You’ll eat the same foods, smell the same aromas, revel in the customs that make Christmas, well, Christmas.
And, of course, you’ll tell the same story of Jesus’ miraculous birth. While that story doesn’t change, it certainly changes us.
But this year, I invite you to think about the story of Jesus’ birth in a new way, with an expanded vision.
The focus of Christmas is squarely – and rightly – on Baby Jesus, in His straw-filled, makeshift crib. But as we endeavor to parent with purpose, I invite you to draw your gaze outward to Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ parents.
I find even the Sunday School, watered-down version of Mary and Joseph’s story captivating. But when we dive deeper, it’s nothing short of Divine Providence that these two were chosen to bring Jesus into the world. Mary and Joseph were hand-picked by God to raise, protect and teach Jesus throughout His childhood.
Back in their day and culture, it was customary for girls to marry as soon as they were able to bear children. Mary was somewhere between the age of 12-14 when she was betrothed to marry Joseph. During their betrothal, the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her she would bring the long-awaited Messiah into the world. She would bear a son, the Son.
As a young unmarried teen, her response astonishes me. She told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Mary then traveled to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and stayed with her for about three months. When she returned to Nazareth – and back to Joseph – she was already entering her second trimester.
Knowing Mary was pregnant, Joseph could only assume she had been unfaithful to their commitment to marry. Legally, he could have publically proclaimed her an adulteress and had her stoned to death.
Joseph chose instead to deal gently with Mary. In Matthew 1:19 Joseph is called a “righteous man” and it says he chose to divorce her quietly and shield her from public disgrace (betrothal was as serious as marriage and required a divorce certificate).
And while Joseph chose to part with Mary quietly, we see that God never intended for Joseph to leave the family He was creating. Instead, God sent an angel to visit Joseph in his dream and tell him about Mary’s miraculous pregnancy. On God’s behalf, the angel called Joseph to be an earthly, present father to Jesus.
Mary’s willingness to be a pregnant, unwed teen floors me. Joseph’s tender heart as he dealt with an assumedly unfaithful Mary moves me. They both had to shut their eyes and ears to the scoffing villagers who didn’t believe this “miraculous conception” story for one minute.
What if Mary cared more about what people thought of her? What if Joseph decided to be vengeful and have Mary and her Child stoned to death? Or what if Joseph decided he didn’t want to be part of this plan?
But the “what ifs” never saw the light of day because Mary and Joseph were faithful. They were faithful to God.
I marvel at just how methodically God chose Mary and Joseph – they were just the right people to raise His Son.
Would it surprise you to know that God didn’t take any less care, heart or effort as He choose you to parent your child … His child?
You, too, were hand-picked by God to raise, protect and teach your child. (Psalm 139:13, 15; Acts 17:26, Ephesians 2:10)
Is that notion as breathtaking to you as it is to me? I can hardly get over that God was just as deliberate, thoughtful and intentional about who would parent my children as He was about selecting Mary and Joseph for Jesus.
But just as Mary and Joseph were faithful to God, we are also called to be faithful. It is wholly illogical, yet altogether holy that the parenting formula for Jesus is the same parenting formula needed for every child.
As we parent our children – His children – let us focus first on Him. We will make mistakes, just as Mary and Joseph likely made mistakes (since Jesus was the only perfect person in their family). But it is faithfulness, not perfection, that is rewarded by the Lord.
Each time this season presents you with a nativity scene, I hope you will be reminded that God chose you as a parent for your child just as intentionally and diligently as He chose Mary and Joseph for Jesus.
Be reminded. Be encouraged. Be faithful.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3