I am a traditional kind of girl. I like new things too, but I never stray too far from old-fashioned when it comes to Christmas. I never tire of hearing the same carols that have been around since my childhood, “Silent Night” being a prime example. It just says, “Christmas” like no other.
Who doesn’t like the thought of a newborn sleeping peacefully?
However, there is a downside to that sweet little lullaby. If the picture portrayed in “Silent Night” actually overrides the entire course of events leading up to the manger scene, we surely will miss so much of the intense and daring faith that preceded it. Let’s look at some verses in Luke and consider them in a realistic way.
Righteous and Blameless
First is Elizabeth, who became pregnant in her old age, after the word of the Lord came through an angel to her husband, Zacharias. Luke 1:24 tells us she hid herself until Mary came to visit her. Why? Consider her mindset. Elizabeth may have believed, like many religious people of her day, that her barrenness was punishment for failing to satisfy some demand of the Law. It is true there was a curse awaiting those who failed to stay under the umbrella of the Law’s blessing, but verse 6 tells us she was righteous and walked blamelessly in all the commandments. Also consider that only in recent years has pregnancy for someone well into their 50s become socially acceptable, especially if it is a result of medical (or even supernatural) intervention. Other people’s condemnation can transfer shame onto us, even if we would otherwise be happy.
So, whether Elizabeth felt guilt or others imposed it on her, shame was most likely her constant companion. But doesn’t the pregnancy fix that problem? Well, only if the pregnancy doesn’t fail. That would be double shame! So fear drove her into seclusion. But that’s not the end of her story.
Mary, her cousin, faced a similar situation.
First, she is visited by an angel. You would think that would be a positive thing, but not always. As a young child I had a vision and, even though I was careful about who I shared it with, it caused some turmoil for me—even years later. Mary could have argued with the angel as Zacharias did, but instead quickly and boldly accepted the will of the Lord. What faith to believe she could and would become pregnant before being with a man! It was only a short time before everyone would see that she was with child. That’s when the real pressure came. It wasn’t just a matter of facing innuendo and disgrace, but she could be forced into exile—or even face death if she was found to be guilty of sexual unfaithfulness to Joseph. No matter what, she and her unborn child would be “rejected among men.” Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s decree was a life-altering step of faith that had to be walked out through her entire life, until Jesus’ resurrection.
Unlike Elizabeth, Mary didn’t hide but went quickly to her cousin solely on the angel’s report that she too was pregnant. The moment she walked into Elizabeth’s presence their faith connected. Immediately the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, she was anointed by the Spirit and began to prophesy—a rare occurrence in her day for anyone, especially a woman. By the Holy Spirit, she threw off any shame that was on her or Mary, and proclaimed the blessing of the Lord to be at work. The Spirit’s move upon her ignited a flame in Mary and she too prophesied, revealing to them both, and all generations to follow, the purpose of God’s salvation plan. The Word of God that flowed through her confirmed His hand in all that was happening in their lives.
Make Way for God’s Provision
What about Joseph? The Bible states that he was a just, upright man, clearly with a tender heart. But because he was upright, he couldn’t marry Mary. It would be crosswise with all he thought true. Yet, through a dream Joseph was told to marry her. Joseph immediately recognized God to be the source of the dream. His faith was unwavering, responding quickly and decisively to every order that came through this and other God-given dreams, no matter if it made sense or was at considerable financial cost.
Later he was told to take his young family into Egypt. Imagine him suddenly uprooting to go into a foreign country with an unpleasant history for Jews, without any guarantee of what lie ahead. And what about a threat to the child? Who would have reason to harm this little child? But God said, “Go,” so he went, putting all his trust in God, believing he was accurately following His lead.
God’s will is accomplished when someone is believing for it to be, trusting Him with all his heart and leaning “not unto his own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). I believe Joseph’s strong faith is what made way for God’s provision. The trip to Bethlehem was secure. When it seemed there was no room for them, room was found. When the wise men came with their abundant treasures, it financed the young family’s flight into Egypt, providing for them until their return into Israel. What a man of faith! What a wonderful example for us to follow.
And what about Simeon’s faith? He is one of my personal favorites. He was finely in tune with God! He knew the coming of the Lord’s Christ (Anointed One) was so imminent that he would see Him before his own death. At the precise moment Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the Temple for circumcision, Simeon was there to take the baby and declare, for all to hear, exactly who he held in his arms. Within moments Anna, an elderly prophetess who had spent over 80 years daily praying in the Temple, was telling everyone about Jesus. Word of Simeon’s prophecy had spread quickly! Simeon and Anna had faith to wait. They had faith to watch and recognize the Lord at His coming.
The Bible records people of great faith who connected with heaven’s plan for the first coming of the Lord. During this Christmas season, determine to follow their examples and become a bold person of great faith, connecting with heaven’s plan for the second coming of the Lord!