Over the past several weeks we’ve heard bits and pieces of the Christmas story. The nativity has been assembled, the Advent readings are complete and we gather with family and friends to celebrate Christ’s birth. As I reflect on this year and on this Christmas season I begin to see some lessons in the Christmas story. Mary said yes and was obedient to her calling, Joseph didn’t run away when things got hard, and the wise men said yes and were compliant even when they encountered a few complications.
In Luke 1, Mary learns that not only is she favored, but the Lord is also with her (Luke 1:28). Mary questioned Gabriel asking how it could possibly be when she is a virgin. Gabriel obliged and explained how the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that the baby will be holy. (Luke 1:35). She also learned that her old relative Elizabeth was pregnant too! Scripture doesn’t tell us Mary’s thoughts about Gabriel’s message, but it does say that Elizabeth’s baby jumped for joy when he heard Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44). Elizabeth told Mary the sweetest thing, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:45 NLT). Mary didn’t try to convince God that she had a better plan than His, she didn’t tell Him no and do everything in her power to go the other way. She said yes. We don’t know whether it was a joyful yes or a hesitant yes, but we know that she stepped out in faith and followed God’s will for her life.
We don’t know a lot about Joseph. We know that his family was from Bethlehem, David’s hometown (which is why they had to travel the seventy-ish miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census). In Matthew 1, we learn that Joseph wanted to break his engagement to Mary quietly because he didn’t want to humiliate her (Matthew 1:19). While he was considering how to do it, the angel of the Lord spoke to him. He reassured Joseph that Mary’s baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit and tells him, “and she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I don’t know about you, but I would probably do what I do and start asking if I heard that right? Maybe I’m making this all up in my head, that couldn’t be the Lord’s angel speaking to me, I’m a nobody. Maybe Joseph said those things, Scripture doesn’t tell us, but it does say that he said yes. “When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25 NLT).” Joseph was faithful to the Lord and did what the Lord commanded of him.
When new babies are born, they seem to attract a lot of visitors. Jesus was no different, he had visitors from the East, the wise men. These men traveled from distant lands all along while following the light of a star. I find that whole notion to be absolutely beautiful. They actually followed a star that God provided for them. Stop and let that sink in for a second. The star that they followed was orchestrated by God. He led them along the way to meet Jesus. They encountered their own obstacles, including the evil king Herod. The wise men obediently followed the star to find Jesus and when it was time to go home, they went by a different route, “for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod” (Matthew 2:12b NLT). The wise men listened and obeyed God too.
Mary, Joseph, and the wise men all said YES to God and were obedient to Him. The account of Jesus’ birth confirms their obedience to us and reminds us of it every Christmas season. I know that I’m not always obedient to God’s calling, I often question whether I heard Him correctly. This Christmas I’m going to try to be different, I’m going with “Yes, God”. I’m scared of stepping out in faith, but I know you are my Immanuel, God with us, you are with me every step of the way. You’ve gone before me and I’ll never be alone. I’m going to stop making excuses and start stepping out in faith doing what God has called me to do. Will you join me in saying Yes to God today?
Heavenly Father, forgive me for my disobedience. Forgive me for questioning you and your will for my life. Lord, I’m ready, to step out in faith. I’m scared of the unknown, but I trust you. I know you are with me, and you’ll never leave me. Thank you, Father. Thank you for the reminder of Mary, Joseph, and the wise men all being faithful and obedient to You and Your will. In Jesus’ beautiful name. Amen.