During the Christmas season, I like to spend time reading and reflecting on the story of Jesus.
This December something stood out, a common thread in ordinary people, creating an extraordinary story. Obedience.
Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, the Shepherds, and the Wisemen all were told of the Christ-child. All were asked to bring Him honor, and all obeyed.
Mary was first. She believed what the angel had told her. She said yes to God’s call on her life. I can imagine she was both excited and frightened. I wonder how often she asked questions like, “Why me?” or “Do I have what it takes?” I know I would. Reading her story, I find myself trying to put myself in her shoes. How long did she wait before telling her parents? Joseph? How did the townspeople discover her pregnancy? Did she try to explain, or just give up? What did it feel like to finally have someone that believed her baby was truly from God?
Elizabeth was old. The chances of her having a child of her own were slim to none. How embarrassing. The wife of a priest who could bear him no offspring. Children were a sign of blessing. I cannot imagine what she went through. The heartache must have been excruciating. But then, could this be really happening? Was she really to be pregnant? She believed. It was a miracle.
Upon the arrival of their baby, Zechariah declared that his son was to be named John. There was no one with that name in their family, a sign of marital unfaithfulness. The town’s people tried to convince him otherwise, but Zechariah’s mind remained unchanged. John, the name given to him by the angel, was to soften the hearts of parents to their children, and kindle devout understanding amount harden skeptics–to get people ready for God. Obedience, even when it didn’t make sense to those around.
Joseph. By saying yes to God, I think this poor man sacrificed the most. In the eyes of the world, they had really screwed up. Mary was pregnant and they were not married. What was he to do? To save face and declare the child was not his would mean Mary would be stoned. If he agreed to take Mary as his wife, he would be seen differently. He, an honest innocent man, would be seen guilty for a crime he hadn’t commit. The angel appeared, he chose to obey. Chose to take Mary as his wife, chose to adopt the baby as his, chose to accept the ridicule of others as if he were guilty.
Oftentimes, I think of their stories in the light of the big picture. In one paragraph, Mary is being told she will mother the Christ-child, in another Joseph is being told that he is to take Mary as his wife and father the baby, and within moments, I picturing Mary laying her brand new baby in a feeding trough filled with hay. Real life went a bit slower than that. What happened in the middle? What about the wondering? What was it like for Mary to live under the roof of parents who thought she was lying? Did that ever believe her? How did Joseph’s business suffer? Why couldn’t God have revealed His plan to more people? That would have made life easier.
What if they would have chosen to not obey?
But they did. Not only did they choose to obey, but the bible says (Joseph in particular) that the obedience came quickly. I think oftentimes, God chooses those He trusts. God doesn’t need people with fancy resumés, flashy smiles, or truck loads of money; He simply asks that we say yes to Him, even when it’s difficult.
Rarely, do we understand the big picture. Oftentimes, we have no idea what God is up to. But for certain, His plan is always perfect. I forget this. Instead of trusting and like Mary and Joseph, simply saying yes, I get lost in the paragraphs of “what ifs” in between. I need to remember that if God is asking it, He will make it happen–no matter how crazy it seems. After all, it was never about Mary or Joseph, Zechariah or Elizabeth, the Wisemen or the Shepherds. It was always about Jesus. It’s his story. All the others are just extras he trusted to help paint the beautiful story of grace and redemption.
All were normal people, living everyday lives. All were asked to take part in something out of the ordinary. All were a part of something bigger than themselves. Something extraordinary. It’s our job to say yes, quickly. Let God worry about the rest.