Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Confusion

Some days, it really strikes me how different our Christmas holiday is from the first Christmas, when Jesus was born. It's not just the materialism and stuff that has began to personify Christmas, although granted, that is a stark contrast. When a dirty stable, full of hay and animal droppings and a young, poor couple are looked at next to my home; large, comfortable, and warm with plenty all around me, it makes me pause to think.

But this year, I've been considering how much confusion and heart-break must have surrounded that first Christmas. It began with Mary when she heard the news from the angel that she was pregnant. Her immediate response was confusion [she was greatly troubled], something I can understand. Surely, she had dreams about how her life would go - being married to Joseph and beginning a home on her own terms; living perhaps poorly, but comfortably and happily with her husband; raising a good, normal, God-honoring Jewish family. And then this - an unexpected pregnancy? That changed everything for her, and she probably felt like her dreams were shattered. I'm right there with her this year - crying out to God, "Why me? Why wasn't the future I had planned good enough? This may be better, but it doesn't seem like it right now. I don't want confusion and heart-ache - I just want a normal life with Joseph, like I had planned." And yet, in the end, her response was correct. In just that short time with the angel, she was able to submit to God. That doesn't mean she wasn't still mourning over her lost dreams, but she was accepting that God's will was superior, and recognizing that she wanted it more than she wanted her own dreams. And we know it turned out to be an amazing plan - God himself called her blessed among women, and she was.

Joseph was confused and heart-broken too. With the news of Mary's pregnancy, his dreams must have crumbled and his reputation was likely marred forever. His initial response was just like a man - do what I can to fix the problem! He chose the "proper" and right route, what God had laid out as law for the Jewish people, and something he had every right to do - "divorce" her, or break off the commitment of future marriage they had made. He must have cared about Mary, because he wanted to do it quietly, so she wasn't disgraced. We don't hear a lot about Joseph's heart in the matter, or what he felt about Mary. But when the angel came to him, he said [do not be afraid] - what was Joseph afraid of? His reputation? Being responsible for a child conceived by the Holy Spirit? Or marrying a women who was of questionable purity, and who he may not have even "loved"? I'm sure he mourned over his lost reputation, and the loss to his relationship with Mary. While they still got married, this changed the nature of that relationship forever. But again, Joseph ultimately obeyed God. Through his heart-ache and fear, he stood up and fought for his relationship with Mary, even though it was "marred" in the world's eyes. He accepted this change in plans, knowing that even though it was different, it would be better than he had imagined.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." -Isaiah 55:8-9

No matter how good or right our plans may be, God's ways are always better. I think it's appropriate to be heart-broken and confused when we discover that our plans won't come to pass. God says he is near to the broken-hearted, so it's clear that he understands it's a part of life and the human condition. I also think it's okay to mourn over our lost plans, when they were good and wholesome and of God. He made us to be creative beings, and expects that we will use our imaginations to dream of what we want in life. But ultimately, we must come to Him in humble obedience - realizing that the things life brings us (even the hard ones) are under His control. Nothing takes Him by surprise, and He promises to work all things to good for those who love Him. Quiet trust is what He asks of us.

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