Originally published Friday, 25 December 2015.
The heavy darkness of oppression had blanketed the Hebrew people for years. They ached for deliverance, for a mighty king to rise up and free them. Then, one ordinary day, an angel stepped in and promised a Messiah to a young, unmarried girl named Mary. And, startling enough, this world-redeeming King would grow within her virgin womb. Unbounded hope and raw delight must have filled Mary - that the Most High had knit her Messiah in her being. The fullness of God had been implanted in her and would grow to save her people!
Yet, the Bible doesn’t tell us about exuberant announcements or joyful parties to welcome this prophecy fulfillment. Simply, she and Joseph continued on in faithful living, quietly proceeding with life and customs. In truth, the Bible says remarkably little about the pregnancy, delivery, or even the rearing of this God-child, Jesus.
And, I wonder if that isn’t the point. Because, although they found favor in God's eyes, this story could never, ever be about them.
Yet, if there were ever grounds for spiritual hierarchy, it would be now - for who else could claim the status of being chosen by the Almighty Creator of the universe to birth and raise Jesus Christ, the Messiah?
Was this couple ever tempted to insert themselves in this divine plan? Did they ever beat down pride, or wonder if being faithful to God’s ways really applied to them – after all, their child was God, prophesied by angels, born of immaculate conception.
As far as we can read, their response seems to lack the stench of pride; it's nearly impossible to overlook the multiple instances of obedience to God's law and then the resulting favor of God upon Joseph and Mary throughout Luke 2:
"And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." Luke 2:21
"And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord') and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.'” Luke 2:22-24
"And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him." Luke 2:39-40
"Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:41,42,52
Over and over, Joseph and Mary chose submission to the ways of God - despite the full awareness that their child, perfect in every way, was God Himself.
Certainly, it's one thing to choose obedience to God, knowing our own alternatives are lacking at best. But to choose obedience to God when God has submitted Himself to your care, your keeping, your womb?
It's unfathomable humility.
And so, Joseph and Mary show up simply and beautifully and only as people in whom God found favor and through whom He accomplished glory untold.
Maybe the favor He found in their hearts was a longing, a desire for humility and obedience unlike any other.
Maybe the Most High, as He bowed Himself to a child's place in this family, knew Joseph and Mary would not be puffed up but would simply bow lower and even lower still before their God.
In effect, Joseph and Mary become people whose greatest calling was to love the Lord - simply that. Not make a name for themselves. Not steal the show. Not prove their elite spiritual status. Not just to be used by God, but to love the Lord.
This was a wondrous role, and it just so happened, the Lord was their son, and they could love Him personally.
So, this Christmas? May we too gratefully, humbly recognize we are only and truly people in whom the Lord has found favor - because of His sustaining grace.
And, the roles God grants us? They may be but minor sentences, sparse paragraphs, and lacking special details - but I pray they are marked with instances of obedience and faithfulness, like Joseph and Mary. But that can be harder to live than to read.
Because, sometimes we ache to make main characters out of our supporting roles, don’t we? We long for the validation of being publicly, beautifully used by God far more than being loved quietly and eternally by Him.
Let's not forget that the steady walk in obedience finds great favor in the eyes of the Lord, and that His heart draws close to humility. May we too become people whose greatest calling is to love the Lord - simply that. Not make a name for ourselves. Not steal the show. Not prove our elite spiritual status. Not to just be used by God, but to love the Lord.
Just so happens, the Lord is our Savior, and we can loved Him personally.
May the only boast and the only air that we cling to be simply and rightly, Jesus - the hope of the humble. The only hope of the humble, and the hope of only the humble.