There were shepherds living out in the fields… the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord…You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.” – Luke 2:8-12
Recently, I asked a group of women to recall who was present at the birth of Jesus. We listed: Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the animals in the manager, and the Wise Men. One woman was quick to correct us, in that the Wise Men didn’t show up until much later in the narrative.
Then I asked them to imagine how scared and perplexed Mary must have felt, so far from home with only Joseph by her side. Why was God allowing the Messiah to born in such humble surroundings? And what did Joseph know about delivering a baby?
Lastly, I asked the women to choose one character from the nativity scene that they would have liked to have been. My friend Mary, who has the gift of evangelism, wanted to be the angel, sharing the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth with the lowly shepherds in the nearby fields. Jean chose to be a Wise Man because she could relate to them being late, and she also wanted a little more wisdom. Many of the women, however, chose to be the shepherds.
We were all struck by the irony of God choosing shepherds, considered by most to be the least important in that society, to be the first ones to hear of His son. We decided that when God sent Jesus to the earth, He turned everything upside down. The least would become greatest, sinners would eat with the Savior, and the Messiah’s prophecy was fulfilled by a humble servant.
So now I’ll ask you, who would you like to have been at the greatest birth in history? Why? How would you have felt at that moment?
When it was my turn to choose, I picked Joseph. This is the first Christmas I’ve ever looked at the birth of Jesus from his perspective. Here are my three amazements about the man God chose to raise up Jesus.
Joseph must have experienced great disappointment upon hearing about Mary’s pregnancy, yet he chose to be obedient when God told him in a dream to take Mary as his wife. I admire Joseph for trusting God in the midst of disappointment.
Joseph placed himself under God’s authority and followed the orders to return to his homeland for the census. His acts of obedience placed he and Mary in the right place at the right time for the Messiah to be born where prophecy required.
Joseph didn’t sign up to be Jesus’ step-father, but he must have taken his responsibilities very seriously. When Jesus was twelve years old we’re told that he kept increasing in wisdom and in statue, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). Joseph lay the foundation for Jesus’ wisdom and growth. He must have been a wonderful leader of his family.
Though we can’t actually turn back time and step into Biblical characters’ lives, we can glean truths about God’s character as we examine their circumstances. God chose a humble environment and humble hearts to surround Jesus at His birth. God filled their eyes with awe and wonder. Mary treasured and pondered all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19).
What if you did just that this Christmas?
How can you take on a posture of humility? How can you open your eyes to the awe and wonder of this season? If you do, you too like Mary will have many treasures to ponder in your heart this Christmas.
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