Merry Christmas everyone.
Thoughts on Christmas
by alex blanas
I have always loved Christmas. It has always been my favorite season. I could go on and on about the winter weather, the festive lights, the holiday foods, the parties, the gifts, the joy, the merriment, and the songs. I revel in it all, sometimes quietly, sometimes obnoxiously. But there is always one thing that I love the most about the holiday season, and that is the time spent with my family. Now, for the first time in my life, I am going to be away from home for the holidays. The circumstances are less than desirable. I have to work over the holiday and it keeps me in State College the entire week of Christmas. It has kept me away from my family and my fiancée, and I can honestly say that I do not like the situation at all.
However, it has got me thinking about all of the people who do not like Christmas time. Some, I would imagine, downright hate the season. I cannot help but think about all of the people who do not have a “happy” holiday in mind. Some come from broken families, others are too poor to afford gifts to give and have a hard time just putting food on the table. Funny thing is, after reading a few things from the Christmas story from both Matthew and Luke, I’m beginning to wonder if the true joy of Christmas isn’t really meant for us rich happy folk, but rather for those poor downtrodden souls.
The Christmas story is one that many know, and while most usually focus on Mary and the events surrounding her conception and birth, few people ever sit down to think about Joseph. The more I study the Christmas story, I realize that Joseph is an unsung hero in this special tale. Most know the story, and if you don’t you can read it starting in Matthew 1:13 through the end of chapter two and also in Luke 2 and 3. Think of the situation he is in; in fact, guys, let's put you in that situation now.
You are a humble carpenter living in Nazareth, engaged to a young girl and soon to be married. Come to find out, she is pregnant, and not by your doing! You are righteous man, and you have followed the law to the best of your ability. But instead of having her publicly humiliated (according to the law, you could have her stoned to death for harlotry), you decide to divorce her quietly, not only saving her life, but alleviating some of her embarrassment. An encounter with an angel will soon encourage you to marry her anyway and you do. What a nice guy you are!
Next, consider the fact that once you do marry her, you do not consummate your marriage until the child is born. Let me ask all you Christian guys out there who waited or are waiting until marriage to have sex. Once you got married, how willing would you be to not have sex with your wife even though now you were allowed to for oh, say, six to nine months after your marriage? And for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Could you do it?
Now, before the birth, the government says you have to travel to your home town so you can be counted in a census. I checked Google maps. Nazareth is 111 km from Bethlehem (Israel, not the towns in Pennsylvania), and that is a straight shot. But Israel has some pretty rugged country between the cities. I’m just guessing here, but when it says “Make the path straight for the coming of the Lord,” they were speaking figuratively. By today’s roads, Google maps places a trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem at 156 km (roughly 97 miles). And forget leather seats and air conditioning. You're traveling by luxurious donkey! But you let your wife ride because she is pregnant and a woman. You better pack your sturdy sandals and your Beegee’s cassette, 'cause your walking, friend!
Speaking of staying alive, one to two years later, you are visited by another angel. It seems that word of your son being "King of the Jews" has reached the local magistrate, whose power hungry personality now makes him hate babies. These angelic visits get better and better every time, don’t they? Time to pack up and flee for your life, and wouldn’t ya know it, this trip is more than twice as long as your first one. And to Egypt of all places, a land with warm and fuzzy memories for all Israelites who, after a brief rise to power within its government, were subjugated and enslaved. Oh, and did I forget to mention they had their own minor bout of Israelite infanticide there too?
So you wait there a couple of years and another heavenly dream tells you to go back. Once you get back you find out that the power hungry magistrate’s son is following in the footsteps of dear old father! And yet another dream tells you to move back to Nazareth. Finally, you are able to settle down, but watch out, a few years down the line, your son is going to start causing a ruckus in the synagogues. Even if he is a boy genius with the holy scrolls, it’s still going to be a bother.
Joseph’s Christmas story seems quite a bit different from what we are used to hearing, and yet for many, they can relate. Everyone has plans for their life that are interrupted or altogether changed for the worse. I bet no one plans on getting divorced, being abused, or going poor and hungry. No one plans on fighting with their neighbors, co-workers, or family. No one wants to lose their job, get sick, or feel lonely, sad, and depressed. Yet these things happen, even during the holidays.
If you are asking what the point is, it is simply this: Christ didn’t just come to these poor people when he had grown up and understood their pain. He sought to understand their pain personally from the beginning. Looking at the bigger picture surrounding the coming of our Savior, you see everything was aimed at sending a message of joy and hope to those who had very little. Angels appear before a poor girl and her husband to be bringing good news and encouragement. Angels sang for shepherds living in a field. Wise rich men traveled from far lands to worship before the son of a humble carpenter and offer the child gifts fit for a king.
This child would grow up in humble estate. He would work and toil as a carpenter until he was 30 years old. His ministry would lift up the poor, the broken, the weak, and the sick. He would humble the rich, the powerful, and the strong. He would transform the sinner and chastise the priests. He would laugh. He would cry. He would smile. He would hurt. When his ministry was over, he would be hailed as a hero, only to be slain as a criminal a week later. And just as he said, he returned three days later to conquer death, sin, and despair and bring hope to all who looked to him. And all of this was done to show us that we each in our own way are broken, weak, and pitiful people, all in need of a Savior who loves us to death and beyond. Please remember these things when you celebrate Christmas this year. God Bless you all, and have a very merry Christmas!