What makes Christmas special? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Some would say it’s the gift giving and charity displayed during the Christmas season. Who could argue with that – I don’t remember receiving a special “Labor Day” or “St. Patrick’s Day” gift. One could point to the special songs that surround Christmas or the decorations. But regardless of what people think makes Christmas special – it’s impossible to distinguish Christmas as being special without the presence of Jesus.
But the presence of Jesus during Christmas is not a magic wand. It can’t just waved over our lives and everything becomes “special.” You along with millions of others might have discovered that Christmas can be an extremely stressful season even with the presence of Jesus. That shouldn’t really surprise us – because the first Christmas was chocked full of stress.
Joseph and Mary were betrothed. I know – I don’t really like big words either – but let me assure you this word “betrothed” is worth getting to know. Betrothal was not just a simple engagement. When two young people were in love they would need the permission of their parents to proceed to marriage. Guys would have to save enough money to present his girlfriend’s family with a dowry. Consider a dowry like an engagement ring for the girlfriend’s parents. They were losing a daughter but also a productive member of the family – so her boyfriend would present them with a gift as compensation for their loss. The dowry was negotiated and eventually agreed upon by the bride-to-be and her parents. The agreement was followed by a ceremony of symbolic cleansing and the groom declaring vows to his bride-to-be. Once she accepted his vows, the legal part of their marriage was complete. They were just as legally married as a couple today who says, “I do”. It was a point of no return – a “till death do us part” type of commitment. However, unlike today’s couples rushing off to their honeymoon, Joseph and Mary had a delayed honeymoon. In fact, they didn’t even live together until the honeymoon took place – which could be delayed up to a year.
Almost immediately following the betrothal ceremony an Angel appeared to Mary announcing she would be impregnated supernaturally and give birth to Jesus. For three months Mary lived with this secret and finally shared it with Joseph. Jesus was growing as a child inside of her – his presence was very much felt – but that didn’t make things less stressful. Joseph wasn’t buying Mary’s story of a miraculous baby – or that the child was the promised Messiah. Instead, Joseph’s gut reaction was Mary had been unfaithful to him. In every sense of the word Joseph and Mary were legally married which meant the options Joseph had for consideration were ugly. If he thought Mary was truly unfaithful he could have her stoned to death or he could present her with a bill of divorcement. Joseph wasn’t blood thirsty – he just wanted to end this and go on with his life without Mary in it. So he planned to give her a bill of divorcement. Let that sink in for a moment! The parents of Jesus within four months of their new marriage – are hours away from becoming divorced. You see even with the presence of Jesus – real life problems still have to be dealt with. Think of what a tragic mistake it would have been if Joseph had followed through with his plans. Think of all he would have missed out on by not having Jesus in his home or in his life. What stopped Joseph?
He realized he was making one of the most important decisions of his life based on fear and feelings. So he paused long enough to get God’s perspective on the situation and it changed everything. Mary had not been unfaithful – she was pregnant with the promised Messiah. This Christmas season – don’t make decisions based on how you feel about something. Don’t make decisions based on fear of other people’s opinions, or fear of uncertainty. Pause and seek the presence of Jesus – it will change the direction of your life.