4 Beautiful Ways Joseph and Mary Inspire Us at Christmas and Always
- Joel Ryan Contributing Writer
- 2020 30 Nov
The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone. Whether it’s cramming for final exams, traveling across country to visit family, prepping for holiday dinners, or scrambling to buy Christmas gifts for everyone on our list, there’s no shortage of holiday happenings that can cause even the merriest among us to grow anxious.
Christmas should be a time to gather with friends and family, affirm the good things of life, and celebrate the eternal joy we have in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, our Immanuel, who made his humble but holy entrance into the world that first Christmas night.
And make no mistake, the first Christmas was a joyous occasion, setting up what would become, arguably, the greatest turning point in human history. Joseph and Mary were right to rejoice at the birth of their son and treasure the miracles of God in their lives, but for this chosen couple, the first Christmas was also not your typical holiday rom-com.
What Is the Story of Joseph and Mary?
Not unlike current times, Joseph and Mary dealt with their fair share of emotional turmoil, travel delays, personal health concerns and discomfort, social unrest, new government mandates and regulations, and a general sense of uncertainty surrounding the future and God’s plan for their growing family.
Blessed, but in no way easy or stress-free, Joseph and Mary’s journey to parenthood revealed incredible perseverance and faith in the midst of immense uncertainty and personal struggle.
Here are four remarkable ways that Joseph and Mary can inspire all of us this Christmas and always:
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What Happens to Joseph and Mary?
1. God’s Instructions Come with the Provision of Strength to See Them Through
The unique circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy are well documented in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels, and it’s not hard to imagine the level of anxiety and trepidation that followed this historic announcement.
Pregnancy can be an exciting and terrifying experience for a young couple. Planned or unplanned, many parents go into their first pregnancy feeling ill-equipped and unprepared. This is to be expected. Unfortunately, when it came to Joseph and Mary, there was no What to Expect When You’re Expecting for giving birth to prophesied messiahs, no Pinterest boards of cute ways to tell your friends your child was actually conceived by the Holy Spirit, and no parenting classes on how to raise God’s only son as your own.
Joseph and Mary couldn’t rely on experience or past parental wisdom. They were truly in uncharted territory, but they were also never alone.
Not only had God given them family members in Zacharias and Elizabeth to support them along the way (Luke 1), He had sent angelic messengers to both Joseph and Mary with the reassurance that God was in fact with them, that this was all part of His plan, and that they were “not to be afraid” (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:30).
Thankfully, Joseph and Mary held on to these words and obeyed God’s instructions, trusting in His power, provision, and promises, rather than the oddity or uncertainty of their situation (Luke 1:38). They had taken risks, but a risk taken in line with God’s instructions came with the promise of His strength and favor.
As it is written, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Joseph and Mary did just that. They didn’t have the full picture. They probably didn’t know where every road would lead, but they trusted that God’s plan was good, and they treasured the moments of God’s grace and power wherever they were revealed.
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2. God’s Opinions Should Always Matter More Than Others’
In addition to managing their own emotions, Joseph and Mary also had to contend with the opinions and expectations of others.
As a then unmarried woman, Mary’s pregnancy would have been culturally frowned upon; and for Joseph, marrying a woman who was, by all appearances, no longer a virgin would have also been considered shameful. This is why Matthew writes that, “Joseph, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace Mary, planned to send her away secretly”(Matthew 1:19). God, however, had other plans for Joseph, and Joseph followed them, remaining faithful to his bride-to-be even despite the social stigma surrounding her pregnancy out of wedlock (Matthew 1:20-25).
How many friends did Mary and Joseph lose because of this? How many disapproving looks and snide remarks would they have to endure in the months that followed? Were they successful in convincing others that Mary was actually still a virgin and the child she carried was the promised messiah? Did they even try? We don’t know, but in many ways, that didn’t matter.
God had shown His favor in their life, and in the eyes of this original Christmas couple, if God was for them, who could be against them? (Romans 8:31)
The wisdom of God outweighed the wisdom of man; and God’s approval meant far more than the opinions of others. It wasn’t easy, pregnancy never is, but their shared perspective gave Joseph and Mary the courage and resilience to remain faithful to their calling as parents and to each other as husband and wife, even when things didn’t make sense, or they felt ostracized and alone.
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3. God’s Favor Might Look Like a Donkey and a Manger
As I write this, my wife is thirty-five weeks pregnant, which means I have seen firsthand just how uncomfortable simple daily movements can be for a woman about to give birth. This discomfort is only amplified on the road. Any bump, sharp turn of the wheel, or stomp on the brakes can cause my wife to clutch her belly in discomfort or even pain. And that’s driving on paved roads in a car with good suspension, an adjustable thermostat, and Bluetooth. I can’t imagine what it would take to keep my pregnant wife comfortable on the back of a donkey over uneven, rocky ground for weeks on end.
This, however, was the path to Bethlehem that God had laid out for Joseph and Mary. What should that tell us? Favored above all and chosen by God to parent His only son, Joseph and Mary still had to walk a long and arduous road.
As Christians, however, we often equate God’s favor with personal comfort. When the path is clear, we see this as a sign of God’s approval. When we reach our goals quickly, we praise God for His faithfulness. But what happens when things get rocky or it takes longer to see God’s promises fulfilled than we had hoped?
Don’t get me wrong, God has a way of opening doors, moving mountains, and blessing His followers. But just because we are living through a difficult season doesn’t mean that God’s favor has dried up. A bumpy road is not the end of the road God has set us on; nor is discomfort a sign of God’s disapproval. God can use even the bumpy roads of life to strengthen our faith, realign our priorities, or showcase His miracles. He often does.
God was with Joseph and Mary every uncomfortable step of the way, and His favor did not disappear once they reached Bethlehem. Neither did their struggles.
Once they arrived, you would think that the Son of God and Prince of Peace would be afforded the comforts of the Bethlehem Inn’s royal suite, or at the very least, a private room with a proper bed for Mary to rest her feet. Instead, God’s glory was revealed in a quiet, smelly stable with a wooden manger for a crib. This, however, was part of God’s plan and even a sign of His favor.
Unfortunately, many believers miss out on the blessings of God because they aren’t willing to wait for them or simply can’t see God’s hand at work right in front of them. And even more will give up on the promises of God when the blisters on their feet swell up or they are asked to ride on the back of a donkey instead of an SUV.
But the important thing to remember is: when God is with us and for us, there is reason to rejoice even in the bumpy roads, donkey rides, and mangers of life.
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4. Kings and Rulers May Change Our Circumstances; They Cannot Change God’s Plan
It was the decree of Caesar Augustus that forced Joseph and a very pregnant Mary to travel to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-4); and it was the edict of King Herod that later ordered the death of all newborns in an attempt to prevent any messiah from rising to challenge his power (Matthew 2:16-23). These were powerful men who put laws into place that directly affected the lives of Joseph and Mary.
Important Lessons from the Story of Joseph and Mary
However, where earthly kings had the power to alter Joseph and Mary’s circumstances, their power could never thwart God’s perfect plan.
The Caesars of Rome may have declared themselves gods to be worshipped, and yet, in flexing his political muscles, Augustus unknowingly set the stage for Joseph and Mary to journey to Bethlehem, the prophesied birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2).
And though Herod tried to prevent Jesus from growing up, God intervened to protect Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, providing for their escape to Egypt, and timing their return to Nazareth following Herod’s death (Matthew 2).
As Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, “and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Regardless of the earthly power of kings and rulers, God will always be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Leaders come and go, but God remains, seated on His eternal throne. And though kings and rulers, governors and leaders may make decrees and implement laws that impact our lives, God’s plan for His people can never be thwarted. His authority will never be usurped!
Therefore, as the Psalmist wrote, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalms 119:8-9).
As Mary concluded, “my soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
And blessed she was, for in merry times and dark, uncomfortable nights, her faith, her hope, her peace, and her joy, like that of her husband, were always in the Lord, and regardless of the season, those gifts could never be taken away.
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Joel Ryan is a children’s book author, writing professor, and contributing writer for Crosswalk, Christianity.com, Stand Firm Men’s Magazine, and others. He is passionate about telling great stories, defending biblical truth, and helping writers of all ages develop their craft. Joel discusses, analyzes, and appreciates the great writings of the past and present on his website, Perspectives off the Page.