As we look upon the baby, we have to remember the cross. This child of hope brought redemption as promised, however, He brought redemption by nails driven through His hands and feet, He brought it under a crown of thorns, not a crown of gold. The people He came to save expected a revolution, not an execution.
I ponder Joseph, the man chosen by God to raise Jesus as his own son. Joseph was told, by an angel, to marry his betrothed, Mary and to name her child Yashua, meaning God saves. Joseph knew he would be parenting the Son of God, the savior of the world. I am sure Joseph had certain expectations about what that birth would be like and under what conditions that birth would take place. I imagine Joseph's expectations to be quite different than actual events. Joseph, apparently well known in Nazareth, as the townspeople referenced him in the local synagogue when Jesus returned home to announce His mission. Being a home town boy, Joseph undoubtedly expected to celebrate the birth of his son among family and friends in the comfort and safety of his own home. Joseph undoubtedly expected to welcome the birth of his son with great fanfare and excitement, since God Himself was being brought forth into the world as a man child.
Amidst anticipation of welcoming his baby, Joseph is blindsided by a decree from the detested ruler of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus. Joseph and his new family are forced from their home and directed to travel to Bethlehem in order to be counted in a census. Sent 69 miles from home with a very pregnant wife was no mean task. Chances are good the journey took longer as Joseph, an Israelite, would have chosen to travel around Samaria rather than through it. A difficult journey under the best of circumstances, made all the more arduous by the fact of Mary's advanced pregnancy. Imagine the concern and anxiety Joseph must have felt as he traveled with Mary over many miles and the resentment he must have felt toward Caesar. Imagine, also the confusion he must have been experiencing toward God.
To make matters worse, Joseph was unable to secure shelter for his first night in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary would have arrived later than most, due to the challenges cause by Mary's condition. Mary is having contractions, the small town is filled beyond capacity and Joseph fails to find a suitable place to lodge and now the baby is coming. Being directed to a stable, Joseph makes due with the situation as best he can. I know my mindset would not have been good at that moment. I would be seriously wondering where God is and how He could let His son be born under such terrible conditions. I would be feeling like a complete failure as a husband and new father as my wife gave birth in the most unsanitary and unsuitable conditions. I may have felt abandoned by God. We romanticize the stable after 2000 years of nativity scenes but think about what this was like for a man who desired to care for his wife and soon to be born son. As Joseph laid his newly born son in an animal trough filled with straw, the mixed feelings of joy and bewilderment must have been overwhelming.
We know the story works out, Jesus grew up to be a healthy, bright child, Joseph and Mary go on to have more children together and Jesus fulfills His mission to save mankind at the cross. Joseph did not have the benefit of reading the Gospel according to Luke, he did not know what would happen, he was forced to trust and exercise faith. Joseph's faith is rewarded as shepherds arrive and worship the new born King. Joseph's faith is rewarded further in the Temple 8 days later when both Simeon and Anna attest to the Lordship of Jesus. Joseph did not expect shepherds to worship his son, and he did not expect the reception he received at the Temple, and later, he did not expect the Magi from the east to show up at his home to worship and present gifts to Jesus.
Life often goes differently than we expect. Sometimes, what we believe is the worst case scenario becomes reality. God gives us His promise to never leave nor forsake us, if we are in Christ. We cannot anticipate the future or always understand why life takes certain turns, what we do have is a savior who understands us and understands what it means to live a life filled with joy, wonder, victories and unmet expectations. We have a savior who knows us intricately and cares for us with an abounding love. We can and must remain faithful to our Father in heaven under any and all circumstances, trusting He has everything planned and worked out. It is during these times we have the opportunity to see God's power in us and around us.
God loves you, this love is attested to everywhere we look this week as Nativity scenes are common this time of year. The baby laying on the straw is the man who rose from the tomb with you on His mind. The baby born in a stable is the God who will return for you, His beloved one day. The baby who had no suitable place to be born will one day rule the world and you will rule and reign along side Him. The baby who slept in a manger on His first night will one day light up the world with the radiance of His glory and you will share in that glory, being glorified with Him, according to 1 John.
Be blessed this Christmas season, look ahead to a new year to serve and adore the risen King. Watch God work in and through your life. Stay faithful and expect faithfulness.
Please take the time to listen to the words of the following video, I am sure it will be a blessing to you and a reminder that you are loved by God and He has all the circumstances you face.