A medium-sized, square black plate rests on the corner of my desk in the Counseling Room. Most of the year the plate holds a smallish arrangement of flowers that I change with the seasons. Along with the flowers there is a framed cross-stitch that says, “Tears Welcome Here”– words of assurance extended to Clients looking for hope and a safe place to work on their problems.
During Advent and into Epiphany, the plate becomes a stage. The stitchery and flowers are replaced, first with a solitary manger in front of a plaque that declares:
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things . . . .”
I Corinthians 13:7
Last week, Mary and Joseph were added. With Joseph standing and Mary kneeling near the empty manger, the parents-to-be appear to be wondering about the Child, uniquely conceived, soon to be born– the Son of God Most High. Were they nervous? Perhaps scared? The Scriptures do not tell us. What we do know, is they remained faithful as they waited . . . .
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee . . .
to Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary. . .
pledged to be married . . . expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came . . .
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger,
because there was no room available for them.”
As I look at the figures of Mary, Joseph and the waiting manger, I find hope and comfort at the gentle reminder: “Love bears all . . . . believes all . . . hopes . . . endures.” Such was the point of Christ’s coming, LOVE CAME DOWN.
The young couple’s lives had been turned upside down less than a year before. Far from home, they had likely endured much societal rejection because of Mary’s pregnancy. As they waited for the Birth, they were clueless about the drama that was about to ensue:
- Shepherds paying them a visit to see what an angel had pronounced–“A Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord . . . a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11,12)
- Magi from the East, following a star, would come bearing gifts to worship, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.”(Matthew 2:)
- They would flee to Egypt, after an angel’s warning, before King Herod began his search to kill the Child–only able to return home to Israel after Herod’s death.
- They would end up in obscure Nazareth (apparently not their first choice) to stay out of range of Herod’s son:
“So he (Joseph) got up, took the Child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and . . . lived in a town called Nazareth.
So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets,
that He (Jesus) would be called a Nazarene.”
So what can you and I learn from Mary and Joseph’s story?
- That when (not if) those dark and stormy seasons hit us, God is faithful to direct the steps and shepherd the hearts of those who rely on Him.
- To honor God in the dailyness of our lives--faith is not something to be turned ‘on and off’ with a switch.
- To trust in God’s Sovereign Goodness to get us where He wants us when He wants us there–God’s timing is perfect.
For twenty-five years I have seen miracles happen as I have watched Clients, overwhelmed by their circumstances, make one of three choices– to trust in God, to trust in themselves or in someone (or something) else. Those who cho0se to trust God:
- Look to Him in the Scriptures for the wisdom they need,
- Pray for the courage they lack to either move forward or to wait, and
- Give thanks to God that He was with them every step of the way.
It is nothing short of miraculous to watch as their outward countenance slowly begins to reflect a deepened, mature faith that affirms the truth of what is written in Hebrews 6:19,20,
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
He has become a high priest forever . . . . “
On Christmas Eve I will return to my office one last time: to place Baby Jesus in the manger and add the Shepherds who came to see Him. You and I are invited to enter the Holiness of that wondrous season as we celebrate God’s Perfect Provision–unto us a Child is born; a Son is given–Merry Christmas!
All to His Glory!