Joseph – Quiet Strength & Commitment

The Holy Family – Artist Unknown

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-19 (CSB)

While reading the Gospel of Matthew, my thoughts wandered to Joseph and the emotional upheaval he must have experienced upon discovering Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant. Contemplating the disappointment and uncertainty that arise when our plans diverge from God’s plan, I marveled at Joseph’s reaction.

In a society where he had the legal right, according to the law of Moses, to have Mary stoned for adultery, Joseph’s response was unexpectedly compassionate. Instead of exposing Mary to public disgrace, he chose a quieter path, walking away with a shattered heart rather than seeking her harm. The compassion in his natural reaction closely resembles that of The Father’s compassion towards us. Surely, this is why he was chosen to be the earthly father of our Lord Jesus.

As I get older, Joseph is easily becoming my favorite “character” in the Christmas story. His quiet obedience speaks volumes and stirs my own faith. While we acknowledge Mary’s obedience and understand Joseph’s role in staying with Mary, raising Jesus, and imparting his trade to him, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on the enormity of what Joseph was asked to do.

An upstanding man in the community, Joseph was asked to risk his reputation to raise a child that was not biologically his; in fact, he was asked to believe that this baby was God’s Son! The pressure of being asked to guide and protect the very Son of our Creator adds extraordinary dimension to Joseph’s role. He wasn’t just called to raise Mary’s child but to safeguard the Savior of the entire world. This included journeys to Bethlehem while Mary was with child and later fleeing to Egypt to shield Jesus from King Herod’s threat (Matthew 2:13-20). Without Joseph’s protective presence shielding them from danger, who’s to say what could have happened to Mary and Jesus?

Joseph’s obedience isn’t a grand spectacle like Jesus’ glory or Mary’s sacrifice. Instead, it’s found in the steady, quiet steps of a simple “yes.” It’s a willingness to step back and humbly submit to another’s call. In Joseph’s case, he became the sturdy foundation of the holy family, ensuring that Mary had everything she needed to fulfill her calling. Let’s not allow Joseph’s obedience to fade into the background. May our own faith and response to God’s call, and the calls on the lives of those around us, be anything but ordinary.

As we reflect on Christ’s birth, we recognize that each person in the story carries a message for the Church today. Looking at Joseph, I find inspiration in his quiet strength and unwavering commitment to God’s plan. May this same spirit reside in us.

Father, thank You that we get to know about Christ’s birth and that You have a message for your Church today wrapped in each one of the people involved in the story. As we look at Joseph, I am inspired by his quiet strength and his unwavering commitment to Your plan. Do that in us, Lord. Help us to walk more like Joseph. May the Holy Spirit fill us so much that integrity, compassion, humility, and willingness to serve You flourish like wildflowers at the river. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Mary – Joy in Giving

Mary Sings to Jesus, by Mike Moyers, Digital Illustration For Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary
By Ascension Press © Mike Moyers 2019

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ 12‬:1‬-2‬ ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Not too long ago, I found myself happily committing to a task for someone I care about. I knew it would take me ages to complete, and though I was paid, it wasn’t really for the money. I was happy because my friend was happy. However, weeks into the project, not even halfway through, I found myself grumbling. Shamefully, more than once. The turning point came when I heard the soft yet strong voice of Holy Spirit, questioning, “Wait a minute now, why did you start this to begin with?”
“To make my friend happy,” I replied.
“Then why are you complaining about the details? You knew the cost, calculated it, and still chose to give the gift of your time.”

I fell silent internally, and my mouth clamped shut. I repented for my attitude and my words spoken and the ones I had selfishly thought but not yet spoken. Holy Spirit was, of course, right. I had lost joy in my giving.
When I held my first child in my arms, he was only a few months old at Christmas time, and I found myself wondering, as I have many times since if Mary ever lost joy in her giving.

Reflecting on moments of giving, I thought about Mary, who carried a life and surrendered herself entirely, her whole person. And her commitment wasn’t just from 9 am to 5 pm. And it wasn’t only for the waking hours. No, her commitment was a 24/7 “yes” for 9 months. That’s 280 days!

I wonder if, during any of her many restless pregnant nights, when she had to get up to pee, again, did she wonder if all of this was worth it. Did she stop mid-task, stretch her strained back, wipe away the abundance of sweat in the most uncomfortable places, and think, “How much longer?” Did she groan with pain in the work of bringing our Lord into the world and think, “Why did I say yes?!”
As lovers of Jesus, we may enthusiastically say “yes” to the Lord, knowing the cost, but harbor regret and a desire to repent (go another direction) when we find ourselves groaning from the actual labor we committed to. Maybe Mary was better than me. I like to think so. And since the Word doesn’t mention it either way, we can reasonably conclude Mary maintained her joy, trusting God would honor her for her gift, even when tired or sore.

For Mary to maintain her joy, she must have keyed into the wisdom of God’s Word: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you (we) may discern what is the will of God—what is good, acceptable, and perfect.” His good and perfect will doesn’t always come through easy avenues. Rather, it is achieved through rough terrain and requires us to harness both mind and body to focus on His ways and not our own. This calls for the constant renewal of our thoughts and the attitude of our hearts, allowing us to experience His joy when we find ourselves within His good and perfect will.
Mary’s “yes” symbolized a profound gift—she offered her body as a home for our Savior. Every ounce of her time, energy, and being was devoted to bringing Immanuel, God with us, into our lives. What an extraordinary gift!

Celebrating Christmas can, and in our culture often does, turn into a chore. While some commitments may serve as enjoyable distractions, a handful encapsulate the true spirit of Christmas. In the coming month, a multitude of opportunities will arise for us to give gifts and dedicate ourselves to a plethora of worthy causes and joyful occasions. It may be having that lonely neighbor over for a Christmas feast or stopping to take care of a person you see in need. You may be late and rushing off to Christmas Eve service and see a family with a flat or in need of a battery boost.

Brothers and sisters, if you come to your wit’s end or find yourself weary and achy, it’s crucial to remember, even in fatigue, to present your body, renew your mind, and experience the joy and gift of aligning with God’s good and perfect will.

Mary – The Mother of Jesus

Mother and Child, by Mike Moyers, Digital Illustration For Rejoice!, An Advent Pilgrimage Into the Heart of Scripture – Year A
By Ascension Press © Mike Moyers 2022

When we contemplate Jesus, we recognize Him as God’s Son—the most significant person ever born on Earth. Equally, He was Mary’s son. Mary, chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb, must have been extraordinary. God bestowed upon her the most profound gift, knowing her heart to be one of humility, courage, and righteousness. Her fearlessness to face multiple tests is evident.

Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery; a woman in Mary’s situation would have faced stoning. And what was Mary’s situation? She was a pregnant woman who was unmarried. Can you fathom the thoughts that raced through Mary’s mind as she proceeded with God’s plan? What was she thinking when the angel Gabriel proclaimed her blessed and favored by God, destined to conceive the Son of God through divine impregnation?

The Gospel of Luke provides insight into Mary’s thoughts. In Luke Chapter 1, Mary asks, “How can this be?” Her mind was greatly troubled and disturbed, wondering about the nature of Gabriel’s greeting. I’m sure she wondered how she could be picked for this amazing event, but also how? How would she become pregnant without intimacy with a man? Amidst her questions and puzzlement, she said yes, declaring, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

I wonder if she had doubts about what had just happened and what would happen. After Gabriel’s departure, Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who, in her old age, was also pregnant through an act of God. As Mary approached, Elizabeth’s baby leaped for joy, confirming the reality of the extraordinary event. Mary’s doubt dissipated; it was happening just as Gabriel had said. This was the confirmation. There was no going back. It was real.

Can you imagine what it was like when Mary told Joseph? I believe he was shocked and afraid. Should he still marry her? Matthews’s gospel tells us he was going to divorce her privately. This was so no harm would come to her. Surely, Mary began to doubt Joseph’s trust, devotion, and love for her. But God brought him into alignment through a dream, leading them to marry and eventually travel to Bethlehem, where Mary was ready to give birth. Even under these unbelievable circumstances, Joseph stayed by her side. Joseph’s incredibly generous gift of loyalty and devotion must have helped Mary overcome any fear or doubt that had crept in.

In the humble setting of a stable, Jesus was born. If I were Mary, I would have wondered how the child she bore could really be the Son of God. How could God’s son be born in a stable, not a palace? Even with everything Mary had experienced thus far, could there be reason to doubt once again? But then at their doorstep stood shepherds and later wise men from afar, proclaiming Jesus, her son, to be the Savior Israel had long been awaiting.

Throughout moments of doubt, God remained faithful to Mary, bringing others into her life and gifting her with faith. Mary, a wise woman, must have had the confidence to proceed after Gabriel’s visit, knowing God’s plan extended beyond Jesus’s birth. But God used others to help her faith along the way.

Luke 2:19 tells us Mary treasured and pondered everything in her heart. It makes me wonder if she knew more was to come. When Mary and Joseph had Jesus dedicated at the Temple, in accordance with Jewish Law and practice, they were approached by a man named Simeon. Simeon told Mary of Jesus’s destiny and the sword that would pierce Mary’s soul. Despite not comprehending all her son would face or accomplish, God sent people to Mary to declare His purposes and will for His son, providing her with faith for the future.

Mary was indeed a woman of faith, courage, and honor. She accepted God’s invitation to bear His son. If she had not, who knows what might have happened? But the gift of her life and faith, which impacts every believer, is one we should emulate. Amidst doubt and uncertainty, like Mary, we can choose to trust. So, as we celebrate Christmas this year, it is fitting to remember and honor Mary. Let’s give thanks to God for her life and her story. Her story, not merely a tale, was a real girl’s life, recorded under the direction of the Holy Spirit and shared with us to encourage our faith.

Take a moment to reflect on the people whom God has brought into your life to encourage your faith. Have there been those who faced similar challenges, letting you know that you are not alone? Think about those who remained steadfast and devoted during uncertain times. Were there moments when people unexpectedly appeared, dispelling doubt just when you needed it? Reflect on those who uplift you with encouraging words and speak into the possibilities of your future. Take a pause and express your gratitude. Consider reaching out to them to let them know.

Also, consider how you can be a source of encouragement for others. How can you lead a life that produces faith in those around you? Together, let’s trust God for extraordinary things and miraculous possibilities—both for ourselves and for one another. Just as Mary responded to God’s call with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it happen to me as you have said,” let’s embrace a spirit of willingness and faith.