Another Christmas season is here. As usual for this time of year, homes are decorated with Christmas lights, stores are having sales everyday for Christmas shoppers and televisions stations are showing holiday-themed television programs and movies portraying people having conflicts yet resolving their issues just in time to have an ideal Christmas celebration before the program ends. In reality, however, this is not the case for many people, especially when you read the headline news. Police officers and civil rights protesters are clashing around the country, companies continue to layoff employees, and the Ebola virus looms large around the world, still with no effective antidote. On a personal level, unemployed workers are feeling a deep financial pinch, and many people are experiencing stress, loneliness or depression due to the death of a loved one, financial difficulties, physical challenges, or other reasons. Although this time of year is meant to remind us the birth of Jesus Christ, so many of us find ourselves struggling with despair and discouragement.
When we find ourselves in this situation, it pays for us to remember the story of Jesus’ birth and the faith and courage of Joseph and Mary. It serves not only as a reminder of the reason we celebrate this time of year, but also as encouragement for us when we’re faced with difficult circumstances.
Joseph and Mary were forced to leave their home, family and friends and travel to Bethlehem by order of Caesar Augustus, the emperor of Rome:In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3, NIV).
Caesar Augustus did not care about the financial burden his taxation would place on the people, neither did he care who was inconvenienced by his decree. Everyone – the young, the elderly, the sick, the rich and the poor – had to return to the place of his or her ancestors to be counted for the census. Failure to ignore a Roman emperor’s decree meant certain death.
Bible scholars say Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a four-day trip of about 80-90 miles. Making the journey even more difficult was the fact that Mary was nine months pregnant. This was not the ideal time for Mary to go on a long journey and Joseph needed his money to take care of his newborn son, not to pay taxes to a Roman emperor.
The difficulties did not end when Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem. Once they arrived in the city, the couple could not find an affordable place to stay because all of the rooms were filled with other people who had to make the same journey. Eventually, Joseph found shelter in a stable that housed animals, an undesirable place to give birth to a baby. It was then that Luke 2:6 NIV said that “the time came for the baby to be born.” Despite the hardships Joseph and Mary endured, there came a time for the delivery.
Mary gave birth to The Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose destiny was to restore the fallen state of humans which occurred due to Adam’s disobedience, and bring human beings back into the relationship God originally wanted to have with them. Through Christ, The Messiah, God would be with us (Isaiah 7:14).
Remember, whatever you are facing, there is an end to it, there is a time when God will deliver you from it. Facing hardships and obstacles is no indication that God has left us or that we have missed His will. Jesus even faced obstacles, but He told His disciples, In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Whatever trials we face will be used for good if we love God and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). We may not understand everything that is going on in our personal lives, our community, across the country or around the world. But, there is one thing that we do know: God promised that He will never abandon us and leave us to fend for ourselves (Hebrews 13:5).
Just as God was with Joseph and Mary to bring out His divine purposes, so He is with us no matter what situation in which we find ourselves. Let us learn from the example of Joseph and Mary that no matter what hardships we endure or conflicts that occur in our world, we will not give up hope because the Almighty Savior, who came to bring us peace with God, is with us!
United in Christ Ministries Canton would like to wish you a very Blessed Christmas and a Prosperous 2015.