“Good news from heaven the angels bring, Glad tidings to the earth they sing: To us this day a child is given, to crown us with the joy of heaven.”
- Martin Luther
It is a violent time, one of suffocating poverty and intense suffering. A nation’s identity and economic vitality has been subverted for the needs of the superpower that has conquered it. To be Jewish and living under the rule of the Roman Empire is to experience hardship beyond our understanding; it is a dangerous time to be alive. It is also precarious to be born into this deeply sorrowful period. The birthrate is low and many babies do not survive the birth, those who do face sickness, poverty and the unsure future of a conquered nation.
Into this harsh, oppressed land, the Father allows the Savior to be born. The hope for the world is born into a seemingly hopeless situation. To human eyes it makes no sense for God to arrange such an event in a wasteland of human misery. Our heavenly Father uses this impossible scenario to prove that with Him, all things are indeed possible. A lost world, a lost people will experience the unfeasible, a God infusion of himself into our world.
I think of Joseph, the man God picks to be “step-dad” for Jesus. I imagine the pressure he was under, the decisions he had to make. Should he remain bound to his betrothal contract? Should He expose Mary to the community? No one would blame him, a marriage agreement; specifically Writings of Betrothal could only be broken by divorce. Joseph must have been crushed to find out about Mary’s pregnancy, perhaps even angry. Talk about an impossible circumstance! Staying committed to Mary could isolate him from his family and a decision to divorce could separate him from the will of God.
To help him make this critical decision he has the hard, solid evidence of an angel talking to him in a dream. I can imagine the questions, can’t you? Can it be true, that this child will be the salvation of the world? Why was he, a simple carpenter, entrusted with raising such a child? The Bible calls him a “just man” so Joseph’s faith enables belief in the impossible, such as an angel in a dream declaring God’s will. When he accepts the mission, he is stretched yet again. Joseph forced by Rome, leaves home (Nazareth) and takes his pregnant wife on a road trip. They travel (by donkey) to his birthplace (Bethlehem) for a head count. There is no guarantee of safety during the journey and for the birth of his child when they arrive.
There is so much beyond Joseph’s and Mary’s control; but they move onward. Each step of their passage is a statement of belief in the Father’s message. Mary and Joseph demonstrate commitment to their “call” by choosing to believe what the angel said.
“Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)
The security of man-made provision is nowhere to be found when they ride into Bethlehem and the Lord is born in little more than a cave. Mingled with the smell of barn animals, the sweetness of the Messiah’s birth fills the air.
Humble shepherds come, guided by more angels. Exotic visitors come guided by a star. They supply gifts way beyond the means of the first time parents. These gifts may have been the supply that Joseph needed to move his family into Egypt when the threat of death reached out for his son. Another dream, another angel, but this time it is a warning to move again.
An impossible time, an impossible pregnancy, an impossible marriage, an impossible rescue…only so through the eyes of man. Through the Father’s eyes, a vision of hope birthed to redeem the impossible (us) to Him. For God it wasn’t an impossible time for the Lord to be born …it was the perfect time. He can take us from any land, any condition, and any difficulty and bring us into His kingdom. That is the gift of Christmas…hope. In Him a weary world rejoices, for our souls had felt their worth.