The Christmas story is one for all to hear. The message is unique but is not that far removed from contemporary relationships. The tension of love, conspiracy and controversy set the scene for this couple. Joseph & Mary began their relationship with friendship with it turning toward love, betrothal and hopeful marriage. Everyone around this happy couple looked upon their relationship with eyes of admiration… that was until the rumors of infidelity. The couple had to face each other with fear of what would happen next. The grapevine went faster than the speed of lightning and this couple knew their lives would be changed forever. Joseph did not want to put Mary away and God showed him that Mary was honest about her miracle pregnancy. The angel told Joseph, “do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” They married and gave birth to a son, naming him Jesus (Yeshua – God saves/delivers).
Sometimes life has the tension of interruption of our plans and decisions. Money runs out or gets tight; an employer downsizes; the doctor gives a regrettable report; a teacher shared news with your parents that grades are slipping and you may not pass this year. If there is one thing you can count on in life it is that life is filled with tension and tests.
Yet, God always finds ways to reveal His plan. God’s purposes are never interrupted. God’s plans never fail. God uses every circumstance to accomplish His perfect plan. The darkest circumstances are opportunities to see God send the brightest stars.
As you continue reading the Christmas story, you see the drama moves beyond tension and trial to tragedy. King Herod made diligent search for the Christ-child and ordered all the male children two years and younger in the region of Bethlehem to be slaughtered. Bethlehem was a rural region and scholars note there may have been approximately 20 children die that fateful day. Yes 20; ironic indeed.
Any death is a tragedy but the murder of children, many children, seems more than tragic; it’s evil. Taking life in such a careless and casual manner is wrong, it’s sinful and against God’s desire. Yet again, God uses every circumstance – even the death – to bring about His purposes.
We live in a broken world that is filled with disease, disaster, destruction and depression. It is not the world God designed. The desire to elevate “self” above God results in the dark world we live in. So, where do we find hope? We find it in two actions:
1) We find hope in tears. If we do not weep at tragedy then we are not human and life has no meaning. Grief proves that life and people matter. Grief can freeze us into a cold emptiness or we can allow God to melt our hearts with tears.
The Psalmist (56:8) says “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” God holds our tears, but even more He can heal our tragedies. Healing and hope never arrive quickly but God has assured them both in His eternal plan.
2) We find hope in trusting God.
Matthew 2:18 (Jeremiah 31:15-17) “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the Lord: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.”
Matthew quotes from Jeremiah to illustrate that there is weeping among Israel – from the current setting of Herod’s decree of murdering children AND from a previous setting where Israel’s children rejected God and was exiled from its home.
However, the context of Jeremiah, and even Matthew, tell us that tragedy does not have the last word. God promises after the horror there is hope. God promised a return to home after the exile. There is promised a true king who would conquer death and not cause it. A true king who would serve the people rather than oppress people. A true king who would reverse the curse of death and bring joy from sadness. Today, this comes to us through Jesus Christ; from His birth to His resurrection.
God is calling us to trust His promises. What looks hopeless on this side of eternity needs only to wait… and trust in a loving God who sent His only Son to redeem us from the greatest tragedy of sin, being eternal death.
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus [The Lord saves], because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus is the light of the world. Whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12).
Our prayer is that you might know and experience the hope and light of Jesus Christ AND that you might be and share that with others.