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How did Joseph and Mary become a picture of peace?

This devotion was published on Sunday December 5th 2021

Manger

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38

If you were an artist, how would you paint peace? Would you create a scenic picture that portrays rest, stillness, and beauty? Water without ripples, calm gentle breezes, pastures that beckon a leisurely walk? Or would you paint a person in the midst of chaos, whose face looks unfazed, un-anxious, confident and in patient control? While I am not an artist myself, I think the more interesting picture would likely be the latter. There’s something moving and compelling about a person who is in a chaotic, stressful situation, and yet their face exudes calm, rest and assurance; a person who isn’t fretting or worried when their situation screams that they should be.

There are heaps of Bible stories that speak of this kind of peace: perhaps Abraham willing to sacrifice his son; a young shepherd-boy, David, confidently facing a Goliath-sized warrior; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knowing they did the right thing and trusting that God can save them from the fires, if He chooses; or even Jesus, resting in a boat with his disciples, in the midst of a storm, knowing who is in control. But sticking with the Christmas theme, let’s reflect on Mary and Joseph, the parents entrusted to birth and raise our newborn Savior.

The setting: a humble Jewish town and community, nothing remarkable in itself, but full of people who want their crops to grow, their businesses to prosper and who hope for the Messiah to come and free them from the Romans. These heavy-handed Romans constantly seemed to want more taxes, governed harshly and unapologetically, and always seemed to be around. And if they weren’t bad enough, their own King, was a ruthless paranoid ruler, who wouldn’t hesitate to kill anyone he deemed a threat, and who demanded his own taxes.
In this setting, God sent his angel to Mary, a young girl, single yet engaged to be married, and tells her that she has been chosen to give birth to the Messiah, to bear a child while still single. To be pregnant without being married guaranteed the scorn and shame of the community, for the rest of her life, and that is only if she survives zealous law-followers who would demand for her to be stoned to death, for her alleged guilt. And yet, in spite of knowing all this, Mary humbly replies, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

In this same setting, God sent his angel to Joseph, to assure him that Mary has not lied nor broken the engagement betrothal and that the child is indeed the promised Messiah. When culture and law demanded Mary’s death, Joseph submitted to God and also quietly took on the scorn and shame of the community, through the community’s speculation. Mercifully, God allowed a political decision to force them to move approximately 90 miles south, to a new community who would not know of the rumors. But this political decision also caused much chaos and anger around them, not to mentioned extra stress in their own lives, essentially becoming homeless with Jesus’ birth drawing near.

How does this couple, who strove to live faithfully according to God’s law, yet who likely faced ridicule and rejection, on top of the political turmoil of those days, become a picture of peace? They are a picture of peace through their obedience. They continued to submit themselves to God’s plans, trusting Him, even when so much seemed wrong. Mary submitted to God’s impossible and ridicule-inducing plan. Joseph took Mary, even after finding out Mary was pregnant before their wedding. They believed God and took steps of obedience, stepping into the chaos and storms.

Perhaps they had moments or days of fears and tears. Perhaps they had times when they wondered if they heard God correctly. We don’t really know but we do know they remained obedient and that speaks to me of peace. Quiet confidence in God and faithful obedience.
In our own settings of brokenness, political unrest, uncertainties, sicknesses and such, God reminds us that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the God who walked with Mary and Joseph through their chaotic situations and He will walk you through yours. Is it okay if you have days of fears and tears? Yes, I think so...as long as you don’t allow them to stall your quiet confidence in God nor your faithful obedience. Jesus came to be our peace and offers peace that exceeds all understanding, even in the world today.

Manger

God of Peace, there are times when I don’t understand how or where you are working. But I do know that you are good. I do know that you are sovereign; in control of everything. I do know you are always with me. I do know you are wise. I do know that your word is true. I do know that you have not failed me, ever. So, with your help, I choose to walk in obedience, one step at a time, keeping my eyes on you. Use me and lead me, for your glory. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Amen.

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(Optional) I have provided extra readings, for the week ahead, for those who are interested: Isaiah 9:6-7, Ephesians 2:14, Matthew 1:16-25, Philippians 4:4-9, Micah 5:2-5a