We are taking a justice look at Christmas Classics. We’ve looked at Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Carol, and now look at The Nativity Story. The story surrounding Jesus birth. Here are three amazing justice lessons from the nativity.
Lesson 1: God chooses unlikely people and places.
Seriously. Who would leave everything to enter our world through a poor peasant girl? Jesus could have been born in a palace but he chose a stable. He could have entered as a conquering King. Jews believed the Messiah would come in power. No one expected a poor carpenter’s son. But God is the God of the unexpected.
The movie contains a discussion not found in the gospels but entirely in keeping with the Biblical account:
Elizabeth: Are you frightened?
Mary: Yes. A husband has been chosen for me. The law says I must remain pure for a year. How is he to believe this?
Elizabeth: Stay with us, then. We will pray for guidance.
Mary: Elizabeth, why is it me God has asked? I am nothing.
Elizabeth: Oh, child.
Mary was an unlikely teenage girl. To her mind she was nothing. But God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. 1 Cor. 1:25. God makes no accidents. He has a purpose for every person. The greatest lie of the enemy is that you cannot make a difference. Injustice exist because people don’t believe they can make a difference. You can. Our Kenyan brothers wisely say,
“He who thinks he is too small to make a difference has never spent the night with a mosquito.”
Mary possessed an amazing faith
Mary made a difference because of her amazing faith. We see this in her beautiful song called the Magnifcat found in Luke 1:46-55. Her humble position allowed her to glorify God and proclaim, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Lk. 1:52-53.
Mary had a big view of God. She could trust him even when her circumstances seemed impossible. Joseph could leave her, she could be stoned. In Bethlehem she found no place to stay. But Mary believed God is bigger than circumstances.
Lesson 2: God is bigger than circumstances
How many girls today feel their circumstances are beyond hope? The young girl who came to this country when she was two and now fears for a future where removing DACA will prevent her from school and work. The young girl who sees leaders mocking and objectifying women. Is that her future? The young girl being trafficked who dies night after night in the abusive arms of men. The young mom alone and afraid.
The world is broken. Circumstances are dark and messy. But Christmas brings hope.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” Isa. 9:1, Jn. 1:9.
Jesus is the light that entered our world.
Your circumstances may be dark but it is always darkest before the dawn. Hope is found in Christmas. Maybe the shepherds were having a difficult day. Maybe they were having an ordinary day. Either way they did not expect the great light of the Christmas star invading their night. They did not expect a host of angels. They were afraid.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Lk. 2:10-11.
No matter your circumstances do not be afraid. That baby was the Messiah. He is the light of the world and in His famous Sermon on the Mount he invites us to be lights in a dark world. To bring the light of His justice into the dark places.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:16
The courage of Mary and Joseph
The Nativity Story is amazing. A simple carpenter and peasant girl hear God’s voice and dare to courageously move forward by faith. That faith would be put to the test immediately.
King Herod: “I will end this threat to my rule.” The Nativity Story.
Herod would issue an order to kill all male babies under the age of two in Bethlehem. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. From birth Jesus was a refugee. A refugee on Earth from Heaven and a refugee on Earth fleeing to Egypt before returning to Nazareth after Herod’s death.
Jesus understands suffering and deliberately entered into the brokenness of this world. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Heb. 2:18. Are you tempted to do nothing? To want to close your eyes and pretend everything will be alright? Jesus calls you to courageous action. He invites you to listen to his voice and enter into injustice. You will not do that alone.
Lesson 3: God’s amazing adoption plan
The Nativity Story does a nice job of establishing Joseph’s challenge.
Joseph: If I claim this child as mine, it will be lying. I would have broken a law laid down by God.
Mary: I would never ask you to lie.
Joseph: If I say this child is not mine, they will ask what I’m going to do. If I accuse you…
Mary: There is a will for this child greater than my fear of what they may do.
In Jewish custom Joseph and Mary were married at their betrothal, but were not to have relations until the ceremony. Joseph could not bear the disgrace and decided to divorce Mary. An Angel appeared to Joseph to let him know the child was not born of man but by the Holy Spirit.
The adoption by Joseph
I think we miss something in the Christmas story. Not only the courage of Joseph, but the adoption by Joseph. While married, the contract was not complete. Joseph chose to take Mary with him to register her and Jesus in Bethlehem. Joseph had to legally adopt Jesus in order for Jesus to be part of the line of David. Mary was not part of David’s line. Joseph was. But Joseph was not Jesus father until he adopted him.
The adoption by Jesus
Just as Jesus was adopted by man, he provides the means for us to be adopted by God. Jesus was adopted into the family of David. Jesus adopts us into the family of God. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Gal. 4:4-5.
As adopted children we are heirs to the promises of God. Those promises are that he will never leave us or forsake us. Deut. 31:6. He will equip us with the Holy Spirit to do even greater things than He himself has done. Jn. 14:12. We are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Eph. 3:20.
Believe the hope of Christmas. Be filled with the courage of Christmas. And shine the light of Jesus into the dark places of this world. Jesus would enter the world in a small cave just as he would be laid in a small cave before his rebirth through resurrection. Christmas is a foreshadowing of Easter where Mary would once again courageously sit at the foot of Jesus.
May the hope of Immanuel and the power of the resurrection fill you with courage in 2017 as you follow Christ example and do justice for those in need.