The songs, lights, shopping all say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But for many the season is not merry and bright. The first Christmas didn’t begin so happily either. It began as a story of divorce, poverty and homelessness.
Christmas is a story of divorce
Years ago I practiced family law and always saw an increase in divorce after the holidays. Sadly in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas I often found myself in court because of domestic violence. And there was the never ending stream of calls fighting over parenting time.
Our holiday classics show the loneliness of a child of a single mom (Miracle on 34th Street), a boy caught in a custody dispute (The Santa Clause) or a family always forgetting their son (Home Alone 1 &2). But perhaps most poignant is the scandal of Bethlehem.
For more truths from The Santa Clause read last year’s blog.
“Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” Mt. 1:18-19.
What if you were Joseph?
You have a reputation as a “righteous man” which you worked hard for. You are well known in Nazareth as an honorable business man. Justice is part of the root of the Greek word for righteous. You are a just man living out Psalm 112, “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”
So why did Mary tell you she is pregnant? How can any good come from that? Her story is crazy. No one will believe it. Joseph had a duty under the law to expose Mary and have her stoned. Dt. 22:21. The marriage was likely arranged. This was not Romeo and Juliet. Why allow his reputation to be destroyed for this young girl.
“But after Joseph had considered this…” Mt. 1:20.
Think about that. Couldn’t God have spared Joseph the anguish of wrestling over what to do? Maybe you are wrestling with a difficult circumstance. Consider God might allow the process to draw you into a deeper relationship with him.
For Joseph, justice extended beyond legalism, righteousness beyond personal holiness. Joseph understood mercy triumphs over judgment. Jms. 2:13. He chose not to subject Mary to public ridicule and stoning. And then God showed up through an angel. Mt. 1:20. God breaks into our wrestling. He shows up. Joseph received the courage needed to risk his reputation to take Mary as his wife and adopt Jesus as his son.
Christmas is a story of poverty
Joseph was a small business man. Nazareth was a small community. People talked. Mary was sent away to stay with her cousin Elizabeth, but people talked. Lk. 1:39-40. Joseph’s business likely suffered. He took what little he had to make the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife so he could register to pay taxes.
Perhaps all he could afford was a cave. Was there no room because the inn was crowded or because they were poor, traveling, pregnant peasants? Lk. 2:7. We know they were poor. Eight days later they presented Jesus in the temple in accordance with the law. But they were too poor to present a lamb so gave two pigeons. Lev. 12:8. Away from home, they struggled to make ends meet until the magi arrived.
Christmas is a story of homelessness
Jesus was born in a stone feeding trough. Lk 2:7. No God of myth or legend ever entered the world so humbly. But the true creator of the universe, emptied himself to be born in a cave with animals. The angels did not bring the news to Kings, but to lowly shepherds on the night shift. Average people received the message of peace and joy. The anointed one had come. The messiah was born in Bethlehem.
Christmas is a story of hope
The chorus of angels proclaimed good news which echoes across time.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
His favor rest on those who humbly seek him. Broken families, poor, homeless, average people all find hope in the child of Christmas.
Perhaps you are wrestling like Joseph over an apparent unfairness. Trust God. Maybe you are overwhelmed by difficult circumstances. Jesus understands. He is your prince of peace in the midst of all life’s challenges.
Today 80% of people facing serious family issues do so alone in court. The poor struggle to make ends meet and cannot afford access to an attorney. Children continue to be hardest hit as a University of Chicago report released in the last month demonstrates. That report showed homelessness is on the rise, especially among youth, with 1 in 10 children being homeless at some point over the last year.
Isaiah’s message of the Messiah speaks hope to the broken family, the poor and homeless.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isa. 9:2,6.
The challenge of Christmas is not new. Don’t be discouraged if you are grieving, anxious, uncertain or experiencing brokenness. Jesus entered the world in such uncertainty to bring hope. Experience that hope. Share your time or resources to help others experience that hope.