Advent isn’t a word we normally use. It means the awaited arrival of something momentous. Traditionally, the Church calls the period leading up to Christmas, the Season of Advent. So, what if this Christmas you can experience an advent of your own? A momentous arrival of something wonderful? What if this Advent Season you could celebrate a fresh new arrival of trust in God’s love and goodness? A trust that helps you overcome obstacles you’ve struggled with and changes your life? Wouldn’t that be the best Christmas gift ever?
There’s no greater example of trust than the Christmas story. Political correctness and consumerism have domesticated Christmas. It’s airbrushed all the mystery, drama, intrigue, danger and scandal from the original version of the story that appears in the Bible. Philip Yancey wrote, “… when I turn to the gospel accounts of the first Christmas, I hear a very different tone and sense mainly disruption at work.”
This Christmas story is the chronicle of a small-town teenager and her fiancé and how the fate of the world comes down to their crazy, wonderful trust and obedience…
I’m reminded of the story of a young boy who applied for a job at a small local newspaper. The manager asked him, “Can you type?”
The boy said, “No sir”.
“Can you run a printing press?” asked the manager.
Again, the boy said, “No sir”.
“Well, can you write copy?”
And again, the boy said, “No Sir”.
“Well, young man, what can you do?”
The boy said, “I can do what I am told”.
The manager said, “You’re hired!”
In one Bible version of Christmas found in the Gospel Matthew, we meet a young man who, when faced with the question, “Do you really trust God?”, did what he was told.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:18-24)
Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. Here’ a guy who found out his fiancé was pregnant, claiming an angel visited her and that it was God’s baby… and she wanted him to believe her!
Suddenly Joseph’s world blew apart. He must have been dumbstruck! This wasn’t the way his life was supposed to turn out. It just didn’t make any sense.
Do you know the feeling? You find out you have a serious illness… or you lose your job… or a loved one. How are you going to handle it?
In that moment Joseph put his trust in God and made the choice to do what God told him to do. He chose to trust God even though he didn’t understand what was happening and that decision changed everything.
How was he able to accept what Mary and the angel told him? We’re given a clue. We’re told that Joseph was a “righteous man”. Apparently, he had a heart for God. He knew God was good and that God loved him and it would be natural that he loved God right back. And so, he trusted God and made the difficult choice to do what the angel asked him to do.
Today obedience has a negative connotation. It’s something forced. It’s often seen as the unwilling decision to do something we don’t want to do because we’re afraid of punishment. But that’s not the kind of obedience we see here. This was the mathematics of faith that goes like this: love + trust + obedience = action. Joseph’s trust and obedience started with love. It’s like Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).
A lot of people think obedience is about fearing God, but God wants it to come from trust and love. I believe that’s how Joseph was able trust enough to do this crazy thing God was asking him to do. HE LOVED GOD.
But even with love, trusting God is hard. It takes effort. Joseph still had to face the embarrassment and public humiliation of the pregnancy. Yet he’d continue to care for Mary. His reputation was sullied but he’d have to let God be his defender.
How many nights did he lie awake second-guessing himself, “What if it was just a dream?” Think about the blow to his pride as neighbors whispered about Mary. As he quietly endured shame living among villagers who could plainly see her changing shape.
But years later, I’m sure Joseph would’ve said it was worth it. He trusted God, did what he was told and things changed. Joseph’s life suddenly had meaning and made a difference. He was playing a role in God’s plan. Opening a whole world of new possibilities beyond his wildest dreams that would otherwise have never presented themselves.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… (Ephesians 3:20)
Reflecting back on this traumatic episode I’m sure he would say that trusting God was the best, wisest, most important decision he ever made.
This Christmas season, what if you could have an advent of crazy, wonderful trust? What a gift it would be to fall in love with God in a fresh new way? With a crazy, wonderful faith in God that opened up new possibilities for your life.
Sound impossible? Well it can happen. Start by honestly answering two questions… How would you describe your level of trust in God right now? If it could use improvement make the prayer of the father of the demonized boy’ your own, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief…”
Is your relationship with God based on love or fear? If it’s based on anything other than love you don’t know the real Jesus. So, get to know him better. I’m convinced Jesus is the most fascinating, benevolent and worthwhile person a you can ever get to know. Get to know that Jesus and you’ll eventually fall in love with him. Fall in love with Jesus and you’ll come to love and trust the Father the way Joseph did.
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father… I and the Father are one… Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (John 10:30; 14:9,21)
There’s a gift waiting for us all this Christmas. It’s the inexhaustible, superabundant, extravagant, no-strings-attached love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! It’s the gift that keeps giving. It never gets old. “It never ceases… it’s new every morning”. It’s a love that feeds and nourishes a life of crazy, wonderful trust.
Have a blessed Christmas…