I look back to Christmas 2014, how I was pregnant with Johnny and my view of Mary in the Christmas story completely changed. There was a new-found respect for this expectant mother: all the excitement and fear she must have felt; the pain she must have gone through, the lack of luxuries we have nowadays. It’s really easy to see the beauty in the nativity scenes we set up this time of year – the pictures are painted so perfectly you can almost see the stars twinkling in the sky – or the little kids dressed up in old towels and robes for the church Christmas pageant. It is beautiful and precious.
But looking at each moment described in the gospels, there had to have been so much fear involved as well. I mean, I think each time an angel appeared to someone in this story, they had to start the conversation like, “Hey! It’s okay. It’s just me. An angel. Sent by God. Don’t even worry about it. I just gotta tell you something awesome real quick!” I imagine the fear that Mary must have had to work though when so much was working against her, the fear Joseph must have felt when he thought about all the explaining he was going to have to do. I imagine the sky lit up with angels as they appear to the shepherds. I’m sure it was beautiful, but I can’t help but think it was also a little terrifying and chaotic.
A few years later the wise men followed the star to find and worship the young king, Jesus. They were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, so they took the risk of upsetting the king and took a different way back to their own country. Matthew 2:13 tells us that shortly after the wise men left, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Joseph listened to the warning and they fled. I can only imagine the fear and Mary’s inner voice as she was hearing of the tragedy taking place in the land where her precious son was born, the news of friends who had lost their little ones at the hand of King Herod, wondering why all this was happening and how this could be God’s will. I imagine the fear and despair was overwhelming at times.
If I had no beautifully painted nativity scene or church Christmas pageant in my head and only looked at this whole story in both Matthew and Luke, I can’t help but see the fear and pain that must have been felt in the moment. But since we have the rest of the story, I can also see the importance of faith:
faith that God is good even when people are evil,
faith to trust when He tells you something,
faith to act on what He tells you to do,
faith to hope for the future,
faith to find the beauty in ugly circumstances,
faith to find the joy in hard and terrifying situations.
I know in my own life I struggle with this every single day. But I have to remember that like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and wise men, I don’t see the rest of the story or the bigger picture like God does. I just have to keep listening to His word and warnings and follow what He has put on my heart to do and then trust fully that He is God.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Let me encourage your heart right now that if this time of year is particularly hard, you are not alone. I struggle with the push/pull of things not being the way I dreamed or imagined and enjoying the moment and being thankful for what I do have in my life – the biggest thing to be thankful for being the fact that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. God sees you and knows your name. He knows your heart and your hurt. My prayer for you is that you will lean on Him as He wraps His arms around you this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ~ Love, Ariel and Johnny