With all the lights and hype, it is easy to think that Christmas is all about feasting and festivities. But if one would read the Scriptures more carefully, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ were anything but fun.
Consider Matthew 1:18-25. Joseph had discovered that his betrothed, Mary, was pregnant! While he thought of how best to deal with the situation, whether to divorce Mary or not, Gabriel, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, clarifying that Mary had done nothing wrong. The child in her womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit. As such, Joseph was asked to participate in God’s plan, to marry Mary, to be the father of this child, and to name him “JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) Fun? You’ve got to be kidding!
Indeed, it is not a small thing to be the ones chosen to bring forth the Messiah. But couldn’t have God used a more pragmatic and acceptable way? Joseph’s reputation as a righteous man would be ruined! Mary would have to live with a tag of scandal all her life as the village tramp of Nazareth! Fun? Not by a long shot!
Yes, messianic missions can be messy!
If you were in Joseph’s or Mary’s shoes, would you accept such messianic missions or kingdom assignments? As you ponder and reflect, allow me to present five observations from this Christmas story.
1. God Uses the Unknown and Unsignificant. Joseph and Mary were nobodies. That explains why Matthew took the trouble to list the genealogy in Matt 1:1-17. This may mean nothing to us, but to the Jews, these records were important. The only qualification needed to birth the Messiah was the line of Abraham and David. Similarly, God uses the unknowns and the insignificants today. In Archippus Awakening parlance – Archippuses! Nameless ones and yet each known by the Lord. Our position in Christ, and nothing else, qualifies us for kingdom assignments, for messianic missions.
2. You Can Be Misunderstood when Moving on Kingdom Assignment. As a just man, by the Law, Joseph determined to divorce Mary. But that would risk Mary being stoned or scorned by the society. However, Mary had not broken any law at all. As such, Joseph would not have broken any law by taking her as his wife. The couple knew this, but who else would understand and accept this? Here is the lesson: God would never require us to compromise His Word or His Ways when we serve Him on kingdom assignment. If needed, He will send messengers to confirm and clarify the way ahead. We can and must do our part to seek godly counsel from matured and respected kingdom-minded people. Even so, this does not mean that we will never be misunderstood or ridiculed. There will be many who will still question if we have heard from God rightly or not.
3. Do Not Be Afraid to be Messed Up for the Messiah. When we are presented with a messianic mission or kingdom assignment, it is natural for us to feel afraid or inadequate. In both cases, the angel Gabriel’s words to Joseph (Matt 1:20) and Mary (Luke 1:30) were, “Do not be afraid.” No one would fault Joseph and Mary for being fearful! Kingdom assignments are usually far larger than what we can imagine or understand. Yes, there is a much bigger picture. And in the end, we can be certain that it will bring joy and peace to many. Yet, in the meantime, messianic missions can be messy. God does not guarantee that all will go well along the way. But do not be afraid. God will be with us, Emmanuel, and that’s a promise we can stand on!
4. God plants the Seed of Assignments in the Wombs of our Spirit not by Force but by Faith. God, even in His sovereignty and authority, did not force Mary nor Joseph to take up their assignments. Mary believed and accepted the assignment. Joseph believed and obeyed. After that, it would still be nine whole months before Jesus was born. That is how it is with our kingdom assignments too. Usually, it is a word of faith that God will speak into the womb of our spirits. We can choose to believe and act on it. Or we can choose to abort it. When we say ‘yes’ by faith, God moves, although we don’t quite see anything happening yet. But within, we are impregnated with a God-vision and assignment that gestates and develops until it is finally birthed, in His perfect time. Having witnessed six births in our family, and personally delivering the seventh, take my word that the birth process is a messy one. But what joy it brings when the baby is delivered!
5. God’s Sovereignty invites, includes and involves Man’s Participation. What would have happened if Mary or Joseph had not co-operated, or accepted their assignments? I suppose there are just too many questions and permutations to consider. All I can say is, “I don’t know.” What I do know is that God’s plan will still prevail and His kingdom will still advance. That is how sovereign our God is! We can mess up and He is still in control! Instead of getting into a predestination or foreknowledge debate, I’d rather see it as God’s invitation by His grace. Viewed from this perspective, I realise that I don’t have to feature and yet I do. I don’t deserve to feature and yet He has made it possible through Jesus Christ. He doesn’t need me and yet He invites me. He doesn’t depend on me and yet however small or insignificant my assignment may be, it makes a difference. What an honour and privilege by His grace!
Like Joseph and Mary, the Bible is full of men and women whose lives were messed up as they went about their messianic missions and kingdom assignments. This Christmas, as we remember the birth of Jesus, let us not miss the fact that the Messiah was born that He may be messed up for us. To save us from our sins, He had to suffer and die on our behalf that we may be redeemed and be set free from the dominion of sin.
Amidst the feasting and festivities of Christmas, let us not forget that Joseph and Mary were willing to be messed up for the Messiah, that we may receive the greatest gift in Jesus Christ. They literally had a messy Christmas that we may enjoy a merry Christmas.
May we also be found willing and faithful in our own messianic missions, for the sake of others, and for the glory of Jesus our Messiah, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach!