The year 2020 has been rough. I was contemplating this and Christmas coming, and I got to thinking about how Mary’s and Joseph’s lives leading up to Christ’s birth were probably pretty rough too. Israel had been without a true king for a long time. The known-world had been under Roman rule, and freedom for Israel probably looked like a far off memory and a dream that would never be a reality again.
At that point in time, Mary and Joseph had only God’s promises of a Messiah.
In 2020, we read these promises with the knowledge of what happened in Mary’s and Joseph’s future. We know why Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10 We talked about this verse last week). We know that Jesus died and rose from the dead (John 19:33-34, John 20:19-20). We know that Jesus sits on a throne at the right hand of God (Matthew 25:31, Mark 16:19). That He makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34), and that He wiped out the requirement of our sin that was upon us (Colossians 2:13-15).
But for Mary and Joseph none of these things had happened yet. Just as for hundreds of years people were waiting for the fulfillment of these promises, so too, Mary and Joseph were waiting. They were living their lives in obedience to God not knowing that God was about to bring forth that year His Son to forever change Israel and the world.
“By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD [to Abraham]. . . In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed . . ..” ~Genesis 22:14-18~
“I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’ ” ~Psalm 89:3~
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23) ~Isaiah 7:14~
Isaiah 9:6-7 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” ~Isaiah 9:6-7~
“He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”~ Isaiah 53:11~
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”~ Micah 5:2~
I don’t know about you, but I tend to read the accounts in Matthew and Luke and just be like, “Yes, of course that’s what happened.” Because here in 2020, the incredible fulfillment of these promises born that first Christmas have already happened and been testified about. But Mary and Joseph were walking forward in faith, and it was not an easy journey. The census that came at a most inconvenient time was just one thing, then there was the whole fleeing for their lives because of King Herod, and living as refugees in Egypt. When God invites us to be part of His story, it can be a bumpy ride, but unlike the bumpy ride of this world that offers nothing in the end, God’s journey is full of His promises and His presence that offer an eternal blessing of life and peace.
Challenge: This year as we head toward Christmas 2020, I want us to remember that because of the first Christmas we have Jesus, our Emmanuel, God with us. Though our world’s troubles might look daunting, we need to hold onto and have faith in our God whose promises have overcome this world and whose presence endures forever. We can’t see the end results of this year, but let’s walk forward in obedience and faith like Mary and Joseph and know that our very present God always keeps His promises.
“These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33~
(All verses taken from NKJV, emphasis added)