God watched over the generational line of the great King David, and He divinely chose Joseph, the humble Jewish carpenter to be the earthly father of Jesus. This loving righteous man, who was engaged to Mary, was the fulfillment of a promise made to King David, that the Messiah would come from his generational line. God’s trust in Joseph to faithfully fulfill the role of a father-teacher-provider-protector of Jesus speaks volumes to his character and integrity.
Joseph is one of the understated heroes of the Christmas story. As a wife and a mother, my heart is endeared by his quiet steadfast strength and compassion. He is the kind of man any mother would want her daughter to marry.
This humble man gives us a beautiful picture of unselfish love. It’s intriguing to me that not one of Joseph’s spoken words was ever penned on the pages of scripture. He is a low-key hero whose actions expressed the descriptive love language of his heart. Sometimes, words are unneeded, and as the old clique says “actions speak louder than words,” certainly rings true here.
Joseph knew grace before the child of grace was ever born. When his betrothed bride Mary, who by cultural norms was already considered his wife, was found pregnant, seemingly with the seed of another man, Joseph chooses the path of compassion. He decides to quietly divorce Mary, sparing her public humiliation.
Even in the hurt and confusion of this perceived betrayal, love motivates him to protect her—to preserve her in a culture that publically exposed and stoned women who were found unfaithful. A heart of mercy always quells judgement. And, Joseph shows himself as a man of mercy.
However, when the angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-22), Joseph humbly surrenders to a different plan—a different picture.
He chooses to believe the unbelievable and to live in the mystery of God. He stakes his reputation and the risk of ridicule on God’s prophetic words. He accepts the weighty responsibility of raising Jesus as his own son, which exhibits his generosity of soul.
Ironically, the child Joseph chooses to love and raise as his own, will save him and all of mankind. Accepting the mysteries of God often ushers in the miracles of God’s plans…
Friends, Joseph’s responses offer a real challenge as we ponder our own lives. We might consider these questions: When we perceive we are wronged, do we respond with judgement or mercy? Will we follow God even if it costs us our reputation? Are we willing to live in the tension of the unknown mysteries of God? Lastly, do we cultivate generosity in our souls?
Scripture of the Day:
…Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus-‘God save’-because he will save his people from the sins… ( Matthew 1:20-22, The Message)
Father God, You always had a plan of redemption for mankind. Thank
You for Jesus—our Immanuel. May we learn from the honest account of Joseph’s struggle and willingness to accept Your plans for his life. He teaches us how to respond to the mysterious yet amazing plans You have for our own lives. Help us to surrender to Your will. Amen.
Author: Maryanne Abbate
A long time ago on a starry night, love was born. The Father who IS love, sent in love Jesus to demonstrate love to all mankind.
The God, who is not far off, stood in anticipation as the plan that He had set from the beginning of time was enacted. The enemy thought he had won. Humankind’s intimacy and relationship with the Father had been badly damaged in the fall. Mankind’s soul was aimless, not able to be what it had been created to be. The soul cannot have worth outside of the Father because we were made by God and for God. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a, NIV, emphasis added).
The divide between man and the Father was vast because of sin, but this gentle Father didn’t want Heaven without us.
Mankind was lost, searching but never finding.
In disbelief, the enemy watched as the Father sent the Son as a helpless baby, and the news spread across all mankind, from the least to the greatest. He came as love for all who would seek Him.
He came for those who find themselves in the lowest places.
For the weak, he came as a vulnerable and dependent child born to poor parents.
For the misfits, lonely and scorned, He was announced first to the shepherds who were social outcasts as well as religious outsiders. They were ceremonially unclean and therefore could not participate in the religious activities of the day. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine that given their lot in life, their family lives weren’t so great, and they had deeply broken hearts.
For the poor and the downtrodden, this God of Heaven and earth decided that not only would a palace fit for an earthly king not convey his heart, but a simple, impersonal inn or a modest home would not be low enough. He went to the deepest depths and was born in a stable, so we would understand that there is not one person too low for Him. His love reached underneath the lowest place to catch up the lowest person in His love.
But He didn’t stop there.
He didn’t forget about those set high on the social ladder because His love reaches that high. It reaches higher than the wealthiest and the wisest among us.
The wisemen came bearing expensive gifts. They had wise minds, and using that wisdom, they found Jesus by following a bright star and subsequently saw His worth as greater than their wealth and status, even risking their lives to find this child who was and is God’s love manifest.
He was not after the poor. He was not after the rich. He was not after the simple. He was not after the wise. He was after ALL. WE are who He came for.
If you are lonely, His love is for you.
If you are depressed, His love is for you.
If you are grieving, His love is for you.
If you are stressed, His love is for you.
If you are poor, His love is for you.
If you are surrounded by people, His love is for you.
If you are happy, His love is for you.
If you are excited, His love is for you.
If you are at rest, His love is for you.
If you are rich, His love is for you.
His love is for you.
There is not a place where You can be where He is not wanting to show you His love. Only those who resist and reject Him will not know it, and even then, He so wants to show His love that He stands with His arms wide open. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV, emphasis added).
Word of the Day: For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
Prayer: Father, Thank You that You love me. Help me to see and know Your love for me more deeply. During this Christmas season, help me to remember that love truly is what this season is about—Your love for mankind. I give my problems, fears, worries and even my celebrations to You. Show me Your heart for me and for those around me. I love You and thank You for Your love for me.
Author: Wendy Gerdes
I love manger scenes of all kinds and find myself regularly stopping and staring at them wondering what that experience must have been like. What was Mary thinking? Joseph? What about those shepherds who were tending their sheep like every other night of their lives when their world was turned upside down by a choir of angels announcing that the Messiah, God with us, had come?
The one night when heaven touched earth and turned history on its head. The night that God staged a rescue in the most unremarkable, remarkable way. The most demonstrative action of love ever performed began in the heart of God a long time before, but this was the night that the plan began to unfold. I wonder if Heaven stood in anticipation holding its breath the night that the birth took place?
All knowing, esteemed, and exalted Jesus now a helpless baby who couldn’t walk, talk, or even roll over on His own. This Son of God who was part of creating the world and all that is in it, couldn’t even lift His head. What must have it been like to watch the esteemed Son make a quiet entrance into the broken world of mankind as a helpless baby?
This was a covert operation to bring hearts back to Him. His love demonstrated, mankind’s heart turned towards Him, and the second Adam enabling man to live differently. The ability to live according to God’s Kingdom now—all because of this little baby. This God/man miracle would make a way for broken hearts to be mended, sinful hearts to be forgiven, depressed hearts to be filled with joy, hopeless hearts to be filled with hope, and relationship with God to be restored. Some would miss Him—many would miss Him in fact.
Some were standing on a promise that had already been answered. They were still waiting in hope not realizing that Hope had come. Without the full picture, a baby seems to be a sad answer to the world’s problems. A baby is not a warrior. A baby can’t free anything, much less a captive world. This was not what they were hoping for, but some saw.
Some saw that God had a bigger plan that was unfolding. They understood that what they were seeing was a plan enacted by the God who created the universe; thus it must be good, grand, perfect, and show-stoppingly amazing. A plan by God can’t be anything other than that. Hope in this baby took a lot of faith. Knowing the whole story, it’s easier to see—although many still cannot see.
It takes a great deal of trust to hope when we cannot see. If we are hoping in our circumstances, we will lose hope if things don’t turn out like we think they should. If our hope is in Him—that He knows, is moving, and holds our lives— we will not be shaken. He is writing our stories and they are woven within the fabric of the larger picture of what He is doing. When we try to make our stories about us, we will always come up empty handed, but when we offer our lives up as part of the larger story He is writing, He will make sense of hopeless situation. We may not be able to see it now, but we can have hope in the God who writes grand stories. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.
In that little baby, born on a starry night, was all the hope the world would need. It is all the hope that WE will ever need. His Kingdom come, His will be done…
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. (Romans 10:11, NAS)
Father, Help me to trust You. I know that You are writing My story, and even though I can’t always see what is going on, You know. I trust You, and I will allow You to be the writer of my story, the designer of my life, and the One who I put all of my hope in. Help me to see as You do, but even when I can’t, help me to trust Your intentions toward me, and Your grand plan for my life. I choose to hope in You.
Author: Wendy Gerdes
Ah, the holidays… For some, the holidays incite a feeling of dread due to family get-togethers that aren't full of peace, but conflict. The elephant in the room sort of experience.
For some, the holidays bring sheer bliss:Decorating, holiday tunes, cooking up special treats, shopping for friends and family, family traditions—all have the ability to transform the mundane into sparkling, magical moments of delight.
Others may experience an onslaught of painful memories of lost loved ones, and once treasured traditions are hijacked by grief. Maybe some are just profoundly aware of the deep loneliness in their souls. Perhaps there is no family or friends with whom to share the joy of the season.
There are many swirling, whirling emotions in the atmosphere. One thing we can remember in this season is that everyone we encounter has a story. We cannot afford to judge others for the brief moment we are sharing space. We need to have grace for one another. Be aware that the stressed out mom behind you in line at the grocery store is trying to manage a load of relatives that are coming from out of town, and she has a house to clean, cooking to do, and her small children aren't cooperating. Be aware that the man that is taking his anger out on the photo lab worker for messing up his order might have just lost a wife and those were pictures of her that he was waiting on.
Be aware of others around you. Look into people's eyes and see them. The Holy Spirit in you wants to show you things: He wants to show you the person nearby that needs a word of encouragement; the person that needs a hug; the person that needs help; the person that needs prayers for peace.
Everywhere we go, we have the ability to release the blessings of the Kingdom. Peace. Joy. Hope. Love. Likewise, everywhere we go, we have the ability to come under some of the swirling emotions that others are releasing. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Anger. Doubt.
Have you ever been in a place where an extremely frustrated individual was being very vocal about his frustration waiting in a long checkout line at a store, and you start to agree with him? You start feeling that same aggravation and irritability? Ever tried staying calm when there are anxious, frightened, or quarreling people all around you? Ever been in a terrible mood and walk into a room of happy, positive people and instantly feel better?
We have to be aware of the atmosphere we are creating and that we are coming under. We have Holy Spirit inside of us to help us navigate this world. He wants to help us overcome the negative atmospheres we encounter in our daily lives. He reminds us that our fight isn't against people, but spiritual powers. I think of them as hijackers. They hijack our atmosphere and bring chaos. They hijack our peace and bring anxiety. They hijack our joy and bring depression.
I don't know about you, but I'm extremely sick and tired of these hijackers. I want to remember who God is, and who I am, so that I can overcome them and release the Kingdom. It's possible. That's the miracle of the gospel. Jesus made it possible for us to overcome these spiritual forces. To not only live in a place of peace, hope, and joy, but to spread it around.
This season, be aware. Be aware of your surroundings.
Are you seeing peace? Joy? Hope?
Or are you seeing the opposite?
If you see the opposite, know that you have a POWERFUL God inside you who equips you to pray against the negativity. To speak to the storm and say, peace, be still.
To end my letter I tell you, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Wear the full armor of God. Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness (emphasis added). We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. That is why you need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. So stand strong with the belt of truth tied around your waist, and on your chest wear the protection of right living. On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows that come from the Evil One. Accept God’s salvation as your helmet. And take the sword of the Spirit—that sword is the teaching of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times. Pray with all kinds of prayers, and ask for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready. Never give up. Always pray for all of God’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, ERV)
Word of the Day:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Holy Spirit, remind us who we are in You. Remind us our struggle is not against people. Remind us to speak life, hope, and love to those around us. Help us look into the eyes of the people around us and see what You see. Help us to respond like You would respond. Fill us with fresh wonder at the gospel message— fresh wonder at the reason for the season. Thank You, Jesus!
Author: Kerri Barfield
I have a beautiful cup that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now. It is deep purple—made of thick glass—the kind you can rarely find anymore. It is such thick glass and such a deep purple you cannot see inside the cup.
The glass belongs to a set that came from one of the grandmothers in my family. They are my favorites. I have picked it up several times to use it because it is out and within my reach. And every time I look inside I am surprised to find someone poured some kind of grease drippings into the cup. I guess I keep forgetting because from the outside you would never know. It looks as lovely as ever. But there it is—nasty grease. As of right now, the cup is unusable except as a container for grease, but not to drink from, which is the reason for which this lovely cup was created.
Jesus talked about cleaning the outside of cups (Matthew 23:25-26). He told the Pharisees this is what was wrong with their religion. They had beautiful cups that were filthy inside. We can read this and feel so judgmental towards the Pharisees. Until we look at our own lives. Our own religions. Our own belief systems. We all want beautiful cups. We think pretty cups mean pretty lives and doesn’t Jesus want our lives to be pretty?
Doesn’t Jesus want our families to be pictures of perfect love?
Doesn’t He want our children to be successful and us to do well in our jobs?
Surely He wants our homes to be lovely and our grass to be mowed.
He needs us to represent Him well by serving faithfully in a local church and volunteering in our children’s schools. And we need to take care of ourselves physically, so we should be eating well and exercising since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So now our jobs look good, our homes look good, our families look good, and our appearances are good. Everything is good. It is a beautiful cup.
But what about when it isn’t? What about when the kids are struggling? The marriage is struggling? The home is falling into disrepair because the job isn’t going so great so there’s no money for repairs. What about when you are handling one crisis after another, and you pick up a nasty junk food habit and lose the gym habit? That cup takes some hits. The beautiful glass is dinged and chipped. It’s lost some of its shine. It’s actually not looking anywhere close to beautiful anymore. It’s looking rough.
I have met these women. The ones whose lives are not picture perfect. I am one of these women. I did not set out to be. I set out to have a beautiful cup. But somewhere along the way, by the grace of God, I found out Jesus wasn’t looking for beautiful cups. He was looking to purify hearts and give us clean cups. These women I have met—they have dirt under their fingernails. They have wrinkles on their faces. They have tear stains on their pillows. And their cups pour forth some of the clearest, purest love of Jesus you will ever experience. Because somewhere along the way, they realized the beautiful cup was only good for looking at. It was a mirage. An ideal. A fantasy. But a clean cup? This was useful. This mattered. Because people are thirsty. They need a drink of something real and pure and hopeful. What’s even better about a clean cup? It comes from Jesus. Only He can clean the inside of our cups. We don’t have to do it. Maintaining a beautiful exterior is hard work. Exhausting work. Sometimes that’s the only reason some of us give up on it. We finally get too tired.
But then Jesus. He meets us in the tired. He meets us in the hard. He says, Let me take over from here. And He takes the dirty greasy mess we are carrying around, and He cleans it. He wipes away the grime and the heaviness and all the residue from walking through this world, and He fills our cup up with something of value. Himself. Living Water. And now we see that our cups may not be as beautiful on the outside as we had wanted. They may have chips and imperfections. They may be a little warped and lean too far in one direction – but they are full of Jesus. And Jesus is what every person we will ever meet needs. He is what our kids need, our husbands need, our homes need, our workplaces need, our churches need, our schools need. And you get to be full of Him. You get to stop working so hard to have a put together life, and you get to just start living life. Abundantly.
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)
Jesus, we give You our cups—the beautiful and the broken. We ask You to purify our hearts, purify our motives that Your life may flow through a clean vessel to a thirsty world. Help us lay down the images we hold so dear, the things that become idols before we even realize it. Set us gloriously free to live and not just try to hold everything together. Breathe over us with Your breath of life. We love you. We need you.
Author: Brooke Kireta