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
As I walked in the beauty of the autumn afternoon, the wispy clouds gracefully danced across the expanse of blue sky. The leaves were playfully being blown by the light wind. It was a perfect day, yet stinging tears were falling down my face as I felt a deep sadness. It had been my hope that this therapeutic walk would shed this unsettling overpowering residue of heart heaviness.
This walk was occurring the day after one of the most contentious elections of recent history. The results have ushered in a new swirling firestorm of deep divides, anger, unrest, and distrust. It’s fierceness threatens to tear us all apart. Maybe, you have felt the weightiness of this, too.
How do we live in these unprecedented times? How do we hope for something more for our kids?
I don’t pretend to have answers. The issues of the day carry great complexity. I will spare you a lengthy discussion. We are all drowning in the tidal waves of ongoing news, editorials, commentaries, and social media posts, which have created a vortex of negativity and fear. Perhaps, stepping back from its exposure will bring a clearer perspective.
As I walked in the silence of that moment, I recognized that my heart had lost the bigger perspective—the eternal perspective. There are many things that are unclear—uncertain— yet I can choose to rest my heart in what I do know: God is good. God is sovereign. God is all powerful, and He will have the last say on all the chapters of history.
Now, as we enter the season of Advent, may we rekindle our hope as we reflect on the birth of Christ and the promise of His return. This reality offers to propel us beyond the swirling political chaos of the day.
In light of circumstances, Isaiah’s words spoken thousands of years ago brings comfort and a renewed eternal perspective. Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message says it with breathtaking beauty: “For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us. He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness He brings” (Isaiah 9:6).
These words leave me breathless with wonder especially as I apply them to the uncertainties of today. Wholeness appears to be lost to this divided country. But, anything held in the hands of the Prince of Wholeness is not lost, so wholeness is possible.
Let us move forward in revived hope, knowing that Jesus—the Prince of Wholeness—is still in the trenches of life with us, writing the redemption stories of our country, our world, and our own personal histories. His redemption brings unlimited ongoing wholeness to all who know Him and stake their lives on His promises.
Friends, as we approach this season of Advent, may we take a few quiet moments to ask ourselves a few reflective questions: How can I cultivate wholeness in my life? How can I bring wholeness to my family? And lastly, How can I be a conduit of wholeness and peace to those in my sphere of influence?
Word of the Day:
For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, ESV)
Father God, will you give us a fresh renewed perspective of Jesus in this season of Advent. Help us prepare our hearts for His birth. Propel us forward in the promise of His return, which gives us hope to rise above the swirling chaos of the day. We ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Author: Maryanne Abbate
Forever engraved on the walls of my heart is the profound experience of visiting Yad Vashem, which is the living memorial to the six million Jewish adults and children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Every exhibit speaks volumes of honor to the victims and powerfully tells the story of this tragic period in history. It’s a grave reminder that bigotry and hatred will always lead to unmitigated heartache.
I was struck by the resolve of the Jewish people to remember these horrific events. These words are inscribed on the entrance wall of the living memorial, “Has the likes of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs. And their children the next generation” (Joel 1:2-3).
They remember, and they want the world to remember, so this heinous slaughter won’t be repeated.
The bleak chapters of history can serve as guides to a better path—a better future. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Similarly, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River making their way into the Promised Land, the first thing God commanded them to do was gather rocks and build an altar so that, “…When your children ask in times to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).
This memorial served as an observable symbol of God’s faithful providence that safely led His people through the harsh desert into the long awaited Promise Land.
This place would help the next generation understand their ancestral history and serve as a tangible foundation on which to build their own faith. It was also a visible reminder of Israel’s rich history with God.
Our stories matter too. Remembering our pasts, helps us to move forward into the promise of our futures. We are reminded of God’s presence in all seasons. It allows us to cultivate thankfulness during the difficult desert seasons as we recount His provisions in past seasons. Recalling our mistakes, hopefully, keeps us from repeating them. And, we can remember how they were met with His unending grace.
Friends, as we gather in the coming weeks around holiday tables, let’s courageously recount our faith stories that highlight God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. Tell even the hard stories with honesty—they matter, too. It is in the trenches of these stories that the thread of God’s grace often shines the greatest.
Our children need tangible examples of cultivated endurance and courage that is evidenced in a long abiding history with Him. They are gifts that will leave sustaining blessings long after we are gone. We will never fully know how they will impact the generations to come.
Word of the Day:
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from old, things that we heard and known that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation… (Psalm 78:2-4a)
Father God, thank You for the power of our stories. Please help us to remember the places of Your faithfulness and goodness. Give us the courage to share them with sincere honesty. And may they bless our children. Amen.
* My thoughts were inspired by the thoughtful words written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.
Author: Maryanne Abbate
Missy, our tricolored Peki-Poo, stole our hearts as a tiny feisty one pound bundle of fur. As she grew from puppy to dog, she became quite the drama queen who found pleasure in defending our lawn by ferociously barking and chasing other unsuspecting dogs. Sometimes, it was downright embarrassing. I am no dog whisperer.
She wagged her bushy tail with grace and moxie. Missy had some of the most beautiful markings. She faithfully loved our family for fourteen years until cancer claimed her life. I will always be grateful to her for enriching my children’s childhood. Little did I know that she would be a source of great comfort during the most heartbreaking season of my life.
The world went black and crashed into a million pieces when my youngest son was killed in car accident in February 2006. I thought the weight of the grief would take me under, swallowing me whole. During my darkest days, I would lay across my son’s bed weeping, missing him terribly.
Missy would jump on the bed, snuggle up to me, and quietly lie there as my tears would fall upon her fur. The dampness of her fur bore witness to my pain. That sweet little dog was willing to sit in the middle of raw gut-wrenching pain. Missy offered me one of life’s greatest gifts:The gift of presence.
Sometimes the magnitude of a situation is so weighty, heartbreaking, and tragic that there are no words that can alleviate or fix the suffering of another.
We could all learn from Missy’s example. Sometimes, the most merciful gesture we can offer is to sit among all the broken, splattered pieces and silently hold a friend’s hand.
When Job’s life and health completely fell apart, his friends went to console him. Scripture says, “And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” ( Job 2:12-13).
Their silence spoke volumes of love and support.
But, when they finally spoke and tried to explain the whys of Job’s calamities, they further injured his already tattered heart as well as angered God.
There are no good explanations for most tragedies. Life holds an element of unexplainable mystery, especially as it relates to God and His ways. Tragedies put us face to face with the reality that we are not in control; that can be unnerving.
Friends, we must all ask ourselves these questions: Are we willing to be uncomfortable and sit in the tension of the unexplainable with a hurting friend? Are we willing to be vulnerable to their suffering? Will we offer our presence, not our explanations and theories?
If we faithfully sit in someone’s story long enough, God will give us the discerning wisdom to know when and what to speak. That is how we become His listening servants who bring His words of life and hope.
Author Henri Nouwen beautifully articulates this gift of presence: “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
The gift of presence is a rare gift. May we be a blessed conduit of this rare offering…
Word of the Day:
Now they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. ( Job 2:13, NLT)
Father God, This fallen world can bring immense sadness. Teach us how to give the gift of presence to others. And, in our time of need, please bring those to us who will sit silently with us and hold our hand. Amen
Author: Maryanne Abbate
When my boys were young, I enjoyed listening to them play in the backyard. They engaged in a variety of adventurous escapades that required them to play a plethora of roles. Sometimes, they were brave firemen, cowboys, valiant police officers, or superheroes who would jump off the swing set.
Other times, they were skilled athletes who would make the winning touchdown, basket, or scoring run, which came by way of a dramatic slide into home plate. Their venturesome play, often resulted in bumps, bruises, skinned knees, and split open chins. But, to them it was worth the thrill.
The human heart yearns for adventure. That desire has been deeply nestled within each of us by a wildly spirited God. So many great biblical heroes experienced risks and were given tasks that loomed larger than their human capabilities. We inherently know that bravery lies within us. We were made to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Yet, the hard realities of life have a way of smacking adventure right out of our hearts.
I’ve had to remind myself to embrace adventure. By nature, I am fearful. I don’t feel comfortable putting myself out there. My tendency is to play it safe, which reduces my life to one of going through predictable manageable motions. I live small. I don’t want to do that, nor do I want to model that for my kids.
Over the years, it has been a step of grace infused faith to cultivate an intrepid spirit and take some healthy risks. I have honestly tried to encourage my kids to embrace the experiences of their lives. Try out for things. Dream big.
Friends, God wants more for all of us. He understands that we need adventurous lives punctuated with deep meaning and purpose. Misguided restless hearts often look for excitement in unhealthy places.
Jesus beckons us to come to Him just like He beckoned Peter to come, get out of the boat, and experience the thrill of walking on the water.
Trusting Him allows us to bravely take those deliberate intentional steps to get out of our boats.
Peter never faltered in stepping out, but he began to fearfully plunge when he took his eyes off Jesus.
Unflinchingly, we must silence the screaming accusations of the enemy, our own condemning voices, circumstances, and the loud naysayers in our lives, surrendering this swirling chaos to Jesus. Modeling this for our kids is a gift.
He must be our focal point. When our human frailties cause us to sink in the sea of our own fearful doubts, we can unashamedly reach out for Jesus to catch us. Steady us.
It is worth the risk of looking foolish or weak in the eyes of others. Our quality of life and calling may be at stake. And, the eyes of our offspring are watching our actions and responses.
We belong to an adventurous God who yearns to give us our own personal “walk on the water” experiences with Him. He knows how adventure revives the human heart.
Friends, let’s accept His invitation to glorious life giving adventures. They are ours to experience, embrace, and enjoy… Let your life tell a great story.
Scripture of the Day:
“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29, ESV)
Jesus, we thank You for the invitation to join You in this adventure called life. Help us to have the courage to ignore our fears and follow You. Your way is best.We desire for our lives to be a great story. Today, we accept Your divine invitation to come like Peter and have our own walk on the water experience with You. Amen
Author: Maryanne Abbate