The miracle of Christmas is much more than celebrating another calendar holiday or searching for a reasonable hope that indeed something brighter exists during these shortest, darkest days of the year. When we learn to 'read the white between the lines', often a wealth of light and revelation in colour appears in what had been otherwise merely a murky mystery in black.
I recently watched The Nativity Story, one of the latest movies about the birth of Jesus, and came away impressed, not only by how the movie stayed true to Scripture in its message, but actually discovered new territory for me.
I definitely appreciated Joseph in a whole new light. Largely unheralded in the Bible narrative, here the storytellers bring his dilemma into believable reality. His purity of heart and character stand out all the more when he discovers his fiancee, Mary, not only very pregnant, but affirming that somehow God is to blame. Translate that into our contemporary setting and I'm certain few of us would find that scenario very easy to believe. No wonder God intervened with angels and dreams to reveal to Joseph the truth of what was really happening. God had to not only supernaturally communicate that He was doing something outside of Joseph's 'box', but also that he, Joseph, was somehow crucially and intimately involved in this project's ultimate success.
Joseph's faith accepts the dreams he sees to be truer than the offenses he feels.
He would have been legally right to have Mary stoned or 'put away' at best, but God worked this potentially destructive situation for His righteousness and justice. He found His willing vessel in Joseph. The Bible story speaks volumes to our hearts if we will take time to meditate and drink in more than our minds can grasp in surface readings. A man's depth lies not only in what is written about him, but often in what isn't. Joseph was such a man.
I was also impressed by how the nativity story presents more than a dramatic birth and survival. Heaven and earth are filled with drama, throngs of angels trumpet fulfilled prophecies, the magi follow a miraculous star, a wicked Herod destroys Bethlehem's infants. And all of these are mere backdrops to the 'main event', a birth to transcend all births.
I was stirred to review familiar events in new light and struck by how the story integrates two 'impossibles' to yield truly 'conceivables'.
Both Elizabeth and Mary were naturally unable to conceive children.
Elizabeth was too old. The Bible doesn't say she was barren, but childbearing was not in her picture.
Mary, on the other hand, was young, but not married and had never known a man.
Childbearing was physically impossible for both of them. John the Baptist and Jesus were not naturally born.
Their births had to be supernatural. For Elizabeth, a child seemed too late in life; for Mary, too soon.
For one, hope was lost; for the other, premature.
But just when everything seemed completely impossible, the God of the impossible supernaturally intervened in the hopeless history of mankind to bring His solution, His Saviour, His Son.
God is painting so many pictures together here on one canvas! The human mind boggles and must bow in awe to His artistry, wisdom and beauty. Man alone could never have woven so many intricate 'hopes and fears of all the years' together into such a simple, yet magnificent tapestry of 'peace on earth, goodwill to men'.
The Christmas story speaks to our hearts across the centuries: empty wombs of unfilled dreams and premature longing are fulfilled in this Christ of Christmas. Jesus was born 'in the fullness of time'. Just the right time then, and again to present-day Bethlehems, the Prince of Peace comes. When The Eternal God of the Now speaks, faith rises, life comes forth and nations bend their knees. Death, fear and unbelief can only fall back into their shadows and graves, agog at what God has done and is presently doing in hearts that open to His King.
Merry Christmas! and may the life of Jesus be birthed afresh through each of you throughout this New Year!