I hate Christmas.
And part of me really means it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Jesus, and I celebrate the generosity of our Father to give us the most precious gift ever: the gift of salvation in His Son! I also love the generosity of the season, whether it is hosts who throw parties, charitable giving or the giving of gifts among loved ones. But I hate the self-imposed stress of trying to make Christmas perfect for my family. I hate the busy-ness, the lists, the consumerism, the shopping, all the work of all the things, and more than anything…THE WRAPPING!
I suppose part of my irritation with it all is my unwillingness to change my ways, mostly because what I do is what I’ve always done and my family loves it. So I want to make them happy. The problem is, I make myself miserable in the process.
As I sat with God early one morning, an Advent devotion took me to Matthew 1:18-25. Maybe like me, these words are familiar to you. On this particular morning, God opened my eyes to see more than just the words and facts of Matthew’s account of Christ’s conception and birth. He showed me the magnitude of what the Christmas story tells us about the God who wrote it.
It starts: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows,” and here is what follows – not just words and events, but revelations of the God who is still writing His story of Jesus on the pages of our lives and in the moments of our days. And do you know that God is still looking to His people to believe Him big and obey Him radically? Consider not just the words strung together in the verses below, but in italics, the messages God conveys to us through those words: gifts for us this Christmas season.
(18) “After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”
God defies the natural with His supernatural.
God still conceives the life of Jesus in us by the Holy Spirit.
(19-21a) “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife…’”
As we consider our plans, God speaks to us.
GOD. SPEAKS. TO. US.
God’s message has not changed: do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid of God’s plans, going against culture, the rules of man and the ways of this world.
(21b) “’…for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’”
Do not be afraid, because God can do anything, and He brings forth what He conceives, making all things possible along the way, even the impossible.
Do not fear what is conceived of God.
Do not be afraid to believe God’s word and wonder!
Do not fear to obey God when His Spirit conceives new life in you, for we bear what God conceives that He might bring forth Jesus through us for the salvation of His people.
The Lord says: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
(22-23) “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’”
The Lord will fulfill His word!
God IS with us.
He is the Holy Spirit in us.
He is Jesus abiding in us.
Jesus is brought forth through us by His presence and work in us.
(24-25) “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.”
Joseph did as God commanded, against the moral and cultural grain of his day.
He did not let fear stop him.
He believed big and obeyed radically.
Is God supernaturally conceiving new life in you by His Spirit to bring forth the life of Jesus through you for the salvation of others? Is there something God is telling you to do? Do you know this Jesus and what He will do?
What if the greatest gift we can give this season is radical obedience wrapped in unwavering belief? Because listen: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).