Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two Little Words

Life of Christ 6

          What is commonly known as the Annunciation is actually two angelic announcements, made to two different people, over the course of three months, with one being made in person and the other in a dream.
          After Mary's angelic announcement she made her way to her cousin Elisabeth's home, traveling from Nazareth in Galilee down to Judea. If Zacharias literally couldn't get a word in edgewise at home before he was in even worse trouble now. Though considerably older than Mary, Elisabeth paid her great respect as 'the mother of my Lord' (Luke 1.43).
          Three months later, coming back to Nazareth, she was faced with Joseph, and the prospect of a very unpleasant conversation, the first of many. I do not know if she talked to him immediately or if she waited, but at some point, as her pregnancy began to show, she would have had no choice. Mary had no way of knowing God would send an angel to Joseph. How she must have hesitated, knowing how hurt and angry and sad he would be… How she must have stammered out the news, with her head bowed, then looking up into his face, hoping to see understanding, and seeing only the pain and anger… How they must have then gone together to see Mary's parents, with Mary again being forced to say what a pure, lovely, innocent spiritual girl would never want to say to her parents… How furious her father must have been, apologizing over and over and over again to Joseph… How her mother must have sat there, tears pouring down, as she contemplated the ruin of the wonderful life they had worked so hard to construct for their daughter… How hurt Joseph must have been, and Mary's parents must have been when Mary refused to tell them who the father was; after all, it was completely unbelievable, and she would only be labeled a liar along with being an adulteress if she had tried to explain…
          In the midst of all of this horror, a puzzled, hurting, and angry Joseph was forced to make a decision. The decision wasn't whether to marry Mary or not. What man in his right mind would willingly shackle himself to a woman who had proven so faithless and fickle? No, that wasn't even an option. The only question was just how exactly he would go about divorcing her. Remember, although they were not married yet, an espousal was a contract that demanded an actual bill of divorcement to annul. What reason could he give? After all, he was 'a just man' (Mathew 1.18), and he didn't want to do this publicly. That would only hurt himself, Mary, and her family even more than they already were hurting. At the same time, he didn't want to lie, nor to simply take a bullet and publicly blame it on his own change of mind when it was so clearly Mary who had caused the problem. Besides, soon the entire neighborhood would find out anyway. Inevitably, by gossip or by simple observation, Mary's pregnancy would become known to others.
          Into this maelstrom of emotion and familial disaster and uncertainty came the balm of Gilead in the form of an angel while Joseph was tossing and turning in a troubled sleep one night. The angel calmly informs Joseph of the true situation regarding Mary (Matthew 2.18-25), tells him just exactly how special this boy would be, relates it to prophecy (Isaiah 7.14), and tells Joseph that God would have him marry Mary.
          So which would he believe, what every bit of his human reason screamed at him to be completely untrue, or God via this angelic dream? Unhesitatingly, he placed all his eggs in God's basket, and took Mary to be his wife. I'm quite sure that decision didn't quell the gossiping tongues. It simply set them to wagging with a different story, but Joseph and Mary could handle that. They knew the truth of the matter, and that was all that was important, really.
          Perhaps I'm just one of those overly sentimental 90's kind of guys, but I get a little teary-eyed when I think of these two, and what they went through during this time. But even more, I stand in awe of them, of their simple faith and their deep obedience, laying their entire lives on the line for each other and this little unborn baby. So much of our Christian life is wrapped up in those two little words, faith and obedience, and we find them in great abundance, sweetly, at the very dawn of Christianity.
          Do you trust Him today? Oh, I know you trust Him for salvation, but do you trust Him for provision, for protection, for health, for timing, for happiness, joy, comfort, peace, strength, wisdom, grace, patience, and the desires of your heart? And don't bother telling me you trust Him if you won't obey Him. Do you trust Him with your obedience when it doesn't make sense to you? When it is hard? When it is frustrating? When you are criticized?
          If Joseph and Mary could, as a newly espoused couple placed in an almost impossible situation, respond with faith and obedience, then so can we. I can give you no better lesson from this part of the story of Christ than the words that John Sammis wrote in 1887, words that we have sung a thousand times e'er now:

Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

          If you would like to listen to the audio sermon that accompanies this blog you may find it here on our church website. Press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 2, 'She Shall Bring Forth a Son'.

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