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23 December, 2010

SELDOM-EXAMINED PERSPETIVE OF JOSEPH

The last thing I want to do in this post is to put a wet blanket over the celebration of Christmas, but just for a moment let's take a closer look at one aspect of the story.

Have you ever had that struggle of faith when life presents you with a dilemma in which you’re not sure how to respond and you wonder where God is in all of it? You’re faced with whether or not to accept it and move ahead in faith or reject it as being too preposterous. That’s the position in which we find Joseph as we examine the Christmas story from his often overlooked perspective.

W. H. Auden has pictured Joseph at home that night, in an empty house, sitting there in the dark. He hears everything; the drip of the bathroom tap, the creak of the sofa spring, the wind against the window. And he hears Mary, again and again, telling him about the angel, about the message, about the Messiah. But who would believe it? Who could believe that God would choose to invade space and time via a *scandalous disgrace?

   *(Scandal:  n. something shameful or disgraceful.)

Who would not blame Joseph for following through on an impulse to quietly divorce and walk away from his wife-to-be who was telling him that she was pregnant with a child that was not his?  Can you imagine Joseph explaining to his friends that Mary was pregnant with God's baby?  Think of the predictable reactions.

The more I ponder on this story, the more I meditate on the few brief verses of this incredibly poignant Bible passage regarding Joseph and Mary, the more I think maybe scandal was precisely the point. Maybe the circumstances surrounding the Christ child's birth were meant to tell us what following Him would really mean. Maybe following the Messiah would mean the same thing for us that it meant for Joseph -- scandal, being frowned on, losing friends.

After all, life does not follow a perfect script for any of us.  Things do not always work out for us as ideally as we would hope.  We face one dilemma after another and either we accept them or we don't.

So what is God trying to tell us in this little bit of Christmas trivia? The message to me is that like Joseph, we can accept scandal and difficult circumstances by replacing initial panic with trust.  Joseph did not have answers to his dilemma but he put his trust in the only One who could give the answers.

There is always a message and an answer for every challenge in life.  Sadly, for many of us, the real scandal is in our attempts to pretend that there is no scandal.



*Click on the "Watch on YouTube" line (above) to view after activating the video.
"Mary Did You Know" was written by a very young Mark Lowry who I first got to know through The Gaither Hour, one of my most favorite musical programs on TV.

When Mark went off to college in 1975, he intended to graduate with a degree in business. However, after feeling that God was calling him to a music ministry he graduated in 1980 with a Youth degree.  He immediately began performing at churches around the country. In between songs, he would talk about his life and to share his testimony with a unique sense of humor that has become his trademark.

Mark soon realized he was on to something and an entertainer was born. He began performing for churches all over the country with his music/comedy act.  In 1984 something happened that would establish him as a songwriter. After his church asked him to write a Christmas play, he wondered what it would have been like to be the mother of Jesus.

He turned his questions into lyrics but it would be six years and two other song-writers later before Buddy Greene would put music to Mark’s lyrics.  The rest is history, or should we say “fate”, as Mark’s song is now popular not only at Christmas but throughout the entire year.

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