In New Mexico, on Christmas Eve, we have a beautiful tradition where we light the way for Joseph and Mary so they can find the inn with the stable to have baby Jesus. Imagine yourself walking in a small New Mexican village, a beautiful blanket of majestic stars overhead and surrounded by hundreds to thousands of these lights, it is still, it is quiet and it is beautiful. That was my Christmas Eve growing up. We would put out about 500 of the luminarias ourselves in addition to what the 4H club would do around the catholic church and the village park, not to mention their live manger scene across from the church…but late at night, after all the sightseeing cars had cleared and after we were done eating our fill of pozole, tamales and impanaditas at our grandmother’s house we would walk home and find ourselves immersed amongst the beautiful lights. Beautiful luminarias lighting the way for Joseph and Mary, lighting the way for Jesus.
Today at church, during our Christmas Eve service the pastor talked about something that I hadn’t ever thought about before. Joseph had brought Mary to Bethlehem for a census because that was his family’s place of origin…but there was no place for them to be found! If a family member was bringing his 9 to 10 month pregnant fiancé with him surely she would have a priority spot…unless the family was ashamed of them. The stark silence in scripture left by Joseph’s family in Bethlehem is a silent reminder of the shame and rejection that both Joseph and Mary accepted as they together submitted to God’s plan for their lives. Joseph was willing to be put to shame and to be rejected by his own family in order for Mary to become his wife. That is a big deal. However, Joseph did not simply stay betrothed to Mary because he loved her, had made a commitment to her or found her to be attractive, in fact the Bible tells us that Joseph planned to “quietly put Mary away” and divorce her because of the public shame she was sure to endure due to her pregnancy before marriage. God stepped in though and intervened. When God wants something to be accomplished He will sometimes intervene and for Joseph that meant a dream. Most of us also know that Mary had the incredible blessing of an actual angel visiting her, the angel Gabriel, but Joseph had the actual Angel of God visit him in a dream. I feel like this was a higher honor because the Angel of God refers to God himself rather one of the angels under God. I personally feel like this is a beautiful picture of God honoring the authority He was giving Joseph over Mary and Jesus as their earthly father and husband. God appeared to Joseph in a dream and commanded him to stay engaged to Mary in spite of her pregnancy. Joseph did not dismiss the dream or allow doubt to have a foothold, instead he submitted to God which meant submitting to a situation where both himself and Mary would be shamed and rejected by family, friends and society. It would have been a lot easier for Joseph to dismiss the dream and to move on and marry another woman and live a quiet life as a carpenter…to become Mary’s husband meant to become an outcast in the eyes of his family and probably in the eyes of others as well…the decision Joseph made was a big deal, something we should not take lightly, and can you imagine the emotional turmoil this meant for Mary? She had already submitted to God and was pregnant! If Joseph decided to not marry her because of the shame it would bring upon them both then she would have been a single mother and a “damaged virgin” for life most likely! She was hinging her entire life and her heart’s desire to be a wife and a godly mother on faith. That is a big deal too! If I was in Mary’s shoes and if Joseph rejected me because of the irreversible, life-altering faith decision I had made then my heart would have been shattered. But, Praise God, Both Jospeh and Mary responded in faith, in a manner of submission to God’s authority over their lives even though that meant allowing themselves to be put to shame in the eyes of people that they cared about:
“to Jesus ” Matthew 18:24-25
““I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38
The submission to a situation where they were willing to be put to shame for God’s will to be done in their lives was a foreshadowing of Jesus Himself. In the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 50:6-7 it reads:
“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting, For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”
If God calls us to do something that requires us to allow ourselves to be put to shame by smiters, whether they be our own family members like Joseph and Mary experienced in Bethlehem or whether it be by religious leaders like Jesus experienced before and during the cross, we can either choose to accept their proclamations of shame or we can despise their shame and choose to not be ashamed in spite of their actions as we set our faces likes flint upon Jesus, the Author and Perfect of Faith.
Hebrews 12:1-3 puts it this way:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.“
Yes there was shame for Jesus hanging naked on the cross. Yes there was shame for Jesus having His beard ripped out in chunks and being spit upon. Yes there was shame for Joseph, marrying a woman that was pregnant out of wedlock. Yes there was shame for Mary being impregnated as a virgin in a society where sex before marriage was very shameful indeed. Yes there was shame….but Joseph, Mary and Jesus all submitted to God and allowed the shame for the joy set before them, to honor and to glorify God.
Ultimately Mary, Joseph and Jesus found themselves in situations where they no longer belonged. Where they had to either be accepted by religious people and go against God or be rejected by family and society in order to belong to God. We can either belong to God or we can belong to people. I would rather be put to shame and feel a bit like a lost toy that no longer belongs to people, but does belong to God, I would rather set my eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my Faith and trust Him to provide for my every need. I choose to walk by faith and to continually remind myself that God loves me and that God is for me, not against me. He loves me a lot…I have to remember that He loves me so much that He was spit on for me. That He was hung, naked on a tree for me. He gave His life for me…He was put to shame for me.
I cannot imagine that love all the way…all I know is that I am madly in love with Him in return.
I love Him.
I adore Him.