Joseph

Celebrate That! Part Four

I love a good mystery.  Give me a movie with a puzzling storyline or a big twist delivered right at a crucial point and I’m hooked. The unexpected fascinates me. The story in this fourth and final post of the “Celebrate That!” series, does not disappoint.

Maybe you know the Christmas story? The virgin Mary conceives a Baby by the Spirit of God. Her fiance decides to stay with her because he has bought into the idea that angels give out assignments and unscripted events change life plans. Now we are in the final scene.  Joseph and Mary were hunkered down in some obscure place. Then the Baby comes.

In the very next moment we are out in a distant field with shepherds and their flocks. (Read about it here.)

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Plot twist.

What? Where did they come from? What do they have to do with anything?

The main event was back in a crowded place and now we are outside of the city, in a field, at night. There were a lot of predators in the area who would love to come and nab one of the sheep for a midnight snack. So the shepherds had keep a careful watch to make sure that didn’t happen. It was another day at the office for them. They were used to this.  It was part of the job. They were on the lookout for signs of trouble.

Until then.

Suddenly the sky and fields were transformed. Ok, it doesn’t really say that but it must of happened.  An angel shows up, remember, angels always come at Christmastime. This time he comes with glory. Whatever glory is, it was everywhere.  The exact words are, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them. So I’m pretty sure it was spectacular and unsettling. The things of God usually are.

The shepherds were afraid. I can’t imagine what the flocks did?  The angel said he had good news that will cause great joy for all people. He tells them about the Baby that was born back in the city. I imagine there was more than one baby born that day so the angel describes where to find the Baby of good news.

Heaven came down and put on a show.

Right as he was talking a huge gathering of heavenly beings appeared. They were singing.  An outdoor concert. The night sky, a holy cathedral.

Sacred sounds.

Glory dancing.

The moon and stars paled in comparison. Ordinary night becomes extraordinary. Mundane to exquisite. No longer mere shepherds doing their job but mesmerized, frightened souls coming undone by what was happening.

Christmas had come and made them human. Christmas had come and showed them they were more than a job. Christmas had come and told them their one life held a bigger story.

Christmas had come! 
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These shepherds and their flocks were in the right place at the right time. Of course they were.

And that’s the thing. The angel knew where to find them. A dark and ordinary night in a field; at a temple where a priest was praying, in the dream of an anxious groom-to-be and before a young girl.  Heaven always knows where to find us.

Shepherds and their flocks pushed into the wilderness looking for food. Fearing the danger. No one goes there because they really want to. Some wildernesses really can’t be avoided. But there they are. The place God decides to be discovered.

Sometimes I wonder if God pushes me into the wilderness?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness is the place He wants me to discover Him?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness teaches me how to move on, with God?

Wilderness Christmas.

And isn’t that Christmas? God knowing where we are and coming to be with us? Coming to tell us we are wonderfully human and make us so? Coming to move us from our fields?

It had to be the shepherds and their flocks. They are us.

Everyday people living everyday lives. In a divine twist and the story takes a turn.  The story is for us. Christmas tearing open the dark and scary night to let heavens light in.

Christmas is not exclusive. It’s inclusive. We are the reason Christmas comes at all.

Earthly people intermingling with the Holy and all that it means. Miracle Baby born as God had decided long ago because we had moved so far from Him that He would not stand for it. Christmas was coming whether humanity wanted it or not. Jesus comes whether humanity wants Him to or not.  God does not forget His promises.

And isn’t that grace? Unmerited favor?

It’s always Christmas. Christmas is a new kind of story. It’s meant for us.

If you look closely today you can see the dazzling display of glory in the night sky. Filling the air with sacred sounds telling us that Christmas is here. Christmas is always here. Here for the everyday people living everyday lives.

I don’t know what Christmas is for you?  The celebrations, gatherings and presents are a lot of fun and honestly they do represent the spirit of Christmas if we let them. But Christmas comes to us, it comes for us.  It’s the twist in our story where things take a turn.

Do you have a Christmas in your story?

May we this season be curious about this Baby and they crazy way He came to us.  May we long to have our dark scary nights break open to let heavens light in.  May we find contentment in becoming human as God first had hoped for us.  May we discover Emmanuel, Jesus with us, through the up and down storyline of our everyday ordinary lives. O come O come Emmanuel.

When Jesus was born, God sent the sheep into the fields.

Celebrate That!

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Celebrate That! Part Two

Have you ever had a hard time getting out of bed?  Maybe there has been a moment in time when you wanted to take a long nap and not wake up for a day or three? Life has become unexpectedly complicated and if you could just sleep your troubles away, well that would be perfect.  Who doesn’t like sleep?

I can remember being a teenager and having a reoccurring dream. In my dream I would wake up from a dream to find that I was still only 4 years old sleeping in my tiny little bed.  All the things I had seen and done were just a dream.  I wasn’t 16.  I was only 4.  All that was troubling me was only a dream and I could simply just be 4 and not worry about anything.

It’s funny, I can remember thinking, what an odd thing to dream.  Now I realize that it was a subconscious way of dealing with my typically normal adolescent life.  Life gets bumpy. Sleep removes you from the turbulence.  Dreams help you cope.

In the Christmas story Joseph, Jesus earthly father, is found sleeping. His life had become unexpectedly complicated and bumpy. Things with Mary, his soon to be wife, took a sharp left turn and now sleep was the only place he could get away from the turbulence. Joseph was so plainly human. His struggle was real. No one could blame him for what he was about to do. He had to let Mary go. The wedding was to be called off.  His hope for the future had been crushed.

It was too much.

His world was shattering right in front of him.

All he could do was sleep and hope it was all a dream. But dream he did.

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We think we are all alone when we dream. Not so.

God has access to our dreams and He sent an angel to Joseph’s dream.

This angel told Joseph to stay the course, take Mary as his wife.  God had big plans for them.  He would need them to be together, unified, for this assignment. Mary was holding God’s Son in her womb but Joseph would hold God’s dream with his hands.  Joseph needed God’s confidence.

Joseph woke up. Sleeping must always come to an end. There was no need to slumber any more. Sleep would help Joseph hide from his troubles but he could never hide from God.  The Dream Maker is also the Dream Giver. Dreams given in love, for love.  Love never needs an invitation. God is drawn to our wounds and patiently soothes, even when we are unaware, so Love can reform all that has become distorted. All that was ailing Joseph found healing through a divine dream. The angel explained to Joseph about what was happening and what was to be but Joseph…..he heard, I believe in you, Joseph.

Are you having trouble getting out of bed? Do you feel that if you could take a nap and not wake up for a day or three, things would be much better? I know how you feel.  Somewhere deep in our dreams God is whispering. I believe in you.  For all the things that have become distorted and troubling in your world God whispers, I believe in  you.

Like Joseph, it will take all of your energy to face your future and hold whatever God is asking you to hold. Like Joseph we have to wake up to whatever is troubling us and arise. Leave behind doubt, solving things “our way”, self-preservation or fear.

You cannot live out the God dream and hold onto pride.

You can be assured that in spite of your troubling, distorted and complicated world, God can meet you in your dreams. Each time your eyes open from slumber, remember God whispers, I believe in you.

Before God sent His Son, He sent a dream.

Celebrate That!

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Road to Bethlehem

Little Town of Bethlehem

Little Town of Bethlehem

He couldn’t believe it. How could this happen?  How could she do this? He loved her. Didn’t she know that? The sting of betrayal was more than he could handle but it couldn’t stop his love for her. Despite what she had done, he wouldn’t make things worse.  He would break things off quietly. It would be better if as few people knew the real story as possible and he wouldn’t be associated with the inevitable.  The road ahead of her was going to be tough enough, she didn’t need to take the heat for dishonoring him too.

It had been hours since they talked.  The sky was turning dark and it was time to kiss the day good bye and look ahead to the refreshing of a new day.  He didn’t want tomorrow to come but his body could hold itself any longer.  He laid himself down.

He tossed and turned.  Sleep wasn’t coming.  Pain can rob a person of rest. After several hours his body finally slipped into a fitful sleep.  Peace wasn’t possible tonight.  Even his sleep was a wounded mess.  Finding his way into dreams, there were no colors, everything stood gray and motionless.

And then something broke open.  He awakened but didn’t wake from his sleep.  A voice, a color, a wind swept into his dream.  Without sound words found their way into him, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home to be your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 1:20-21)

The voice knew his name and reminded him who he was. He was the son of David, a mighty and anointed King for God.  The voice was calling  him into a new royalty, to let go of fear and believe. Believe what his fiancee, Mary, had told him.  Believe that God had a mission for him. Believe that something impossible was happening.  Believe that he was the appointed father, the one whom God would need to prepare the Savior for His destiny.

Joseph bolted up from his sleep.

Eyes wide open he trembled. This is what happens when a holy presence makes a visit.

Joseph awakened.

He awakened to God’s invasion.

He awakened to his calling and character.

He awakened to a faith that is more than an ideal, but a risky, life altering reality.

He awakened to a love for a young woman brave enough embrace her future even if no one else believed with her.

The road to Bethlehem was paved. It was time for Joseph to begin walking.

The people in Jesus story were real. They were imperfect and lacked faith at times but God chose them all the same.  He chooses me. He chooses you.  You and I also have a road to Bethlehem.  Are you walking in that direction?

Check this video out.  It’s a beautiful song that puts what Joseph might have felt to music.