Tag Archives: Mary and Joseph

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Whole Story

 

There are stories that emerge from the life of Jesus before he was old enough to tell stories of his own. Some are more familiar than others. Some are always written out of the school plays and pageants. The prophet Isaiah told of a child who would be born for the people, a son given to the world with authority resting on his shoulders. Hundreds of years later, in Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, this story was coming to life. The angel had appeared. A child was born. The magi had come. The ancient story was taking shape in a field in Bethlehem. But when Herod learned from the magi that a king would be born, he gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. At this murderous edict, another prophecy, this one spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, was sadly fulfilled:

A voice is heard in Ramah,

mourning and great weeping;

Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted,

because they are no more.(1)

While the escape of Mary and Joseph to Egypt allowed Jesus to be spared, the cost, as Rachel and all the mothers’ who did not escape knew well, was wrenchingly great.

Of the many objections to Christianity, the one that stands out in my mind as troubling is the argument that to be Christian is to withdraw from the world, to follow fairy tales with wishful hearts and myths that insist we stop thinking and believe that all will be right in the end because God says so. In such a vein, Karl Marx depicts Christianity as a kind of drug that anesthetizes people to the suffering in the world and the wretchedness of life. Sigmund Freud’s estimation is similar: Belief in God functions as an infantile dream that helps us evade the pain and helplessness we both feel and see around us. I don’t find these critiques and others like them troubling because I find them accurate of the kingdom Jesus described. I find them troubling because there are times I want to live as if Freud and Marx are quite right in their analyses.

I am thankful that the story itself refuses me from doing so.

The story of Christmas is far from an invitation to live blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life. In reality, the Incarnation leaves us with a God who, in taking our embodiment quite seriously, presents quite the opposite of escapism. The story of Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children is one story among many that refuses to let us sweep the suffering of the world under the rug of unimportance. The fact that it is included in the gospel that brings us the hope of Christ is not only what makes that hope endurable, but what proves Freud and Marx entirely wrong. For Christ brings the kind of hope that can reach even the most hopeless among us, within the darkest moment. Jesus has not overlooked the suffering of the world anymore than he has invited his followers to do so; it is a part of the very story he tells.

In a poem called “On the Mystery of the Incarnation,” Denise Levertov gives a description of the Christmas story with room for the darkness and a mystery that reminds us that the light will yet shine:

It’s when we face for a moment

the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know

the taint in our own selves, that awe

cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:

not to a flower, not to a dolphin,

to no innocent form.

But to this creature vainly sure

it and no other is god-like, God

(out of compassion for our ugly

failure to evolve) entrusts,

as guest, as brother,

the Word.

The story of the Incarnation presents a God who offers the whole Word, who comes near to the whole story, not merely the parts that fit neatly in pageants. This God speaks and acts in the very places that seem so dark that no human insight or power can do anything. God comes to be with us in our weakness, with us in despair and death and sorrow, with us in betrayal and abandonment. There is no part of the human experience that is left untouched by God’s becoming human. And there is no part of human experience that God cannot redeem and heal and save. There are many Rachels who are still weeping—the poor, the demoralized, the suffering, the mourning. With them, we wait and watch, looking toward the God who comes into the very midst of it.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(01) Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G.- Knowing Him

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Earlier this year, England’s Prince William and his wife Catherine bore a new royal offspring. They faced the selection of a name for the babe. They were influenced in their choices by family, friends and British tradition, and spent much effort discerning the meanings of the names they ultimately chose: George Alexander Louis.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:21

Mary and Joseph were also influenced in the name of their firstborn. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not only what to name the boy, but why: Jesus, the angel prescribed, for He shall save His people from their sins. (J-E)These are the first letters in Jehovah. The name “Jesus” identifies this child with His people and, more, it identifies Him with the Father, the only true God. (S-U-S) Some consider this the abbreviated form of “Savior.” This is the express purpose of the Son of God: His mission, His future.

It’s not enough to just know the name of the Living Son of God. You must know Him – Jesus – as your own personal Savior. Do that today if you never have. Then pray that America’s leaders will find their identity with the Father and His Son.

Recommended Reading: Romans 10:8-15

Greg Laurie – Joseph, the Unsung Hero

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Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. —Luke 1:26–27

To me, Joseph is the unsung hero of the Christmas story. Very little is said about him, but he was a righteous man.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Mary was “betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph” (1:27). This arrangement was a little different than engagements of today. According to the rabbinical writings, there were two stages in a Hebrew marriage. The first, known as the betrothal period, was as legally binding as marriage. If at any time during this phase of marriage either person violated their vows, a formal divorce was required to nullify the marriage. Mary and Joseph were legally married, and during the approximate twelve-month period of their betrothal, they had no physical relationship and lived in separate houses. The second stage was the wedding ceremony, which lasted for seven days.

It was in the first stage of their betrothal that Mary became pregnant with the Son of God. Joseph could have divorced her because of this. His heart must have been broken, but he didn’t want to make a spectacle out of Mary. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Joseph knew that he would be thought of as the husband of the woman who had broken her vow. And indeed Mary went through life with that reputation. The Pharisees once said to Jesus, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God” (John 8:41). In other words, “You were conceived out of wedlock, Jesus.”

Joseph was willing to endure all of that. He loved Mary. He obeyed God. And both of them agreed to God’s plan.