CHRISTMAS IS: NOT ME…BUT HE…!
Christmas is the divine plan of God for the redemption of mankind. God’s redemption plan has been revealed in Scripture for about four thousand years.
He will bruise your head...Gen. 3:15
Your seed I will establish for ever… Psa. 89:4
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son… Isa.7:14
Bethlehem...out of you shall One come forth for Me who is to be Ruler in Israel. Mic. 5:2
Christ will come from the offspring of David and from Bethlehem… Jn. 7:42.
The birth of Christ (God taking human form) was the loving and longing desire of God to redeem humankind for eternal life. In this historical glorious enactment, He has chosen people to be His instruments, irrespective of their places, age, natural deformity, sex and status. He makes people first to believe, to accept and to be yielded to be a part in God’s plan.
This article is an attempt to study the life and surrender of very important characters directly and intimately associated with the historical and divine plan of God’s salvation.
Zachariah And Elizabeth
The Lord wanted to send a messenger before Him. He would be God’s prophet to present His Son to the people of Israel (Mk. 1:2). God wanted to use Mrs. & Mr. Zachariah, a very old couple, in this great mission of bringing a messenger and great prophet (Matt. 11:11), to bear a son in spite of their barrenness – a natural deformity. When Zachariah was on duty in the temple altar, Gabriel appeared and announced about the birth of a son to them in their old age. All of us might think that the presence of an angel and the announcement of God’s Word would have encouraged Zachariah’s faith; but it was not so. Instead of looking to God with faith, the priest looked at himself and his wife and decided that the birth of a son was impossible. In spite of her barrenness, Elizabeth gave birth, according to God’s will, to a son called John (the Baptist). God wanted Zachariah to believe (Lk. 1:20) and Elizabeth to accept and rejoice (Lk. 1:24). In this episode of the birth of John the Baptist, God wanted to use them to be an instrument beyond natural possibility, their ability and faith so that Zachariah and his wife could declare: Not we…but He.
Jerusalem Or Nazareth
Jews who lived in Jerusalem claimed a proud status as they were living in the City of God, Zion. They considered themselves superior and the Jews who lived in other places inferior. Especially they treated the Jews from Nazareth as people of low status and esteem. There was even a proverb, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). It was a mockery to them when Jesus claimed that He was the Christ. Was He not a son of a carpenter? Had He not come from Nazareth?
There were obvious reasons for that. The Jews who lived in Nazareth associated themselves with people of other races and faith. Nazareth was situated on the crossroads. Traders going to different places used to stay the night at Nazareth. Therefore, there were restaurants and inns there. These apart, soldiers used to come to this town to fix horseshoes and to repair saddles. It is commonly understood that wherever business transactions take place and night inns are available, the moral and ethical standards would be low. Unfortunately, the people of Nazareth had established a rather poor reputation in morals and religion. Therefore, the Jews of Zion considered Nazareth and the Jews from Nazareth as people of low culture. But for God, it was very different.
Man only esteems the place, the culture and the status. But for God, it is not so. It does not matter where you are and where you live. For Him, who you are and what you are matter much. God is beyond country, city, or status!
Mary And Joseph
God in His inestimable wisdom had chosen Mary and Joseph, an espoused couple in Nazareth, to be parents for His Son, Jesus Christ. Imagine how excited they must have been, rejoicing and waiting for the great day of wedding!
Mary was a young woman enthralled in a romantic dream about her future life with Joseph. She was a virgin from an ordinary peasant family. Women of royal and priestly families were longing that the Messiah would be conceived in their wombs. Yet, God had chosen this little country girl. When the angel brought the news that she would bear a son in a supernatural way, she surrendered her life. She was fully aware of the fact that she was to be wedded to Joseph, and the impact in her society when she became pregnant before wedlock. According to Jewish law, she would be stoned to death. But Mary, knowing all this, was tough enough to take on and face shame, sufferings, and even death. Though Mary was young, she was amazingly confident. She showed herself to be a woman who placed higher value on faithfulness to God than to kith and kin, society or even to Joseph. A Jewish virgin found pregnant before wedding certainly would bring disgrace to the family and to the entire Jewish community.
She thought that she was destined to do it and that behind there was One who had made the decision for her. Mary was willing to say or do anything for God. For Mary, it was not Her… but His…! Mary set a high degree of surrender to God. “Behold I am the handmaiden of God.” For God it was not, small or big, little or great, Zion or Nazareth…but Mary.
Joseph certainly would have been a young man around 20 years old. (There are unreliable stories that he was a widower). Joseph was engaged to Mary and was waiting for the wedding. He would have been in his romantic dreamy world, thinking about Mary and his future wedded life with her.
The news about Mary’s pregnancy would have been like thunder to his ears. His heart would have been broken into pieces like glass which is hammered, his pulse rate would have gone high and he would have had high palpitation with gushing of blood rapidly all over his body, the moment he had heard the news. Perhaps he would have even cried out in anger and anguish. He was loathe to believe so ill a thing because it was a matter of love!
But Joseph in the midst of this cyclonic situation reflected godliness, gentleness and maturity of love. What a struggle this must have occasioned in his breast between that jealousy which is the rage of a man and is cruel as the grave on the one hand and that affection which he had for Mary on the other!
Joseph could not accept his sweetheart to be thrown to the furnace of enquiry. He loved Mary a lot. He had doubts about what would have happened to her. He may have thought that Mary might have become a scapegoat for the pleasure of some human beast or raped, and imagined things Mary could not reveal. Joseph wanted to let her go on her way because of his true love. True love will never betray others to suffer.
Silence and patience are sometimes great virtues. No dialogue is possible in an emotion-charged atmosphere. Joseph wanted to counter the situation with a peaceful withdrawal by going for a secret divorce. Joseph was not a cynical or emotion-charged person trying to retaliate and quench his anger. He decided, not his will to be done, but the will of God. Though it was heart-piercing, he decided to divorce her secretly. The Holy Spirit of God inspired Matthew, to use an adjective before the name of Joseph, that he was a just and upright man. His decision was mature, realistic and timely. Right people will always think right and right people are the mighty people.
Joseph was a righteous man. He seems like a big hero to me like the other Joseph of Genesis, Moses, Joshua, and David. He was a brave man to take up an arduous and risky journey when Mary was in her full pregnancy to Bethlehem and was daring enough to go on a long journey to Egypt, a strange land with Mary and the new born Baby Jesus.
The Heavenly Father wanted such a man to be the foster father for His only begotten Son on earth. When the angel of the Lord told him in his dream about the divine plan of God through Mary, immediately he obeyed and accepted Mary as his wife and took full care for the birth of the Son of the Most High. His decision to accept Mary indeed was overwhelming and positive and would have had the right impact on the turbulent situation on both sides. Even when accepting her again, he surrendered to the desire of God and his trust in God comes to the fore again. In each situation, Joseph has a semblance of cohesiveness and consistency. For Joseph, it was not Mary…but God.
In our Christmas programmes, one man is often forgotten. Yes, I am talking about Joseph – the man whom God trusted so much that He placed His Son in his home to love and nurture. Always, Joseph gets second and third place in the Christmas story. Even in the nativity play and greeting cards, except Joseph, all others (angels, shepherds etc.,) are getting prominence, good make-up and costumes. Mostly, he is ignored in Christmas sermons and articles. Yet his task was an important component of God’s incredible plan. But, we should give an intense and scrupulous thought about this character; God considered him to be a man of integrity and commitment. Just as Mary was carefully chosen to bear the Son of God, Joseph was also, deliberately chosen to provide care and protection for his young wife and the Christ Child. Joseph and Mary were willing to risk their love, dignity and life for the sake of doing the plans of God. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, a second rated place, in a poor carpenter’s family; yet, they were modest in thinking, classic in obedience and poised in faith. In trusting God, Joseph and Mary followed through on everything God asked them to do and they are never seen to say a word about it.
God used all these persons for the enactment of the birth of Christ, irrespective of age, place and their faith. Let us also be yielded to do what God wants us to do. Not me…but He! God uses people according to His will in accomplishing His plans. When God wants to use us, we should accept His call and be used by Him. The absolute and ultimate purpose of our being in the world is to be a part of God’s plan and His service. Then, shall we sing the hymn found below before we sing “We wish you a merry Christmas?”
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Jesus I surrender
I surrender all.