A few days ago, our friend Shannon recounted a wonderful story about her twenty year old son James. Driving to work on a cold December day, he stopped to help a young woman whose car had spun out of control on the snowy roads. He calmed her down, gave her a warm place to sit (in his car) and waited with her until the police came, before continuing on to work.
When James saw this scenario playing out in front of him, he didn’t have to work out what he ought to do. He knew how to respond, and he did it without hesitation.
James was ready. He had been prepared for this moment. His character had been shaped by a lifetime of training. When the time came, he knew what to do.
Two millennia ago, in the village of Nazareth, a young Israelite of the tribe of Judah, a carpenter by trade, was engaged to be married. Joseph was most likely looking forward to a quiet life as a family man and respected tradesman in his village. Both he and Mary were descendants of the great King David, but there was nothing to suggest that their life would be out of the ordinary. Then one day Joseph learned that Mary was expecting a child, although they had not yet come together in marriage. Understandably perplexed by this news, Joseph considered his options.
Before he could take action, an angel appeared to him in a dream, explained the situation, and gave him very specific instructions. Joseph’s response was immediate and unquestioning. The gospel writer records that when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.
Joseph was ready. He had been prepared for this moment. His character had been shaped by a lifetime of training. When the time came, he knew what to do.
God did not choose just anyone for this assignment. He chose someone who had been carefully prepared. We are perhaps more used to thinking this way about Mary, but it’s equally true of Joseph. Imagine the thoughts that must have been going through his mind. I am going to be the father of the Messiah?
This would not be an easy task. Among the many character qualities that would be of key importance in this mission – integrity faithfulness, compassion, humility, patience – surely one of the most important was Joseph’s responsiveness to the voice of God. Having heeded the angel’s direction to take Mary as his wife, he would again have to be quick to obey so as to protect his young son from the murderous King Herod.
Joseph was ready. When the time came, he knew what to do.
Only a few people in Bethlehem recognized the Messiah at his birth. It was the same throughout his lifetime. Many were affected by him but most continued to follow their own agendas. But to those who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.
Our Christmas celebrations are so often focussed on the trappings of the season rather than on the Person at the center of it all. He is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him. But when He appears a second time, there will be no time to change our minds about Him. Now is the time to give Him the central place in our lives that is His by right. Now is the time to pay careful attention to Him, and respond daily to His voice with willing obedience.
Are you ready?