I know, it’s that awkward week between Christmas and New Years when you don’t know whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy New Year, but you’re pretty sure you don’t need another Christmas-themed article pop up on the webs. Have no fear, this fits appropriately as an in-between piece for an awkward week, and if you indulge me this one last time, I promise it’ll be my final holiday offering until December 2020.
In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge spends an agonizingly sleepless night receiving warning after warning from the ghostly spirits that his life choices are leading him to the same despair experienced by his deceased partner, Jacob Marley. It begins with the Ghost of Christmas Past, who provides Scrooge with the rare opportunity to go back in time and review his childhood, where he was first rejected by his father, and on to his young adult years, where he rejected his one true love in exchange for his one new love—money.
His nightmare continues with the Ghost of Christmas Present, who brings him to the house of his employee Bob Cratchit, where he witnesses a poor family struggling to get by while still managing to keep Christmas in their hearts despite the declining health of young Tiny Tim Cratchit.
Ebenezer watches and listens, but seems largely unaffected by it all until he is met by the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s this particular spirit who gets a little more personal with Scrooge by showing him what the future has in store for him if he remains unrepentant and unchanged. Most of us know how the story ends, but it’s striking to think that advent contains the story of a man visited by a spirit who told him his future. That man, of course, is Joseph the carpenter, husband of Mary, and adopted father of Jesus.
Joseph was a man who caught a rare glimpse of his future, which, like many of our own futures, came uninvited and unasked for. Joseph’s visitation by the angel calls us to consider some of the questions that might have haunted him following his unexpected life moment.
What do we do when life turns out different than we thought it would? How are we supposed to respond when faced with an unwelcome surprise concerning our future? Do we do what’s safe or do we do what’s right?
As the ball is hours from dropping into 2020, Joseph shows us what to do when faced with a future we never asked for.
Wait—And See How God Might Act
…as he considered these things… (Matt. 1:20a).
To say that Joseph didn’t have a lot of time to act is an understatement, and yet he did what many of us fail to do, which is pause before pushing through. It was while he waited and reflected that Joseph received the direction he needed. God designed waiting to be the hollow of our lives where hope is birthed and will eventually burst from.
Remember—You Don’t Know What God Knows
…do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20c).
When Joseph received the horrific news (for him) of Mary’s pregnancy, he deduced that there could be only one logical explanation. And then the angel told him differently. There was another way. As you prepare to face the great unknown that is 2020, remembering that you don’t know what God knows will be a considerable comfort when your limited vision fails to provide you with possibilities that only God possesses. Like Joseph, don’t let fear prevent you from taking a faithful risk into the future.
Imagine—The Good God Might Do
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21)
Could Joseph have ever imagined how God would bless him through this miraculous difficulty? That he was about to become the adopted Father of God’s Son? Imagining what God might do when everything feels undone is how our minds can assure our hearts that hope has an enduring legacy in the chapters God has already written and will continue to write.
Do—What Pleases God Most
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife…And he called his name Jesus (Matt. 1:24,25).
Joseph obeyed, despite how it would negatively shape the reputation of himself and his family for years to come. This reminds us that pleasing God is often accompanied by conflict. Most importantly, Joseph modeled what his adopted Son would do when faced with the greatest conflict the world has ever known. Jesus believed His Father and obeyed.
What does Joseph’s divine interaction with the angel tell us about the God who holds our futures as firmly as our faith?
He Calls His People Into Great Conflict But Shows Greater Compassion.
Psalm 103:13-14 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Joseph reminds us that the lesser knowns are not known less by God. If God has this much compassion on us, shouldn’t we treat ourselves as compassionately as God does as we enter the new year? He Called His Own Son Into the Greatest Conflict. God showed his compassion on us by sending His Son to be with us and die for us.
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This helps us see God in a different light as we head into the fog of 2020. It reminds us that the story God wrote for His own Son is part of the story God is writing for us. A story of sinners born into conflict with God whose only hope was a compassionate Son to end the conflict. Which He did.
The God of Joseph is the God of your future.