Summary: But how do we keep a 'right' point of view about Jesus and the Christmas Story in the face of so much that influences us otherwise?
How we interpret our feelings about a particular event or circumstance is not always the same as someone else. When others take great risks in life, you might tend to label them foolhardy. When you take chances, you are adventurous. If someone else suggests a correction, are they nit-picky or faultfinding? When you do the same, it's constructive criticism. When someone else speaks kindly of others, then he’s a flatterer or worse yet, a brown-noser. Yet if you said the same words, you see yourself as being thoughtful and considerate. When the other guy or gal seems set in their ways, they’re obstinate. When you are set in your ways, it is firmness. When you don't care for your friend's friend you're an astute judge of human nature. If your friend's friend doesn't care for you, then she’s prejudicial or judgmental.
Different points of view, different perceptions often open tremendous chasms between friends and neighbors. Misunderstandings of what is seen and heard often become the groundless basis for nasty rumors or permanent divisions between friends. Think about how that could have happened, but didn't, as we visit the real reason for the season – the first Christmas Story.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 ESV)
Even though God had sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to tell Mary she was highly favored, Mary was greatly troubled by his words. “How will this be,” Mary asked, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is with child.
Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. So now, let's break from the traditional overview of the Christmas story and try to see those events from the eyes, minds, and hearts of Joseph and Mary by looking at how Mary and Joseph might have perceived the news of the Christmas Story.
When Mary was Visited by the Angel
Before the angel came, my heart was bursting with joy as my mind played over the way my beloved Joseph had proposed and my parent had sanctioned our future marriage. Oh, I was so excited. Yet even as a teenager, serious because I knew it was time that I became a wife. “God is so good!” In my excitement, I began skipping down the path merrily singing praises and thanks to my God. Joseph, I am going to marry you!
Then an angel came before me. I saw the Angel Gabriel and all of a sudden his voice stopped me in my tracks. My eyes beheld a man who was most incredible. He spoke again and I knew that this person was no ordinary man.
The angel interrupted my thoughts as I looked at him wide-eyed and apprehensive. He told me not to be afraid, that I had found favor with God. How could that be? I protested! I was but an ordinary woman living in a small village.