Come, Let Us . . . choose joy!
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I'm all about Christmas music - meaning, I have been listening to it for more than a month now pretty regularly, and keep my music handy all year round. Have you considered the song 'Mary, Did you Know?' Ah, the lyrics are so thought provoking, "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?" What did Mary know, and when? But first . . .
In the last week or so, I challenged you to exercise your free choice - claiming that you could actually change your viewpoint - that is, from viewing your proverbial glass half empty to seeing it half full, becoming a person of thankfulness.
And now I invite you to choose joy rather than a state of stress for the last five weeks of 2018. Stress has been defined as an"emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes."1 We know the feeling - it is like a hamster on a wheel inside our stomachs, churning up yucky stuff that floods our bodies.
Fact is, the holidays cause stress for various reasons-many which are self imposed, which means we have a choice about inviting stress to set up housekeeping within us. Why not make a few notes about what 'stresses you out', and make a plan to manage those things - while you can do something about them ... now. Greeting cards, shopping for gifts, cooking and baking ... schedule them and be disciplined. After all, we remind ourselves that we have 'been raised to new life in Christ, and so ought set our sights on Heaven!'2
Now that you are ahead of the game, acknowledging there could be stress, but choosing to enjoy these days without it, let's talk about the reason for this merry season. Stopping to think how many factors came together for Jesus' birth to happen like it did, is amazing. Mary and Joseph traveled almost a hundred miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census as was required by the law. Take a look at Luke's telling: And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.3
How inconvenient--to be 'with child', riding on a donkey for many miles to obey a civic responsibility! Of all times . . . ugh, unbelievable. Except, it wasn't. It had been planned and prophesied of, and I cannot help but wonder if Mary was pondering this in her heart. While Jewish boys were taught the scriptures, surely Mary knew many herself as she was a devoted Jewish maiden, set apart to bear the Messiah. Did she carry in her heart Micah's words "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf."?4
Mary . . . did you know?
Things just do not happen accidentally with God.
No, 700 years before Joseph would help Mary onto that donkey, Micah wrote that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Mary knew her time of delivery was close, and that in all likelihood, she would be far from Nazareth-far from her mother, far from her little village and everything familiar when her baby would enter the world. Mary, I think you knew.
I'm thinking that Mary chose to thank God, not cast frantically about because she was 'so stressed out'. I'm thinking that Mary chose to adore the One who was, and who was to come. Let's choose the same; let's choose well. As we hear strains of Christmas carols in stores, on the radio and television, driving in our cars, let's join in to sing songs of joy and praise to Jesus as we are celebrating his birth. After all, he came as a baby to be one of us and to bring new life, and just as Micah prophesied of the Messiah's birth, so too Scripture foretells that Jesus will come again-next time in the clouds!
Come, let us choose joy!
1) Baum, A. (1990). "Stress, Intrusive Imagery, and Chronic Distress," Health Psychology, Vol. 6
2) Colossians 3.1
3) Luke 2.1-5, NKJV
4) Micah 5.2, NLT