Happy New Year! Buh Humbug!!! That’s how I felt a few months ago. Nearing the last quarter of the year, we tend to take stock of the year and begin to think about the year ahead. Plans need to be made! I didn’t want to think about setting goals and building the strategies that need to follow them. To be quite honest, why? Why bother with goals and strategies when all can be shattered in one fell swoop.
I had a pretty tough ministry year in 2006 and I was feeling as though all was lost. For a forward thinking person, such as myself, this is not a good place to be. Knowing this, I began to pray and ask God to show me something of Himself during this advent season. The birth of Jesus can become somewhat familiar and at times, we can miss the rich mysteries of God.
This article is to be have a flavor of for the New Year, but come with me once more into Christ’s birth, so that, we can look forward in 2007.
There is a Kingdom principle at work……..those who are lost will be found, those who seek will find……within the shattered dreams and broken pieces of our lives, there lies within God’s purest and most Holy purpose. God beckons our attention to look beyond ruins and lets us in on what He is about to do. He turned my attention and I began to this question, “What are you going to birth within us as your chosen community…….a community of sent people?” It seemed that the birth of Jesus saved me once again.
Christmas is all about Jesus. The cast of characters associated with Jesus’ birth is colorful and memorable. God had a plan and each one had a dramatic purpose.
• the Angels announce the birth of the Savior. They appear to Joseph to announce that the name of the child would be Jesus.
• The mysterious visit of Gabriel to Mary and the unforgettable conversation they had.
• An angelic choir interrupts the shepherds with their song of peace, “Glory to God in the highest……”
• Mary offers her beautiful hymn, “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoices in God my Savior. For He is mindful of the humble state of His servant…”
• The wise men are desperately search to find this king and prepared to give treasures and present Him with gifts of worship. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
• The shepherds became the first evangelists chosen to announce the baby Jesus birth. “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child…”
It struck me oddly that Joseph had no speaking part recorded. He is the lone silent member of the cast and often not our great focus. I began to think of how all this must have shattered his life. Think about it, he did have at this point his life planned out. He was in love with Mary. Once pledged, he began to plan his every day around the time when he would be with her. He built his home, his business, and his hopes in this dream.
Then, it what seems like a slow motion movie, all was shattered. All that he built, all he hoped in, and dreamed of, gone in a matter of Mary saying, “be it unto me as you have said.” Life as he knew it changed. Joseph is silenced. No notable lines are attributed to him. No sound bites. No quotes, only silence.
However, it was in Joseph’s silence, I began to see something crucial to about the birth. Here was the answer to my heart’s questioning: It is through Joseph, that God protected the unborn life of Jesus and he was instrumental in preserving the very human life of my Savior, Jesus! I found this incomprehendable, and like any good Free Methodist, my heart was strangely warmed!
Joseph was the man. Could it be, that God protects His unborn purposes and promises of Christ in our lives? In your life and in my life right now, there is something inside waiting to be unleashed. An aspect of unknown will, a promise yet to be fulfilled—a moving of God ready to burst forth. I was getting excited as I read through Jesus’ birth. I was amazed again for the first time.
Amy Carmichael said this about life, “Nothing in life can ultimately harm you, only your response to it.” These are hard and fast truthful words. Joseph could have reacted in many different ways, but he acted in mercy, in faith, and in obedience. Each are equally important to see through the broken and shattered pieces.
Joseph’s Mercy: In the middle of an unwelcome nightmare, he shows mercy and trusts in God completely for the unseen outcome. He didn’t surrender Mary to shame or a public stoning of her death. He puts aside his emotional pain and responds in love to protect what God is about to do. His response is born of solid character.
Joseph’s Faith: The unborn plans of God are also protected by faith. Joseph turned his attention to what he could not see and averted his attention from what he could see. It’s as if he closed his eyes to the seen circumstances he was in. His faith seemed to propel his willingness to believe in God. Hard to do when all seems lost.
The drama continued. God was ready to let Joseph in on the future plans. The God who watches over His plans and purposes for our lives wants us to know who He is and who we are in Him. I went from having my heart strangely warmed to being amazed!
In this New Year, I want to keep focusing on solidifying more deeply who I am in Christ Jesus. In this world of discontinuous change, my identity of who I am and what I am being called to do is essential.
Ephesians 1:18-19 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power…
Do you take enough time understanding who you are in Christ and the hope of your calling? I know, I didn’t! I was too busy making plans and strategies and being disappointed. That’s got to change church! The world will not know that God sent His Son through our silly plans and strategies. No! We can come into the confidence of His working through our shattered circumstances to His perfect purpose! Something must be unleashed—our passionate spirituality as God’s chosen and sent community! Back to our story………
In the same way, God assured Joseph that he did not have to be afraid. Fear is the enemy of faith and steals our hope. Joseph took stock of his dilemma and hoped even when it seemed impossible.
God gave Joseph direction. He took Mary as his wife and he became Father to the child, whom he would give the name – Jesus. He was teachable and open to instruction. “Live close to Me”, says our Father! Live close.
God assured Joseph of His divine involvement. God’s message to Joseph was the confirmation that this was God’s doing. I know, at times, it’s hard to understand that out of the pain of brokenness is birthed God’s plan. It’s in these times we tend to shake our fist, “Where and what are You doing to me God?”
Joseph looked upon the shattered pieces of his life and saw a plan. Yes, different from what he first thought and strove for, but he saw something wonderful, glorious…….he saw a life with Mary and God assured him of new purposes.
Faith is God informing us peacefully through what we cannot imagine or see within our present circumstances.
Joseph’s obedience: Yes, obedience plays into this plan of God’s. Obedience is our response to faith. Now informed, Joseph rises up and he obeys like never before. He burst’s forward into God’s planned future, with reverential fear and unexplainable faith.
When you think about it, obeying at this point is easy. When you solidify in your heart to walk by faith, obeying is easy. When you smash through your barriers of doubt, disappointment, and disillusionment, you begin to walk over the shattered pieces of your circumstance without cutting your feet.
When you are in this place of obedience, nothing can touch you. Herod tried to destroy God’s plan…..tried to kill the Savior. But, he did not accomplish it. When you are in the centre of obedience, God protects. Even though things look bad and it looks devastating, God’s new life springs forth.
The place of the “in-between” is not easy. The place between a decision to obey and seeing fulfillment of what God promises is a hard, and often times, a lonely place. But realize, it’s a place of finding out who God really is and who you really are. Be reminded, God preserves your life in this place—nothing can touch you.
So, about the New Year! I’ve decided not to set big goals and strategies. I am, however, following closely to what God has begun to do in my context. I am going to continue to be faithful to what God has entrusted me with. I am going to keep close and discover that part of the gospel God has asked me to protect and birth. I am anticipating new life, new works of service. It is certainly different than what I envisioned a year ago, but I am endeavoring to look beyond the shattered pieces with hope.
Are you waiting on a particular promise? Are you looking for a soon answer to hopeful prayer? What are you looking forward to this New Year? God has also entrusted you with the gospel—Jesus within bursting forth. We are more than a collection of individuals. We are the body of Christ! His presence is our present for the future……unleash His gift.
By Jennifer Anderson
Lead Pastor at Queensway Free Methodist Church