Thinking about Christmas with Elizabeth Rice Handford

If ever a woman needed the protection and love of a steadfast husband, surely it was Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus. The story is so familiar, it would be easy to overlook the really frightening aspects of her situation. But the Christmas story is shaped by the surrender of two people who told God, “I will do the will of God no matter the cost,” and God, our Creator and His Son paid with them the ultimate cost of that surrender.

The angel had told Mary she would the mother of the Son of God. She knew no one in Nazareth would really believe that. Thirty years later, the sneering Pharisees still taunted the Lord Jesus that nobody really knew who His father was (John 8:40-42). After the angel’s annunciation, she immediately traveled the 90 miles from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea alone to see her cousin Elizabeth. Three months later, she returned to a village where everyone “knew” she was a harlot. Worst of all, perhaps, she knew Joseph would feel she had betrayed her “betrothal” vow. (“Betrothal” was the promise of truth.”)
Think of Mary’s courage when she said to the angel,

“I am the Lord’s servant,
and I am willing to accept whatever He wants.
May everything you have said come true.”Luke 1:38

But God never puts on His children more than they can bear, and He certainly had deep compassion for the young woman who would bear a lifetime burden as the mother of the Lord Jesus. He chose Joseph to be the step-father and protector of her Son. Through all those terrible times, Joseph was by her side, comforting her, protecting her, obeying God’s instructions.

“Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancée, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly.

As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her Son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”Matthew 1:18-25

And throughout Joseph’s life, we see him hearing God’s commands, and obeying them immediately. They journeyed in the night from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape Herod’s demented rage. They came back from Egypt when God told Joseph it was safe.

The story of Christmas in the Bible is not a quaint little story about a cute baby born in a barn. It is a story of real people, making terrible sacrifices, being hurt and rejected, simply because they obeyed God. The rest of her life, Mary lived with Simeon’s true prophecy: “A sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35). Joseph carried the life-long burden of of protecting Mary and being step-father to the very Son of God Himself.
But Joseph and Mary were not the only two who endured great hardship for the sake of humanity’s redemption.

Think of the sacrifice the great Creator/God Himself made. He gave up His Son, His only Son, to make the sacrifice for the salvation of His creatures. He had to turn His back on His precious Son as He bore our sins on the cross. That’s the real and incredible truth of