Friday, December 18, 2020

As Joseph Pondered

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” ( Matthew 1:18–21 ESV)

Thankfully, Joseph was a just man who was committed to Mary's dignity.... and though he was preparing to execute a decision he was making in the crisis.... he wasn't rash and without careful thought.


Do we even do this anymore?

The speed of our culture has worn us out and worn us down in a sea of anxiousness and fatigue.

At your very fingertips are years of research and a wealth of information.... but it takes TIME to read it. Google will show it to you... but you have to ingest the info. It takes time to think about it.

How strange it must be to read this famous line by the great English thinker, Sir Francis Bacon:

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

The greatest example of this is how we handle our Bibles. It is a lifetime book.. and in digging and scratching within the pages, I have found troves of gold, silver, and precious jewels. Take time to include it in your Christmas preparations.

One enemy (of many) that works against our ability to practice 'pondering' is the reality of cultural pluralization. Mass communication technologies on a global scale has not only made wealthy... it has compounded the choices we have at the level of ideology and faith. In a storm surge of choice, can we really pin our hopes on 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism' (Ephesians 4:5)?

I wish I had time to develop this more... we are wired for coherence.... we yearn for unity. When life throws a myriad of opposing options and world views, our natural reaction is to want to control them.. and things out of our control only increase anxiousness. Our current culture is not in peace; anxiety is at an all time high. The speed of information and the discordant melody of ideas has left us pushing buttons in haste and frustration. 

It is also a highly disposable culture... things are not made to last. It is easier to toss the old and buy new. That's how we make things today. The increase of options leads to a decrease of commitments. This doesn't increase the value of things... it cheapens them.

God can control anything... but if the baby Jesus was coming in 2021... it would be harder to find a Joseph who was willing to hold fast to principles, willing to uphold the one who he was betrothed to, and willing to take time to consider the best route through the situation.

We expect God to act in microwave moments and explosive global upheavals... that is not His way. He works like yeast, and we want him to work like dynamite.

He does it this way out of love.... 

Peter reminds us WHY- 

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

God is patient...

To experience Christmas appropriately, we must be patient as well. 

Have any of you already opened up a present and are using it? Have you already told a secret gift that you couldn't hold until that morning? Have you had a panic attack because the UPS tracking said the package was hung up in transit?

I'm not throwing condemnation on anyone who says yes to any of those.... what I am saying is that if we don't stop to patiently ponder, we miss the most meaningful moments.

How can we do it?

The culture isn't going to change... and there are always blessings in the way things are. It is up to us to declare how, when, and where.

"Speed kills". "Haste makes waste".

Staying true to who we are means saying 'no' to many choices, even good ones. It means we have to start considering people as humans made in God's image and not as avatars. It means vows are vital to keep; they should be made with a lot of prayer, and we should stick with them when it is hard. 

Weddings are beautiful and meaningful because the couple says "I do"... not "I wish". The immediacy to which even Christians forsake truth claims of character and virtue prompted Os Guinness to coin a term: 'spiritual switch-craft'.

If you hit the Christmas season at the pace of a rocket... it will simulate your life experience at those speeds... shallow, transient, and forgettable.  And we all get there... every accountant has a rough April.

My oldest daughter had a tough time going to sleep when she was a baby. She would be exhausted, crying, but could not get still enough to fall asleep. I would take this wriggling sack of jelly and sit in the rocker and start the process of settling her down. I would rock and she would wriggle. I put my arms around her body and held her just firm enough to stop the arms. Then she would shake the legs. I would change the position enough to lovingly 'pin' those down too. Then she would wiggle her toes and fingers. Patiently, I would become a contortionist to finally hold all the moving parts. She and I would be eye to eye, her pacifier pulsating at 100 miles per hour! I would start singing a song and rock. Then her eyes would start blinking... slower, and slower... staying closed longer and longer... and then she would relax in a peaceful sleep. And then I gently put her in the crib. I became a master at this technique and it got easier to get her there over time.

We need our loved ones to do the same for us... lovingly hold us to a need to  SLOW DOWN.... Sit down...  and patiently ponder.

And not just Christmas... BEFORE we make any big move. We have to meditate and pray, seek out advice... ask questions... weigh options. That is where the Lord does His best work.

And the MOST important question is: 'where will you spend eternity'? The vast array of world views will tell you there is really no hope.

But in the darkness, behold, a great light:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11 ESV)

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