Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:19-21, 23
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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 going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:35-38
The Christmas story is filled with contrasts between those who rearranged their very lives in order to make room for the birth of the Messiah and those who either opposed His birth or were completely indifferent to it. Mary and Joseph had their lives changed forever. Their obedience and their ability to embrace a seemingly impossible circumstance set them apart. Even more, it was their willingness to set aside their own pretty good plans in order to be obedient to God which makes them perfect illustrations for our “Peacemaker’s Advent” series.
Upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph had a plan. he respected the law but also had great mercy on Mary. He would just divorce her quietly. No public spectacle. Follow the law but do as little harm as possible to Mary. He had it all worked out. It was actually a good and honorable plan. And then God gave him a different plan…one fraught with risk and probable public humiliation. Through a series of dreams, God would show Joseph a better way.
I started my peacemaking ministry to churches as an arrogant young lawyer out to teach all the simple-minded laymen in the church a thing or two about conflict resolution. Having spent hundreds of hours in mediations and other conflict resolution forums, I felt confident that I had a good and honorable plan for dealing with conflict among God’s people. Just a few huge disappointments later, God had my attention. We would not be doing peacemaking the world’s way…we would be doing it His way.
Oh how I would like to be able to report to you that, like Joseph and Mary, I immediately stepped in line and started to get it all right. I did not. Frankly, I still do not. But I am learning more and more that peacemaking among God’s people is not a process that lends itself to nice, clean formulas and protocols…rather, it is a dance…with God…and I am not leading!
Mary and Joseph are wonderful illustrations for us. They demonstrate what it looks like to let go of our own very good plans in order to pursue the clear will of God, even when that will doesn’t make a great deal of sense to us or to the people around us. As peacemakers among God’s people, there is no more important skill for us to develop than letting go and letting God do what only He can do. It is a trust thing. Merry Christmas, fellow peacemakers.