We Need A Little Christmas: Hope Beyond the Headlines
(Tuesday, November 30, 2022 headlines)
Doctors hope Omicron causes milder cases of COVID
Multiple people injured in shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan
U.S. appeals court upholds California ban on large-capacity firearm magazines
90 seconds of video will be key in trial of Kimberly Potter, the officer who killed Daunté Wright.
…Merry Christmas Everybody!
The headlines never seem to make things more “merry” do they?
I need a little music, I need a little laughter, I need a little singing ringing through the rafter…
Sweet Jesus–I’ll take a little snappy, happy ever after.
In Matthew chapter 1, we discover that God’s people needed a little Christmas as well.
They found themselves occupied by the Romans – a tense situation.
They were being crushed by the economic realities of the ever-expanding Roman territory.
The rich were becoming richer.
Those on the margins felt abandoned, forgotten.
Daily life was hard. Really hard.
The gospel of Matthew starts by rifling through generations of struggle, turmoil and destruction. It’s in the context of political and religious tension that we read these words…
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 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.” (Matthew 1: 18-19 NIV).
Joseph had just received some BAD NEWS
The book of Luke gives us Mary’s perspective—but Matthew helps us understand the story through Joseph’s eyes.
Joseph is betrothed to be married. A binding engagement and a promise to stay faithful unto marriage.
Then BOOM – wait, Mary is pregnant?
Imagine Joseph’s confusion. 1st century Judaism was a culture of honor and shame. Mary’s actions shamed Joseph badly- along with his family.
Jewish law from Deuteronomy chapter 22 was to have Mary stoned to death.
Mary’s pregnancy is a blight on the story of God, a seemingly irreversible sin. There’s nothing good that can come of any of this!
But, instead of exposing Mary to a public divorce, he decides to dismiss her quietly. This would cost Joseph—a public divorce would recover more than Joseph’s reputation; it would recover any expenses paid to Mary’s family.
Joseph sacrificed his money and his reputation to protect Mary.
If you, too, are between a rock and a hard place, you are not alone. And that’s good news.
Early in the pandemic, actor and comedian John Krasinski produced a YouTube sensation called, “Some Good News.” While he made fun of nearly everything from not wearing pants for zoom calls to consuming way too much Door Dash, every night was also filled with heartwarming stories of how people across the country were using the simple gift of time and creativity to love their neighbors.
It was delightful.
Just like Joseph, I needed a little hope. I needed some good news. I needed better headlines.
Joseph was snoozing when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“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. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)” (Matthew 1: 20-23 NIV).
How’s that for a headline?
Clarifying, illuminating good news.
Are you waiting for good news?
Rise above the clutter.
The whole town was talking about Joseph and Mary. The negative messages were filling Joseph’s mind. It’s hard to rise above.
I once pursued a leadership opportunity as a senior in high school. My guidance counselor filled my head with negative words, “Rachel, you say you feel a calling to lead in the church. And I think that’s good and all, you know that church is an important part of my life. But I don’t see places and spaces where women really lead in the church. So, we are going to invest in another one of our students for this opportunity.”
I was devastated.
What I heard was that women can’t be leaders in the church.
Maybe that’s not what she meant, but I was crushed.
Is she right? Is church leadership real leadership? Will I ever be leadership material?
I wasn’t alone in my doubt. Neither was Joseph.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) (Matthew 1: 23 NIV).
Immanuel. God with us!
We are not alone.
The God of the universe promises to be with us, to walk with us and to help us move forward.
Don’t listen to the limits that people want to place on you.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1: 24-25 NIV).
Culturally speaking, by naming Jesus, Joseph became Jesus’ legal father–adopting Jesus as his own. Joseph did the very thing he thought he could not do.
God is with us– That’s the real message of Christmas.
It’s a message worth sharing…
Following Jesus was never intended to be a private, solo game. This is a team sport. We are here for one another no matter how bad the headlines are.
It’s hard to imagine a community in the US with worse headlines than Southwest Louisiana.
Southwest Louisiana is the most weather-battered location in the nation. The headlines are devastating:
After 2 hurricanes, Lakes Charles Fears Its Cries for Help Have not Been Heard.
The Louisiana Town is a Bleak Forecast of America’s Future Climate Crisis.
Dealing with Debris, The Luckless Lake Charles…
Just to name a few.
I visited Southwest Louisiana in October to wrap my mind around the community’s compound trauma. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw messed me up.
14 months after the 1st hurricane, storm damage was still everywhere—blue-tarped roofs, boarded-up businesses and ill-repaired homes.
I totally expected to find folk who didn’t have insurance or even renters struggling to secure adequate housings, but what I didn’t expect to see was the insured, middle and upper middle-class families still working on the repair and restoration of their homes.
“We just moved back into our bedroom three days ago,” Brenda told me. Large swaths of her home remain unusable. but she still has hope.
I want you to meet Brenda because, well Brenda’s story could be your story.