Joseph’s Nativity

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And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. Luke 2:4-5

I’m currently on a journey to my spiritual Bethlehem. And my prayer is that I’ll stay off the well-worn path of consumerism and busyness, in hope of finding something deeper along the path less traveled. And to my surprise, I find I won’t have to wander far. For I’ve discovered my spiritual Bethlehem, or House of Bread, is where I least expected to find it. For it’s right here. My Bethlehem is the same small town in which I was born and raised.

It was the nativity that opened my eyes to this truth. Literally. See, if you look closely, you’ll see one of mine actually spells it out… N – A – T – I – V – I – T – Y. And recently, the word captured my gaze for more than a mere second or two. So, I pondered it. I wondered what does it really mean?

Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that nativity is derived from a Latin word meaning birth. So quite rightly, the nativity depicts just this…

The birth of Jesus Christ.

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I wanted to go deeper, though, and through a Bible concordance I unearthed that something deeper for which I longed. Because in Hebrew, nativity encompasses not only the birth, but also family, relatives, children; land of birth, native land, kindred. And honestly, this put me in my rightful place today.

See, I was outraged by a national figure’s description of Christmas in a magazine not so long ago. She said, “To me, it’s about time with family…” And me being me, I was filled with ire that the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, was omitted from the article. And me being me on a journey to a more spirit filled Christmas, this woman’s quote set me off.

But today, I am set in my place. Here in my home-place. For the truth is, although Jesus is the reason for the season, perhaps some small part of Christmas is in fact about family. Because Scripture tells the story. And before Christmas was even Christmas, Joseph took Mary to his native land. The land of his fathers.

And so, Mary and Joseph were among the very first holiday travelers, journeying home that first Noel.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Agustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Luke 2:1-2

By immersing myself in the Christmas story, I find myself wanting to know everything. All of it. And though I’ve simmered in Mary, I’ve not really stewed on Joseph. Jesus’ earthly father. So that’s what I do this day…

Scripture tells me Joseph was of the line of David so Bethlehem was his home-place. The land of his ancestors. The book of Matthew invites me to take a closer look into his lineage and through his rich heritage, I gain a glimpse of what kind of man Joseph really was. For he came from good stock.

Yes,the pages of Scripture give testimony of Joseph’s forefathers’ proven character. First, there was Father Abraham, a man made righteous by his faith in God. And there was Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel. And further down the line, I find Boaz… a man of strength and honor. He redeemed the woman Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And of course, there’s King David, the once shepherd boy.

And down the line we go until…

… and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations. Matthew 1:16

Joseph came from good stock, indeed. He was hand selected by Father God to rear God’s own Son. A good man was Joseph, but surely he wasn’t perfect. Surely, his faith was shaken once or twice.

For he was betrothed to Mary, a virgin. Oh, what he must have thought when she told him her news. That she was with child. He was a man so he must have felt the sting of pain. And a moment of rage. Did sorrow turn to utter disbelief? And shock? For he loved his betrothed… did he fear Mary had betrayed him?

Joseph must have endured those moments because he was only human. I’m sure I would have. I would have gone through every stage. The quick fury settling into the slow burn of anger. Sadness to confusion. And then, fear would have set in. Oh, I would have thought the worst of my beloved. For a time, at least. And from Scripture, I believe Joseph felt it all, too. At least for a time…

So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21

Perhaps the above passage provides the most information about Joseph’s character. He was righteous. He was caring. Despite his hurt, he wouldn’t think of publicly disgracing Mary. No, he’d handle matters privately. Quietly.

But then, lo, an angel appeared with good news. Words of encouragement. Just when he needed it the most, Joseph received a personal word from God. And because he was nourished through that morsel of spiritual food, Joseph took courage and did what he knew he had to do. He acted in faith.

Joseph decided to walk forward with Mary despite how dire the circumstances appeared. He extended mercy instead of outrage. And he swallowed down his pride as he took Mary on as his bride.

Surely the road ahead was a rough one. For people talk, right? Rumors abound. And Joseph was likely to endure whispers, nudges, and laughter at his expense. However, right here I find Joseph’s greatest trait. And perhaps it’s the very reason God selected Joseph to be the father of Jesus. For Joseph was a humble man.

Humility before pride…

His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever. Song of Mary, Luke 1:50-55

The father of Jesus came from good stock. His home-place was a little town called Bethlehem and it was small among the clans of Judah. And Joseph, a carpenter, probably seemed small to people of a certain stature.

But God looks beyond the exterior. He sees the heart. And within Joseph, God found what He was looking for in Jesus’ earthly father. God looked deep and found righteousness and courage. He found compassion and mercy. And perhaps most importantly, He found humility.

And this was Jesus’ father. The one depicted in nativity sets everywhere. His name was Joseph.

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

O, Little Town of Bethlehem

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“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2

My mom gave me this clock. I love it because at the top of the hour, a Christmas carol chimes out.  As a matter of fact, it just happened as I typed this sentence. The tune of O Come All Ye Faithful tickles my ear, and I have to smile because I believe God is near. I think He’s speaking to me.

I hum along to the tune of my clock, and I hear Him beckon.

O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye…

To where? To Bethlehem.

And so, God speaks. He bids me to begin my Christmas journey there. At Bethlehem.

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There’s a reason God points me to Bethlehem. It has to do with something I learned about myself this past year. Something big. For I’ve come to realize when I feel empty inside, I try to fill the hole.

Oh, I have various methods. The most popular is shifting furniture. I become a little restless so I move a room around. It makes things shiny and new to me… at least for a little while.

Though we’ve lived in this house only two and a half years, I’ve changed my living room and my son’s room at least 8 times. My bedroom furniture has been rearranged about five times while the office furniture has been shifted about six. That’s just what I do. It fills me for a season…

Another thing I try is haircuts. Once upon a time, this was a monthly occurrence. Feeling blue, a haircut will do!! Miraculously, though, my hair was longer than it had ever been in my entire life a short year ago. I must have had a season of contentment. Alas, I began snipping again in the Spring and by July, I was cutting away chunks of hair every day.

The fruit of my labor and the work of my hands turned out to be tears. Sobs actually. As I stood in the chicken pen on a hot August day, I called my husband to give warning. I wanted him to know what he was coming home to as most of my hair was gone.

Yep, filling holes. It’s what we all do, I think. Just we each have individual methods. For me, it’s furniture moves and hair-do’s. And food.  You know, the mindless kind of eating where hand moves to mouth before the previous bite’s even chewed.

That’s what I do. I stuff my mouth and stomach hoping to feel good. And yet, I don’t. Furniture and hair cuts and colors and sustenance just don’t work. They never fill an emptiness completely.

And so last night, after hours of busyness, a simple Christmas carol stood out to me. O, Come all Ye Faithfull pointed me to Bethlehem. And then, I remembered what it actually means…

House of Bread

And what, pray tell, could be more filling than a basket of bread?

Thus, to be completely satisfied this Christmas season, I find myself venturing out to my spiritual Bethlehem. That’s where God bids me to go.

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John chapter 6 lights my path. For there was a crowd of hungry people. More than 5,000 souls longing to be fed. However, food was limited. But because Jesus was there, every mouth was filled. The physical needs were met.

After this miraculous occurrence, the crowds began to seek Jesus. I find His words to them interesting…

“I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” And then Jesus then warned them not to work for food that perishes but instead to work for food that lasts eternally.

The crowds persisted. They pressed in and questioned Him further. They wanted to perform the works of God like Jesus did. But He said that the work of God is this, to believe in the One He sent. And that’s when He said it…

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. John 6:51

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This Christmas season, God’s word guides my way. My goal becomes clear… Jesus. He is the One. The only One who can truly fill. Bread come down from heaven.

And where did the One make His first appearance but in a little town called Bethlehem. God’s gift of new life starts there. And it was no accident that Jesus first drew breath at the House of Bread. For God knew at the beginning of time that man cannot live on bread alone.

The loaves in which we fill are temporary. But Jesus, He’s everlasting. And in the fullness of time, Jesus brought God’s plan to completion. Utter perfection. And fulfillment.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3

I know, I know. Reality is we have to eat. We have to work for our daily bread. But verily, verily I say unto you… the most essential work we can do on earth is to believe in the One He sent from heaven.

And then, we must feast on every word that comes from His mouth. That’s what ultimately sustains us. It’s what fills.

Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it. He then gave it to His followers and said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Matthew 26:26

This year, I’m on a mission. For perhaps the very first time I’m seeking the true meaning of Christmas. And so, I venture to Bethlehem. It’s there, in my spiritual house of bread, that I’ll be filled.

Because shifting furniture, and haircuts, and food just won’t satisfy. Not for long. My menial methods of fulfillment are like a loaf of Wonder bread… temporary. Over time, it becomes stale and moldy.

But spiritual food lasts. It’s what my spirit craves. I need Jesus. The bread of life. And so I pray to God above. I say, Give me this day my daily bread.

I say it this holiday season because I know Christmas begins at Bethlehem. And I say it every day because I know my life depends on it.

My spirit lives because of the house of bread. Bethlehem.

O, come…

Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always!” John 6:34