“If I’ve done something wrong, I’m sorry.” “. . . . and I’ll try not to do it again, but I can’t guarantee anything.” “I was wrong to _____, but it was really your fault.” Have you ever heard statements like these, or maybe even said them yourself? Clumsy apologies—if you can even call them apologies. And in marriage a bad apology, or lack of an apology, can begin to cost you the whole relationship.
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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” — Hebrews 12:2, 3
I didn’t know what to expect when I became a military wife. I remember getting my first I.D. card, and the lady behind the desk asking me what my “last four” were. I said “my last four what???” I had no idea what she was talking about. Little did I know that I would live and retire—and will eventually die—with those four numbers. And when my new husband got orders for Southeast Asia in 1972, after being in the Air Force only four months, I was sure that they had made a mistake. I told my husband, “Just tell them that you’ve only been in a short time—they can’t possibly be serious about sending you overseas after such a short time in uniform!!” Little did I know . . . .
Have you ever voiced that attitude—because of the circumstances you can honestly say, “This isn’t what I expected!” For example, “married life isn’t what I expected”; “being a parent isn’t what I expected”; “this new job isn’t what I expected”; or “this move hasn’t been what I expected.” I’m sure you can think of many more instances when things just didn’t turn out like you thought they would—or should. Sometimes they turn out better—much better. But sometimes the challenges and the newness of it all is overwhelming and we’re left asking, “Why is this happening to me?”
This Christmas season, when I was watching the movie The Nativity Story, I found myself thinking about Joseph again. What an amazing man! The Bible refers to him as a “righteous man.” (Matthew 1:19) Just as God chose Mary to carry His Son, so He chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly “father.” We do not know much about Joseph from the biblical account, but certainly from the beginning Joseph demonstrated grace. He could have turned his back on Mary when she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit before their marriage was consummated—and she would have been stoned to death. But Joseph was visited by an angel of the Lord who instructed him to take Mary as his wife—and that the baby she was carrying he was to name Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20, 21)
Certainly life didn’t turn out as Joseph expected. He must have expected that Mary would return from her visit to Elizabeth, they would get married and “live happily ever after.” Instead, the people of Nazareth were well-aware of Mary’s pregnancy and were no doubt confused by the whole scene—most likely they even subjected Mary and Joseph to ridicule. Life certainly had taken an unexpected twist for Mary and for Joseph (understatement)—but they were obedient and trusted God to do as He promised.
I can think of only one man to whom life was totally as He expected—Jesus. We see that especially in Philippians 2:5-8. You might consider this to be a great Christmas verse:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. (note: does that not sound like the incarnation?) And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Yes, He knew exactly what life was to be like for Him—He was born to die!
The wise men who visited Jesus brought Him three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Myrrh was such an unusual gift to bring a little one—burial spices! In John 19:38-40 we even find the story of Jesus’ burial: “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”
Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection were all prophesied. Jesus knew—there were no surprises. It was all in God’s plan for our redemption . . . all as He had expected. The cross was set before Him, even as an infant in the manger in Bethlehem. And according to the book of Hebrews—we are to encourage each other with this truth.
Nancy Guthrie, in her great devotional book, The One Year Book of Hope, writes such a wonderful description of what Jesus’ birth came to mean as He was destined to die on the cross as a perfect and complete sacrifice for our sin:
“Come and linger with me at the Cross. As we linger and see Jesus there, we find what we need to persevere when things get hard so that we won’t grow weary and lose heart. Consider him . . .
When you feel sorry for yourself because your life is hard and you want the easy way out . . . consider him . . .
When you feel forgotten by God and by those you thought cared about you, when you long for the closeness of someone who cares . . . consider him . . .
When you feel tired and you want to give up . . . consider him . . . When you feel abused and you want to fight back . . . consider him. Consider his humble responses to those who lied about him and spit on him, ridiculed him, and beat him. Consider him and do not grow weary.
When you feel fearful about the future and you want to find hope . . . consider him, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross. Whenever you are tempted to give up, look to the Cross and see the price Jesus paid so that he might call you his very own.” (p. 139, “The Cross Keeps Me From Giving Up”)
And it began in the heart of God. Why? Because He loves us. He knew what to expect in His life, and He knows what you can expect in yours—trust Him with that. He wants His followers to be free from the bondage of sin, to live an abundant life in His forgiveness and peace, and spend glorious eternity with Him. None of that would be possible without His atoning death thirty-three years after His birth in Bethlehem, both as prophesied. That is the Christmas story.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . .” (Isaiah 9:6)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Guthrie, Nancy, The One Year Book of Hope (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005)
Questions to Share:
1. Has life turned out as you expected? Why or why not?
2. Because of what happened at Christmas, and then at Easter, do you see the love of God given for you?