The magic of Christmas

“Joseph Who?” 

Luke only mentions his name a couple of times; Mark and John not at all. The little we do know of Joseph comes from a few verses in Matthew—and that’s not a lot. We know he cared enough for Mary that he wanted to protect her from the public scorn and disgrace that a young woman in her circumstances was destined for. 

We know he was a righteous man that believed what the angel of the Lord had spoken to him (in a dream; always in a dream) and thus was obedient in all that he was asked to do and to be. We know he led his family to Bethlehem for the census and was resourceful in providing a safe (yet humble) space for his young bride to give birth. And we know he protected his young family from danger when he fled with them in the middle of the night to Egypt to keep them safe from Herod’s wrath. Caring, protective, righteous, believing, obedient, providing . . . a pretty good list of qualities, to say the least. 

And yet Joseph was never intended to be a main character in the story. Although his role was important, he realized that he was not the point—Jesus was. It is as if he voluntarily stepped aside, into the background, in order for the main character to take center stage. His role in this drama would be one of background rather than spotlight. He was simply part of the supporting cast, somehow both recognizing and embracing this reality. 

In fact, Joseph’s very best work—the nurture, care, and guidance of Jesus in his formative years—was done in virtual anonymity. Not a word, other than the instance at the temple when Jesus was twelve, was ever written about it. He was a hidden and silent partner in the unfolding story of God’s life on earth. For the most part, he was unrecognized, unsung, and unnoticed—and it is simply beautiful. 

During this Christmas season, I want to be more like Joseph—to realize that Jesus is the point of the story and therefore to embrace the covert and behind-the-scenes ways we are called to help “bring him into” this dark and broken world. 

Ryan Gray 
Adult Ministries 

Scripture Reference: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 1:18 KJV


The Magic Of Christmas

The Thrill of Hope” 

Is there anyone more expectant than a child at Christmastime? Pinterest is full of DIY calendars to help answer the eternal question, “How many days until Christmas?” Children are expectant, or hopeful, that their desires will be fulfilled and that a new dollhouse or game system will appear under the tree. 

They spend hours fiddling with wrapped gifts, desperately trying to decipher what each one contains. Then Christmas Eve comes and the anticipation is more than their little hearts can handle. They lie awake all night, waiting for the sliver of a sunrise to pounce on their parents and declare that it is finally Christmas! 

Imagine living in the days leading up to Jesus’ birth. Political darkness reigned in the region; oppression and hopelessness were commonplace. God had promised that he would send a Savior one day. After centuries passing with this promise hanging over them, you can imagine that many people lost hope. Many even stopped believing. 

Those that still believed were looking toward an event that would reshape humanity—an event that many assumed would come through the powerful hand of a great conqueror, through the deliverance of a nation by a mighty king who would rescue them from oppression and slavery. Instead, what they received was the birth of a child from a scared young woman in an unbelievable scenario. Their Christmas (Savior) story was not what they expected it to be. 

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14 

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” – Luke 2:11 

The birth of Jesus represents a promise fulfilled. The world around us may seem dark, and it may seem like our prayers are met with silence, but there is always cause for hope. He fulfills his promises. What would our days look like if we lived expectantly about what God is capable of doing? May this Advent season represent a time of anticipation for the wonderful things God has in store for us. His promises never fail! 

Shana Hamrick 

Scripture Reference:Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 KJV

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11 KJV

The magic of Christmas

Plan B” 

I love dreaming and I love ideas. Wondering what could be makes my heart beat a little faster. I can sit for hours (or days!) thinking about the best way to accomplish something and what might be “if . . .” When I’m in a season of dreaming big, I often wake up in the middle of the night to put ideas on paper. I get excited for my husband to wake up so I can share my plan with him. (Sometimes I even bug him a little, hoping he will wake up early . . . my poor husband.) But, as much as I love dreaming, I get even more excited watching a vision take shape. 

A few years ago, I was in charge of a large renovation project. I put together a budget, drew up the blueprints, hired a team, and began to implement the plan. I couldn’t wait! What happened in the following weeks, though, is what happens with many great plans. I discovered it was not foolproof. There were unknown issues to resolve, obstacles to work around, and costs that exceeded the carefully prepared and very tight budget. The plan had to be altered. I needed a Plan B. 

Generally, I don’t like Plan Bs. Moving to an alternate plan somehow speaks failure to me. It’s admitting I didn’t have it all together from the beginning. It’s a reminder of the unforeseen nature of life. 

Sometimes, when I’m contemplating the whys of the universe, I wonder about God’s plan. What was his original idea? Did he have a master plan in place that didn’t work out quite right? Did he create a world where humanity could have lived happily ever after in the garden but subsequently messed it up? Was Jesus God’s second choice? Was Jesus Plan B? 

This season, as my house begins to sparkle with lights and I decorate a batch of perfectly cut-out cookies, I will also celebrate the birth of my Savior. This little baby, born to a virgin in the city of Bethlehem, was God tenderly revealing his perfect master plan. The redemption of humanity was not an afterthought or a remedy for a plan gone wrong. Jesus was always God’s perfect and loving solution. This baby is the lens through which God views me. The baby was never Plan B. 

Rhonda Hinrichs 
Guest ServicesScripture References:

Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

1 Peter 1:20 KJV

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

Ephesians 1:4‭-‬10 KJV

But thou, Beth–lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Micah 5:2 KJV

Watch “Ecclesiastes | Bible Audio Guide – Day 04, Ecclesiastes 3” 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.  What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?  I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.  He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.  And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.  I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.  That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.  And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.  I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.  I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.  For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.  Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?  Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Ecclesiastes 3:1‭-‬22 KJV