Monday, December 18

Temporary Challenges, Everlasting Peace

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. --Luke 2:4-5 (NIV)

Unwed and expecting a baby, Mary and Joseph's nerves were probably shot. They had already weathered the stress of their situation and were probably eager to begin life as a married couple and get on with life. But God had one more challenge for them before that could happen--one more detail that fulfilled the ancient prophecies about the conditions surrounding the birth of the Messiah.

By decree of the Roman governor, everyone in the region was required to return to the city of their family's origins in order to be counted in the census. The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 70 miles and may have taken nearly a week to complete. What incredible fortitude and faith Mary and Joseph must have had to pack up at such an inconvenient time in their lives and trek to a tiny, overcrowded city.

Life's biggest challenges rarely come at convenient moments. If they did, they wouldn't be nearly so challenging! In the midst of such events, there may be no clear reason why God is allowing them to take place. Most likely, God's plan to use those times will not even be evident for generations to come. If the angel Gabriel had not alerted Mary and Joseph that what was happening was directly from God, they might have been overwhelmed beyond belief by all of it. As it was, it was already a difficult thing to endure. Still, they placed their faith firmly in God and rested as peacefully as possibly knowing that God's hand was at work in their lives.

No matter what inconvenient trials we face, we also can have the peace that comes from putting our hope and faith in God. We do not have to understand or even like what events may befall us. Just as the angels proclaimed a message of peace and joy to the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth, peace does exist on earth for all of mankind. The joy of the Christmas season lies not only in celebrating the coming of the Messiah, the Savior, but the arrival of a long awaited everlasting peace.

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