5 Lessons From the Christmas Story We Can Apply to the New Year
I often look forward to Christmas Eve just as much as Christmas Day. It’s not yet Christmas Day, but there is anticipation, hope and expectation for what the following day will bring.
As most Christians do this time of year, I have reread the birth of Jesus, but this year I chose to read from The Message.
It’s a story that never gets old for me and it never will.
As I read the verses, I was able to note down 5 things that can be taken away from the Christmas story to prepare us for the New Year. These 5 lessons can be applied any time of year and their simplicity reminds me no matter what plans I have, God’s plan is always bigger and greater.
1. The best laid plans can change instantly
I’m a big planner and I like to be organized. Over the years – and especially since having children, I’ve learned that a plan needs to be flexible and can often change within an instant. Mary’s life was changed in an instant when she conceived baby Jesus. She was to be married to Joseph, but the cultural tradition of their marriage was interrupted by a virgin conception. Mary and Joseph still got married and were able to add to their family after they had Jesus, so their plans were still fulfilled, but the timing was different to what they would have expected. The lesson is plans can change and we need to be willing to run with them rather than defy them.
2. Problems are best dealt with quietly than publicly
When Joseph found out his bride-to-be was pregnant, he was going to let Mary go quietly. Despite being hurt and thinking Mary had betrayed him, he didn’t want to cause Mary strife by publicly humiliating her for being pregnant before marriage. As The Message retells it, “Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.” Some things in life are best to be dealt with quietly and amicably. Taking the higher road like Joseph chose to do is something we can all do, especially in a world where it’s very easy to draw attention to a hurt through social media or gossip.
3. We’re not meant to try and figure out things on our own
Independence and self-sufficiency are honorable traits to have, but many problems are too burdensome for one set of shoulders. God wants us to turn to him when we have problems that are too big for us to work out on our own. When Joseph decided he was going to deal with Mary quietly, he wasn’t sure how he was to do it. But right when Joseph was trying to figure out how to let Mary go, an angel of the Lord explained to Joseph in a dream, that he and Mary were part of God’s plan to bring a savior into the world. Don’t ever doubt that God doesn’t want to give you direction when you face certain challenges in life. And sometimes, not everything is as it seems.
4. There is a cost and a blessing to obedience
When Joseph was told his Mary was the virgin in the prophecy of Jesus birth, he was obedient to God and named the baby as the angel commanded. The cost of obedience may mean a temporary inconvenience or sacrifice in life’s plans, but the blessing of being a part of God’s bigger plan was something I don’t think Mary or Joseph would have traded.
5. Fulfilling a God-given dream will never go without a hiccup or two
In an ideal world, Mary would have wanted to have given birth in a place better than a stable and she would have much preferred to lay the son of God in a crib, rather than a manger where the animals ate. Yet despite the circumstances and location, Jesus was born. Whatever dream God has given you to fulfil, don’t expect it to be easy and without problems or hassles. But rest in knowing you will see it fulfilled, no matter how dismal the resources are at your disposal.
The birth of Jesus is a story of hope and a reminder that God was prepared to come down as a man in order to reconcile humankind to himself. It’s a miracle we need to reflect on and be grateful for during the holiday season. But the lessons from the conception and birth are still valid in our busy world today. While the cultures and traditions may have changed, human nature and God’s nature have not.
I’m expecting wonderful things to happen in 2017. This year has been a mix of highs and lows, and while many may be happy to see the back of 2016, I’m thankful that despite the busy year, I’m still standing and every hopeful for wonderful things to come.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. And wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.