The Christmas season is my favorite and most difficult time of the year. I am overwhelmed by the grace and love that God has shown me through the birth of Jesus as a human being, a “living sacrifice” to repair what my sin has broken. That he desires a relationship with me that much is humbling and life changing. I am also reminded of the damage I have done to my loved ones as I see the remembrances of seasons past where I was the cause of so many hurts and disappointments. This year has been no different. I have been fortunate to spend time with my wife and kids during this season and celebrate our family together. I have also had the opportunity to share in the pain they have expressed from the memories this time of year brings.
Most people refer to Luke’s Gospel when seeking out the true meaning of Christmas and how to celebrate Jesus’s birth. I like going to Matthew. His level of detail just speaks to me. This year, I found something else that God had for me through Matthew’s writings. Specifically, Matthew 1:18-19:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
We all know how Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Luke’s Gospel focuses on Mary and her experience of being told she was to give birth to the Messiah. Matthew reminds us of what it must have been like for Joseph. This person he was to marry, to spend his life with, suddenly seemingly had betrayed him. Before knowing what Mary had been told by the angel, Joseph was identified as a “just” man, unwilling to shame Mary. Amazing!
I didn’t used to be a “just” man. I was the opposite. I was a “judgmental” man, happy to point to and take advantage of the failings of others. I wasn’t very interested in examining my own. Joseph’s motivation, despite being wronged, was to not “shame” Mary. I experienced the same type of response from my spouse. I had admitted to an affair and told her I wanted to leave her. She didn’t seek to “shame” me. She saw that I was damaged and broken, despite her own hurt. She gave me another option: get help and come home. There will be consequences, but if I got help, we would deal with them together. My wife was a “just” wife, even when I didn’t deserve that type of consideration.
How are you dealing with the wounds you receive? That instance by my wife was transformational for me. Ok, to be fair, it was transformational for my attitude towards others. I wish I could say that I immediately became a “just” man. I didn’t. I did start to become one, though. It’s a lifelong journey for me. I noticed it recently in some resentments I have been carrying for several years. I reached out to a family member who had hurt me, one I swore I wouldn’t reach out to again. I don’t recommend you break boundaries, but for me this was a safe one as the boundary I set with him was too stringent. My attitude towards him had changed because I could start to see why he reacted the way he did when I experienced that hurt. He was broken as well.
Are you a “just” person? Do you want to be? For me, it started with someone else modeling what a “just” person looked like. Do you have someone like that in your life? If not, look to Joseph. He is a great reminder that a “just” man is a “just” man because God says so.