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Human trust is mutual. I can trust you because you’ve proven to be trustworthy. You can trust me because I’ve proven myself trustworthy. But trust in God’s eyes is really a one-way street. We can trust him because he has shown himself trustworthy even when we are not.

That night in Bethlehem, every promise God made concerning the salvation of his people was either fulfilled, or the fulfillment was put in process through that little babe in the manger. After hundreds of years of waiting, after 400 years of complete silence, God showed up in a way he had never done before. Imagine, the creator becoming the created!

We can trust God to say what he says he’ll do, but can he trust us? Sadly, no. He knows we will fail. He knows our best intentions will fall short. He knows our passions for this life will pull us away from passion for him. Still, he comes to us, dwells in us, forgives us, loves us.

The very first people to hear about the birth of Jesus were shepherds. In that time period there probably was no people trusted less than shepherds! Shepherds were crass. Shepherds were dishonest. In some peoples eyes, shepherds were lower on the social ladder than the sheep they tended to! Yet, shepherds were the first ones God showed himself to.

Why did he show up to these people? Why not the priests who should have been expecting Messiah’s appearance in Bethlehem according to their study of scripture? Why not to the king or nobility?

The answer lies in the God we serve. Our Heavenly Father reveals himself to those who need him most, to those who can’t be trusted. That night, the shepherds saw God in a whole new light. They left all they had to see this babe in the manger. Suddenly their personal desires became second place. They had a new story to tell. They set aside the social stigma. They set aside the anger and resentment they may have felt for the way they were looked upon. Why? Because they’d seen Jesus.

How has trusting Jesus changed your life? Are you willing to risk all to tell others about him?

One of the things I love about shopping at Christmas time can be summed up in two words. On. Line. Don’t get me wrong. I love giving gifts. I love getting gifts. I love people. But I don’t love standing in line. Rude customers and tired, crabby, overworked store clerks take the ‘joy’ out of ‘Joy to the World’.

I wonder what it was like the day Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. The normally quiet streets of this village were no doubt teaming with people. Visitors from all over the region had descended on Bethlehem due to the census called for by the government.

Was it an oversight on Joseph’s part that left this young couple without lodging? It had been a long journey. 90 miles by donkey would have taken four days at best. Four days for this woman, a young girl really, who was 9 months pregnant. Four days of daytime heat and perhaps sleeping on the cold, hard ground at night.

We don’t know for sure why accommodations weren’t made for the young couple. Joseph was ‘going home’ to his hometown. He had relatives there, brothers, cousins, boyhood friends. How is it that no one had room for him? Was it true that there was literally no room for them? Not one, single back room at a relatives house/ Or was it because Joseph came ‘home’ with a very pregnant girlfriend? Was it because no one wanted to deal with the gossip and scandal?

We don’t know of course. What we do know is that not a single room could be found. No one reached out to help this young, very needy couple. Still, a lowly manger was the perfect place for the son of God to be born.

Spending the first night in a cave was perfect preparation for the life this infant would call ‘normal.’

Spending that night in a cave was the perfect way to let this young mom and her husband-to-be learn the lesson that trusting God doesn’t mean life will be easy. Nothing is farther from the truth. It does mean, however, that God will make a way when a way seems unlikely.

When everyone else lets you down, God prepares a way. What cave are you in today? What rejection have you faced or are you facing? Our loving God has prepared this time to remind you of his provision during the lonely times.

Have you ever had something you valued so highly that you were nervous to even allow it into public? You know what it’s like. You park, your new truck at the farthest point of the Walmart parking lot so no one can ding it with their car door? You do that because you treasure that truck.

Oh, it may not be a truck you nervously protect. It could be your home, your favorite spot in church, or even a relationship.

I wonder if that is how Joseph felt about Mary? If he treasured her. If, when he saw her on the street she took his full attention. Nazareth was just a small town of about 400 people. A town in which everyone knew everyone and everyone’s business for that matter. Sometimes, in fact, they knew too much! You didn’t need newspapers or internet in Nazareth. The women gathering water at the well and the men sitting at the village gates were far more efficient at transmitting information, or their version of it anyway.

It was a quiet hamlet in which little happened other than an occasional Roman soldier passing through on the way to Jerusalem or back to Rome. Joseph no doubt looked at Mary and wondered how a man like him could be so blessed to have a woman like her in his life. She was young. She was beautiful, and more importantly, she had a love and commitment for God that inspired him. He couldn’t wait to take her as his wife and spend the rest of his life with her…that is until the night she told him the news.

He remembers her quietness that evening. He still hears the tone in her voice. “Honey, we need to talk. I had a visit from an angel and, well, I’m pregnant.”

Pregnant? But how? By Who? Every emotion imaginable must have gone through his mind. Anger. Hurt. Disappointment. Confusion. Disbelief. The one thing that didn’t go through his mind was hatred. He loved Mary. He loved God.

As he tried to sort things out he realized that the only proper thing to do was to divorce her quietly. Even though every dream he had for life was shattered. Even though he had every right to have her stoned to death for infidelity. He knew what he had to do to protect the one he loved, and his integrity.

Then the angel showed up. What exactly was it that changed Joseph’s mind? Was it trust in Mary or trust in God. I think you know. Trusting people will often end up in disappointment because people will stab you in the back. Trusting people is an accident waiting to happen. But trusting God? Even when life doesn’t make sense? Even when every part of you is telling you to do the opposite? Even when your decision could make you a laughing stock or destroy your integrity?

Thankfully, Joseph’s answer was yes. Joseph didn’t understand in the least what was going on. But one thing he knew. Trusting God will sometimes put you at odds with society, but it will always be the best way to respond.

What stand is God asking you to take today? Will you trust him to stand with you when no one else will?

Two things are foundational for strong relationships. Love and trust. From a human perspective both are imperative.

Imagine Mary’s excitement over her future. As a teenage girl, she would soon marry the man of her dreams. Joseph was a carpenter. He was strong and talented. She would see the things he could build and be impressed and proud. He was also good-looking and the physical labor he did made him even more attractive to her.

But his looks and his giftedness weren’t what drew Mary to this man of her dreams. What Mary was most drawn to was Joseph’s character. He was a man people could trust. He was a man that did the right thing. For all his good qualities, the thing that drew him to Mary most of all was his love for God.

He was a man that she could trust with her life. And someday, she would be his wife. Someday, she would bear his child. Someday…that is until that fateful night when the angel appeared. What was he saying? She was going to be pregnant? Her baby would be the son of God?

The Israelites hadn’t heard from God in over 400 years! How can this happen? Why now? Why to her? What would people say? A fear came over Mary as the next question came to her mind…”What would Joseph say?”

Still, even though she didn’t understand. Even though every dream she ever had was being shattered like fine china on a concrete floor, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38)

Maybe it would have been better said, in our day, “OK Lord. I don’t understand, but I trust you.”

Mary knew that trusting God doesn’t mean you understand everything about his plans, it means you trust him to walk through his plans with you. Is God calling you to do something out of your comfort zone? Do you trust him enough to walk through it with you?

I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? Psalms 56:4

Christmas is often referred to as the night love came down, and nothing is more true. God reached down that night after hundreds of years of silence through a teenage girl to bring love into the world through a tiny babe in a manger.

This love was directed towards a people who had time and again proven themselves to be untrustworthy. From a human perspective, trust is foundational to love. You may have heard someone say something like, “I love him, but I just can’t go on. I can’t trust him anymore” or, “she simply can’t be trusted to do the right thing.”

But from God’s perspective? That night he showed us a kind of love seldom seen on the human level. He loved expecting nothing in return. He loved knowing he’d be stood up. He loved knowing that the ones he loved would never be able to return that love.

In God’s world, trust isn’t required for love because his love transcends our ability to be trusted or to love the way he loves. God loves us without our ability to be trusted. God loves us in spite of our inability to love him back. Can we trust him enough to love him when we don’t understand his working?

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April 2023
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