Extravagant Love…


Every Christmas I get sappy… I love all that goes with the season… well… Ok, maybe the house with all the inflatable penguins and elves and santa and reindeer and polar bears… scattered ALL over the property and on the roof ARE  a bit much. But the guy OBVIOUSLY loves to show off  his love of Christmas. Shades of Christmas Vacation!

Anyway, I just fall into the romance of the season. The movies, the music, the candles, the presents, the family, the food. I have always loved Christmas. While growing up, we didn’t get into the materialism of the season. We didn’t have enough money. We did, get into the giving part. I loved Christmas Eve. That was when we openned our presents at my house. Before the unveiling, we would get in the car and drive around town and look at the lighted homes. I loved that. I loved that Dad always asked for and received chocolate covered cherries.

I confess, even as a kid, I was a sap! I used to light candles, turn out the lights and listen to Christmas music… by myself. (I know, a little weird!)  My favorite Christmas artist is still Bing.  I loved carols by the Robert Shaw Chorale. As an adult, I found Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I fell in love with the message of the movie. God doesn’t make mistakes when He creates people, and the world is the poorer if we each weren’t in it. I know that is a bold statement when you consider some of the attrocities throughout history, but… really… even Mr. Potter had a place in the story. If only he had chosen differently…

Every Christmas, I remember my dad, while he was a pastor in Elkhart, Kansas, driving to every family in the congregation and reading the Christmas story. I didn’t think about that much when he was doing it, but now that I’ve grown up, I think how perfect the idea was. We need to be reintroduced to the extravagance of the story.

 In my previous post, I imagined the story from a forgotten perspective: that of Joseph. We forget about Joseph after Bethlehem. But, really, Joseph is the first example of human extravagant love that looks into the viciousness of public opinion and chooses love instead. God knew what He was doing when He chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly father. Joseph’s choice could have been completely different. He could have chosen to believe his eyes rather than his ears. Mary stood in a vulnerable position. She had to trust that Joseph was indeed the man to rely on who would trust her character and believe the miracle rather than condemn her and the child.

Obviously, Mary has been held in high regard and for good reason. But Joseph stands out in his courage to be  misunderstood by his culture. I find it interesting how invisable he is in history, yet how important he must have been to the boy, Jesus. How many men in Bethlehem must have thought Joseph to be weak in the way he accepted and loved Mary and Jesus? And how did his own family accept his decision? Did his decision carry any religious consequences? How was he treated in the Synagogue? And yet, there he stands, working with his hands, teaching Jesus how to work… teaching the Creator of wood how to create with wood… Pretty amazing.

We always say that God gave His son… but I’m also intrigued by the thought that Joseph also gave God’s son.

There is speculation that the reason we don’t see Joseph in the bible when Jesus is an adult, is that he had died earlier. Maybe so. Joseph seems conspicuous in his absence. Yet he and Mary conceived other children together. Joseph gives Jesus his own heritage… his family name and line. He took him to the Temple and followed the traditions of his forefathers’ religious tradition even while living with the fulfillment of that tradition. He must have known the untenable nature of the truth in the midst of current  religious teaching.

But Joseph allows his actions to speak for him… How masculine. That action is so similar to so many men I have known throughout my life. He gave his life, treasure, reputation, home, and wife, to God to use as He pleased.

What an amazing man and what an extravagant love….

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