Advent Reflection: A marriage lesson

Every December we have an opportunity to discover something new or recall a truth we once learned from the Christmas story. This year, I focused on the ways Mary and Joseph worked together in order for God’s will to be accomplished.

Mary became pregnant by miraculous means. It wasn’t her idea to become the Savior’s mother, but she humbled herself to this mysterious plan: “Be it to me as you have said,” she told the angel. That uncomfortable trip on a donkey, along with the barn turned birthing center were additional negative circumstances to which Mary had to yield.

Similarly, Joseph risked his reputation by obeying God’s directives. It wasn’t just the initial act of taking Mary as his wife and having no union with her until after Christ’s birth. It also included moving when God prompted him to move. First, by escaping into Egypt when Herod was threatening to kill baby boys, and then returning to Nazareth after the threat had passed. In these accounts, the angel of the Lord twice told Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go,” and twice “he got up, took the child and his mother.”

All that God asked of Joseph and Mary, no matter how supernaturally enabled, was inconvenient, scary, and exhausting. They were two human beings who had to talk through plans and work together to accomplish all they did. While their exceptional degree of sacrifice is not possible for us in precisely the same way, their active participation and collaboration through difficult and illogical circumstances provide helpful principles for every Christian marriage.

  1. In a Christian marriage, each spouse has a spiritual responsibility to listen for and yield to God’s voice. We count on each other to grow in our individual relationships with God, to learn how scripture might apply to life, and to invest in our faith. If we are not growing, or if we sense our spouse’s faith is idle, we should be honest about that and seek help and accountability to keep our marriages and our faith strong.
  2. Husbands and wives have to work together as a unit to keep their families safe from harm. There may not be a literal Herod threatening kids nowadays, but the peril of the internet is one example of a threat to family safety. How are you and your spouse working together to keep your household safe? If you disagree, strive for agreement on the issues that matter most to each of you.
  3. Sometimes stuff just happens. Ultimately, Mary and Joseph were swept up into a story they did not choose to write. This occurs in every marriage. Circumstances outside our control do test our commitment to God and to one another. But the uncertainty and vulnerability that comes with having no place to live, for example, provides opportunity to see just how the Savior intends to save.

His name is holy; from one generation to another he shows mercy to those who honor him.

– Luke 1.50 (GNT)

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