A New View of Christmas
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Matthew 1:18 (NCV)
I recently met with a friend at her aunt’s house in southern Florida where we had the opportunity to take a long boat ride on the Intracoastal Waterway. A few hours on the water allowed us plenty of time to “oohh and ahhh” over the super yachts and magnificent homes lining the shore.
The following day, my pilot-in-the-making husband picked me up to fly above the very same Intracoastal highway to northern Florida. As flying does for most folks, my perspective shifted. From the air, the yachts weren’t quite as big, and the magnificent homes were still grand, but slightly smaller and less intimidating. Nothing about the boats or homes changed – except my point of view.
For many, this is a hard Christmas. Maybe it’s hard because it’s not what we expected or what we imagined the most wonderful time of the year to be. Maybe it’s hard because a lot has changed over the past year, and our stability seems unsteady. Maybe, like Joseph, we find our fiancé pregnant, and we know how babies are made!
Maybe it’s time to metaphorically jump into a plane and get a different perspective on our circumstances using three tried-and-true perspective shifts. I invite you to practice with me as we navigate the holiday season together.
From Blemished to Belief
She was found out, pregnant before an official wedding. What a potential blemish on the reputation of Mary’s family and potentially Joseph’s as well. But Joseph was, according to Matthew 1:19, “a righteous man full of integrity.” He didn’t desire to shame her, though who would blame him if he did? And to accept the child as his own would have been a lie for the righteous man – breaking the law in word or deed. Joseph was, as we say, caught between a rock and a hard place, and according to Jewish law it was well within his right to pick up that rock and cast it in Mary’s direction.
Instead, he planned to secretly divorce her when an angel came along in a dream. One day, he’s planning a divorce, the next, he’s all-in on foster fathering the Son of God. Nothing about God’s plan changed. Instead, Joseph’s participation in the plan changed because he chose to shift his primary belief in what the Divine said and desired, instead.
Sometimes our plans change; sometimes things don’t turn out how we imagined. Sometimes, like Joseph, we find ourselves stuck between shame and consequence, but because of the Son Joseph fathered here on earth, we have access to ask our heavenly Father for a fresh perspective on the good plan He’s orchestrating on our behalf.
From Panic & Anxiety to Praise & Adoration
I have plenty to panic about nowadays. With prices rising, a paycheck that has diminished, and as one-income family chasing after a dream already too big for us, I can worry myself into a good ‘ole anxiety attack at any given moment of the day. You might know what this feels like. I linger a little too long on my issues, and all of a sudden the bigness of God becomes lost in the shadows of my fears, dreads, and what-ifs. The problem is God doesn’t hang out in the shadows; there’s too much glory, too much possibility, and too much goodness for Him to be smaller than my momentary afflictions. Charles Spurgeon reminds us “I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.”
As a married woman, I would never want to let my gaze graze another man, so why would I let my worries become the focus of my attention? My mom will often ask me, “what are you thankful for?” which forces an exercise of gratitude. Gratefulness leads to praise and adoration that ultimately shifts my focus to the One truly worthy of my attention.
In the same nativity story, the angel declares to Mary, “Not one promise from God is empty of power…” and goes on to boldly declare “Nothing is impossible with God!” Luke 1:37. Mary, in an impossible (natural and cultural) situation doesn’t choose to figure it out herself; she doesn’t get anxious or wild with fear. Instead, she models for us what we should do when faced with dangerous, painful, or shameful circumstances–she sings, “My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!” (Luke 1:46-47)
From Turbulence to Trust
I fly regularly with my husband who is training for his commercial aviation license so I’m no stranger to turbulence. A little wind can shift a little plane and leave you feeling a bit…insecure. Last week, we had to buy all new tires for our car, and I’m not going to lie – I felt some personal turbulence at an expense we had neither expected nor budgeted for, especially at Christmas. Overcorrect a little turbulence and you’ve got yourself a good tailspin into anxiety and likely a crash into depression.
Part of my husband’s training requires learning to fly with instruments, which mimics flying in weather that leaves pilots navigating bumpy air blinded. He’s required to wear a hood while flying, which limits his perspective to only the gauges versus what he can see or feel with his senses. You want your pilots to learn to trust the instruments because a whole bunch of clouds can leave your body and mind in spatial disorientation – meaning you might believe you are going up when really, you’re going down. You must learn to override your feelings and trust what is constant.
I imagine Joseph felt some turbulence over the announcement that Mary was pregnant. I imagine he had all sorts of feelings about it. But as soon as the angel came to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” (Matthew 1:20) he believed. Belief, by definition, is confident trust, and for Joseph, what the angel said trumped what society would say. Joseph believed the unseen over the seen.
My husband constantly practices putting his confidence into the aircraft instruments rather than his equilibrium and eyesight. For you and me, we must practice putting our trust into what the Bible says over our own circumstances. Proverbs 3:5 teaches us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” while Psalms 62:8 encourages us to “Trust in him at all times … for God is our refuge.” De we place our trust in this or do we place it in our own abilities? What we choose to believe determines how we respond to turbulence, and subsequently how we level out when turbulence inevitably happens.
As you practice shifting your perspective this holiday season, be encouraged that like exercise, personal habits, or disciples, it becomes easier the more muscle memory you build. Look for ways to, as Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”
May God always guide your path.
You can find guest contributor Amanda Gallagher on Instagram at @mandagallagher1