Monday, September 08, 2008


Is This Right?

Is this right?

By Ramone - September 7, 2008

Last Christmastime when I was at Jesus Family Center's special Christmas service, I sketched this on the program bulletin. I thought of how pristine we usually envision Christ's "humble" birth in contrast to how utterly difficult it must have been for Joseph and Mary.

Jesus wasn't what everyone expected... a conquering-by-force military leader to assume the national throne. Probably everyone expected that kind of Messiah in some degree. Even after hearing and seeing God put His Spirit on Christ as His own Son, John the Baptist later was unsure whether or not Jesus was really the Expected One.

In fact, John's question to Christ says a lot: "Should we expect someone else?" In many ways everyone actually was expecting "someone else", someone who would act differently and restore "the former glory". Maybe John's question shows that he was arriving at a point of asking God about his own expectations. Having heard God's leadings so clearly, John arrived at a place where he needed to let go of his expectations. "God, are we expecting right?"

In a way we run into the same situation whenever we follow God. We naturally have a lot of "glorious" expecatations, and when He begins to do His stuff it almost always disappoints the image we had made with our hopes and expectations. It's a lot more humble. A lot more anti-climactic. In fact, often when His fulfillment is happening in our lives, we don't even realize it until afterward. Right in the heat of the moment, we are faced with the choice to believe and have faith, or to just walk away.

Joseph & Mary likewise probably had a lot of their expectations shattered as soon as they arrived in Bethelehem. The journey there from Nazareth had to be very difficult, especially for a young woman who was pregnant and near to giving birth! Then upon arriving they find that there is no room at the hotels. Even the most faithful here will think, "God will make a way"... expecting that suddenly someone will cancel, leave their room, or a house will be available, or someone will see our situation and help us, etc.

The last thing they would've expected was a stable.

It was a lot more humble (humiliating?) than they expected. Mary had sung of His glory, but now her understanding of that glory would undergo a difficult change. Before the shepherds arrived, I wonder what kind of lullaby she sang baby Jesus? Maybe she sang it through tears. I wonder how hard it must've been to do that in a stable, to sing in such conditions! Even to give birth in a stable! But then to lay down there... to let go of her baby and put Him where the animals fed... and Joseph having to watch and feel powerless to do anything about this situation, in his ancestral hometown but not his own home. No welcome there among distant relatives. No charitable people to open their home to them... even to a pregnant mother no less!

I can't help but think that they had to be thinking, "Is this right? Did we do something wrong? Did we hear You right, Lord? How could You let this happen?" And for Mary it was probably not easy to let go and put her new baby into a dirty feeding trough for animals. I think they couldn't help but feel that something had gone wrong.

But they trusted God. Or the just hung in there. Probably both. When the shepherds came it probably gave them a measure of some much-needed relief. Not completely (it had to be cold there, by the way) but it was enough confirmation to let them know that Yes, this was right. This was where they were supposed to be. This was where it was supposed to happen. God knew about this and was in control. It wouldn't take away the remaining difficulties, but it would give them a glimmer of relief and faith that because God had planned this, He would make a way out.

Listen, brother, sister, friend: I think this is the way God leads all of us. When fulfillment is upon us, it will most often not look or feel like we expected. Sometimes it will, but most of the time it won't. His ways are more humble than our ways -- and yet they are higher. Somehow in breaking our expectations (even our hopes sometimes), He makes us into a bigger jar and fills us with more of His glory. Our expectations and the way we envision His glory is actually too small. His picture is much, much bigger. More loving. More awesome. He has to break our image of the expected so that He can show us His glory.

When He leads you into fulfillment of something He's promised or shown you, don't despair if there are no trumpets accompanying it. Don't doubt His voice if the fulfillment comes in a way that is more humble and less glamorous than you'd expected. He will get the glory, and He will be lifted up somehow. Trust Him and stay faithful to His voice, His word and His Spirit. Don't doubt, but walk on, and He will confirm that you're where you need to be in His perfect time. Just like He did for Joseph & Mary when He was born as one of us.

Thank You, God! Bless You, Father! In Jesus' name, amen.


I re-posted this for Christmas 2008 with a shorter message.

I don't know if this was what you expected from this picture, but I can't help but laugh at the look in Mary and Joseph's eyes. The humanity that shows there is really amusing to me. It makes me like them better! "What have we gotten ourselves into?!" It's one of my favorites so far. I'm still smiling. Cherry
Thank you for sharing your art. I appreciate your expression. For a while now my wife and I have looked for a children's bible or even book, that had accurate depictions rather than bubbly glossed over cartoons(see all pictures of lions in the retelling of Daniel in the lions den, most you would want to cuddle with). How things were for Mary and Joseph, and almost all people described in the bible are a far shot from how we think of them when gloss is all we are exposed to.

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