Ikuro Teshima

Christmas comes yearly, and yet I receive new inspiration each year. It is a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Young children are excited to welcome Christmas morning, believing Santa Claus slid down the chimney and left gifts in the stockings by their beds during the night. This is a nostalgic memory of our childhood.

However, as a grade school boy, I felt happier to receive even one Christmas card than a gift. As a grown-up, I gave thoughtful gifts to my loved ones out of what little money I had, which is even more nostalgic memory. I began to feel, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." And now, I welcome Christmas, rejoicing in the Spirit of Christ who dwells in me.

When I look back on my own experiences, I truly feel how blessed I have been. Every morning as I wake up, praising words to God gush out of my mouth. And I shed tears of gratefulness, feeling how happy I am to live my life with Christ. However, I did not gain this blessed life through my own strength or efforts, but by God's unconditional grace.

I am not the only one who thinks so. Those who have experienced such happiness never boast of their successful efforts when others tell them, "You are wonderfully blessed. You have found mercy and happiness." Instead, they would say, "It's not my own doing; it happened before I knew it." This is the confession of a person who has discovered a power greater than his own; these are the words of a person with true faith. In this respect, I deeply feel that Jesus' father, Joseph, was truly a great spiritual man.

Troubled with Contradictions of Living

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
(Matthew 1:18-21 NKJV)

The birth of Jesus Christ is recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Matthew. It is written that Joseph was a "just man" and was greatly troubled that Mary, his betrothed, had conceived before they came together. In those days, this was a sin punishable by stoning the person to death.

People in those days lived in small villages or settlements where all matters, large and small, were resolved by village elders. If a problem occurred, it had to be immediately deliberated over in public. Despite this, it is written that Joseph did not want "to make her a public example."

Joseph was caught in a dilemma between righteousness and love. As a just man, he felt Mary's offense had to be punished in accordance with the laws of society. On the other hand, he felt sorry for Mary and wanted to save her; he was troubled with these contradictions of living. The contradiction remained contradiction and could not be solved or rationalized. Joseph felt anger because of righteousness of the law, and he cried because of love. Living in this world, both then and now, we have to struggle with such difficult dilemmas.

God's Invisible Hand

How did Joseph resolve this scandal? While Joseph thought about this matter, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20). After waking up, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife.

Right after Jesus was born, King Herod plotted to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and its districts. It was then that Joseph heard deep within his soul a revelation, "Beware! Flee to Egypt!" So he took Jesus and Mary and departed from Bethlehem. They passed through Beersheva and the valley of the shadow of death in the Negev desert. Struggling in the waterless wilderness, they safely fled to Egypt. People like Joseph who are drawn by an invisible string of God will find miraculous happiness.

Man is a precious creation by God, and the most valuable in him is his soul. The soul is within each one's heart. If our souls can selflessly listen to and obey revelations of God and the world greater than ourselves, then this will save us, just as Joseph saved the infant Jesus by listening to God’s revelation in his dream.

(To be continued)

*Click here to "Reflecting on Christmas (2)"