The commercialization of Christmas is here, and it is here to stay. I do not know if you listen alot to Christmas music and got drifted into the Christmas jingle, or in fighting your urge to splurge you felt small at the shopping mall or you may have even faked a smile if your friend had asked about your plans for Christmas. We are increasingly overpowered by the commercialization and it takes a lot of insight and spiritual discipline to recognize (and to re-discover)the Christ event.

What was the one idea that captured your imagination this Christmas? For all you know, this simple truth can change your life. What I am going to share with you is my experience of reflecting on the road to Bethlehem and the insights that I have gained through it.

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The road to Bethlehem, like as for Jospeph and Mary demands both a willingness to obey God and the courage to do the RIGHT thing. It must have been difficult for Mary (a young unwed mother) and Joseph (a surrogate father). It was not just the long journey on a donkey undertaken during Mary’s advanced stage of pregnancy but the entire sequence of events before it.

Mary had become pregnant being filled with the Holy Spirit. An ‘unwed’ pregnancy is obnoxious within the asian cultural backdrop. Mary’s story in all probablity must have been everybody’s favourite waste of time. Her story must have provided fodder to neighbourbood gossip. Every stare, every careless comment must have hurt her. Most of all, the silence of the immediate family must have hurt her the most. She must have felt the pain of being misunderstood. An engagement within the Jewish context had the same binding as that of marriage. How could she explain this to Joseph? For Mary, obedience to God meant loss of family (Joseph included), friends and worse loss of face.   

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Perhaps, the easy way out for Mary was to have backed out. It would have been a smart thing to do. You shouldn’t bite more than what you can chew. It may have easily secured contemporary peer group approval. Taking the easy way out would have been the right thing to do. But, sometimes doing the right thing is not doing the RIGHT thing.

Mary submitted herself to God’s Will at the risk of embarrassment, public disgrace and ridicule in order to do the RIGHT thing. She willingly went through it all.

It may not have been easy for Joseph too. True Joseph was unlike most men in that he did not want to publicly shame Mary. But, that doesnt mean he had a big halo around his head. He, like all men did not want to accept Mary and even wanted to quitely call of the engagement. Joseph fought hard to wriggle out of this discomfiture.

Perhaps, that would have been the smartest thing to do. For most people, that would have been the right thing to do. But, Joseph had his moment of Truth. He listened to the word of God that came to him through an angel. He willingly accepted Mary against all odds. His willingness to obey God is demonstrated in taking Mary to Bethlehem to register her name alongside his in the official records.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is not doing the RIGHT thing. What did his obedience cost Joseph? It must taken a lot of courage to agree to become a surrogate father and to later deal with suspicion, ridicule and neighborhood gossip.

Both Mary and Joseph saw the value and worth in believing GOd’s WOrd even if it was not the easiest thing to do. Both, sensed a divine stamp in the sequence of events and were willing to yeild themselves to God’s Will against all odds. God’s Will does not always promise a ‘pain-free’ experience.

Obedience to God might take us through embarassment, ridicule and public disgrace. And doing the right thing is to look for an easy way out. But that may not be the RIGHT thing to do. The strength of what we believe in is measured by how much we are willing to suffer for it. O Come all you faithful” , O come to Bethlehem and come let us adore him - Jesus born in
Bethlehem for us.

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