20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
We only need to open the door of love and mercy just the tiniest bit and God will take that opportunity to come marching through in a big way! Have you ever been faced with a moral dilemma? I think most of us have. What happened when you chose mercy and compassion over judgment and anger? Did you experience God coming through the door of your life once the decision was made, once the deal was sealed in your heart, mind and soul? Is this not how lives are re-created?
Miss Thompson taught Teddy Stallard in the fourth grade. He was a slow, unkempt student, a “loner” shunned by his classmates. The previous year his mother died, and what little motivation for school he may have once had was now gone. Miss Thompson didn’t particularly care for Teddy either, but at Christmas time he brought her a small present. Her desk was covered with well-wrapped presents from the other children, but Teddy’s came in a brown sack. When she opened it there was a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker but Miss Thompson saw the importance of the moment. She quickly splashed on some perfume and put on the bracelet, pretending Teddy had given her something special. At the end of the day Teddy worked up enough courage to softly say, “Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother . . . and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you like my presents.”
After Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and prayed for God’s forgiveness. She prayed for God to use her as she sought to not only teach these children but to love them as well. She became a new teacher. She lovingly helped students like Teddy, and by the end of the year he had caught up with most of the students. Miss Thompson didn’t hear from Teddy for a long time. Then she began receiving notes with news from Teddy; he was graduating from high school second in his class, and then first in his class from college.
Many years after Teddy had left Miss Thompson’s fourth grade classroom, she received this note:
“Dear Miss Thompson,
As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year.
Love, Teddy Stallard.”
Miss Thompson went to the wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat, and she was able to celebrate with Teddy because she let God use her as an instrument of mercy and compassion. And when she did, God went to work in a big way, not only in her life, but in Teddy’s life too!
God offers hope for the future
The same was true for Joseph. Joseph’s life was changed when Mary told him that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit. No matter how he responded to the news, his future was going to be radically different. He could have chosen to cast judgment upon Mary and send her away to be ridiculed and ostracized, maybe even stoned. And that would have been a pretty miserable future, not only for Mary, but for Joseph as well. Instead, Joseph decided he would handle the news with as much compassion as possible. He would dismiss Mary quietly so no one would know of the scandal, and Mary’s life would be spared. That, too, would have led to a pretty miserable future; he would have to separate from his wife, this woman he loved and to whom he had devoted himself. And he probably would have worried regularly about the baby’s health and well-being without a father to care for it.
But because Joseph opened a window of mercy, God’s work carried forward in the best possible way. He showed Joseph his plan, and before long, Mary and Joseph were the happy parents of the most important person who has ever been born. They were the parents of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. And because of their devotion—because of Mary’s willingness and Joseph’s mercy—we are all offered hope for the future through our Savior, Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ is a sign that we are not alone, that God himself is with us.
Does anyone you know need to know this truth this Christmas?
With whom could you share God’s mercy and compassion so that they too can have hope?