During this Advent season, when I consider the challenges of modern marriages, including my own, I cannot help but reflect on the journey in faith that Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem, even before they were married. Their arduous physical journey alone is inspiring. Add to that the fact that Mary was nine months pregnant and that Joseph was not the father of her child, and, well, I cannot even begin to imagine or comprehend what was required of this man and this woman.

Perhaps we are all given our own challenge of faith in our marriage journey. Perhaps we are all asked to stand by someone when the culture of the times would demand otherwise. Perhaps we are all asked to walk what seems too many miles when we are tired and uncomfortable and anxious.

Perhaps the beauty of marriage comes from these challenges. Perhaps the beauty is in the faith this marriage journey requires.

The faith it requires of us in each other. The faith it requires of us in ourselves. The faith it requires of us in our God.

And, so, in this second week of Advent, with a focus on Bethlehem and a focus on preparation, I eagerly anticipate what God has planned for my marriage this Christmas. Despite the broken vows, despite the deep hurts, despite the challenges of faith, I believe something amazing and miraculous comes to those who are faithful to the purposes of God. To those who are focused on a life, a marriage, designed by God for the glory of God.

In what ways would the Christmas story be different if Mary or Joseph or both of them had chosen differently? If they had not trusted God. If they had not trusted one another.

I think it is too easy today to take for granted the faith Mary showed in God’s message to her about the Savior’s birth or the faith Joseph demonstrated in the angel’s assurance that he should remain by Mary’s side. Given Mary’s age, given the cultural views, given the unknowns for both of them, the stretch of faith they made but that we so nonchalantly celebrate does not inspire us to similar choices.

But if we take a moment and consider what was asked of this couple, what was required of this man and this woman, how can we not venture forth boldly and faithfully to meet the challenges our marriage journey asks of us.

Would it be easier to quit? Maybe. Would it be easier to refuse the arduous, life-changing journey for the safety of life as usual? Probably. Would it be easier to settle for the world’s design and expectations of marriage rather than pursue God’s ideal and design. More than likely.

But it is only to those who accept the risks that faith calls us to who enjoy the miracle of Jesus.

And that it definitely something I want in my life. And my marriage.

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