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The Emotions of Christmas

The year 2020 has had more twists and turns than the Dan River!

Why should Christmas be any different, hunh?

We have dealt with frustration and anger do to cancellations and rapidly changed plans, confusion and fear over frustrating circumstances, sadness, sickness, and grief, strained relationships, depression.

Through it all we have had to go back to the very basic things related to trusting in God and His providential care for us, and desire to use us to advance the cause of Christ around us. 

The story of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Jesus also contains many emotions.

A close look reminds us that those who experienced the first Christmas can relate to the emotions we feel during a quarantine Christmas. Their emotions were brought through many twists and turns in a very short time.  

It all started with two very godly young people each having deeply moving spiritual encounters.

The angel Gabriel stepped through the veil into our world and went to the city of Nazareth in Galilee.

There he appeared to a virgin girl named Mary who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. We get engaged but don’t consider the deal officially done until the marriage ceremony.

They considered the marriage deal officially done at the engagement ceremony, and the husband to be would go and get his house ready to bring his bride to. 

They were already considered married, but had to wait to consummate the marriage until after the several day long festivities. It went without speaking that they were to remain faithful to each other.

So Joseph the carpenter was at his family’s house compound working hard to get he and Mary’s house ready.

Mary was back with her family getting ready to be Joseph’s wife. There was plenty to do for both of them!

Read Luke 1:26-38             The Emotions of Christmas                     Let’s Pray

The first emotion of Christmas was Mary being shocked and confused  

She had never seen an angel before, and now the great Archangel Gabriel was telling her she was pregnant with the long awaited Christ child because she had found favor with God.

Mary knew you had to have sex to be pregnant, and that she had never had it with Joseph or anyone else.

In her innocence she asks the angel how in the world something like that could happen.

And Gabriel to her that she would experience the miracle of the virgin birth.

Mary had probably told God many times that she hoped her life would make a difference for Him. She figured that would be a quiet domestic life in Nazareth with her hunky good old boy carpenter man Joe.

All of a sudden her world was being turned upside down, and it was shocking and confusing.

The second emotion of Christmas was Joseph feeling betrayed

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph also understood that nobody gets pregnant without having sex first.

Somehow he got word that Mary was pregnant, and he immediately assumed the worst, that Mary had been unfaithful to him, breaking their betrothal vows.

Undoubtedly all the things people say about things like that in our day were said to Joseph by those who loved him.

You ought to drag her before the elders and humiliate her like she has humiliated you. The Law calls for stoning in such situations.

The text says that Joseph was a just man and did not want to do that to Mary.

Still, he wasn’t buying her story that somehow God was behind all of this. So he was hoping to just quietly divorce her and go on.

That’s when the angel came to him and told him the rest of the story.


They say the Lord works in mysterious ways!

Wouldn’t it be nice if the angel had told them both at the same time, so they could have been processed the whole thing together?


But just like with Mary and Joseph, sometimes today the woman in the relationship understands something spiritually before the man does. And it’s hard to be patient and loving while you are waiting for your man to figure it out.

The third emotion of Christmas was Joseph and Mary working through was hurt.

Mary was hurt because Joseph didn’t initially believe her; Joseph was hurt because of all the gossip and slander they had to experience.

This would have seriously overshadowed their Christmas, except they didn’t even know this was Christmas, because Christmas hadn’t happened yet.

The fourth emotion of Christmas was Joseph and Mary humbly submitting to God and one another

Back in Luke’s gospel we read in Luke 1:38 - - -

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.                  -Luke 1:38

Mary believed what God had told her through the angel, but she also acted to confirm it. The angel had said that Elizabeth was also pregnant, and she went and checked it out, and found that it was so.

I love that she both submitted to what she felt God had said, and acted on the information that she had. Her counseling session with Elizabeth helped her process what she had heard God say to her. What a good example for us!

We don’t get any grand statement of submission back in Matthew 1 related to Joe the Carpenter. But his actions showed he also was submitting to God.

He got up off of his bed, took Mary as his wife, kept her a virgin until Jesus was born.

Sometimes people speak the words of submission without actions of submission. Joseph’s actions showed where his heart was.

The fifth emotion of Christmas was Mary singing joyful praise

Read Luke 1:46-55

That song has been called the Magnificant because of the word magnify that Mary sings – “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

I hope that is your heart this Christmas like it was hers the first Christmas – even though we have seen so much disruption this year, this Christmas, let’s join Mary in saying and singing, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

We don’t know whether or not Joseph the carpenter was also singing, we just know that he was resolved. Perhaps he was working through his emotions by creating a perfect crib for Jesus back at the house.

But then the next thing happened.

The sixth emotion of Christmas was irritation at the government

Read Luke 2:1-5

What kind of nation would insist on collecting taxes at Christmas time?

They had never heard of Christmas!

Rome wanted tax revenue, and to tax rightly you have to register people. So instead of finding some way to tax people where they lived, they decided to tax people based on where they were from.

Apparently there were no humanitarian exceptions for things like late term pregnancies! What a hassle.

All of a sudden Israel’s roads were filled with people travelling in all directions under the watchful eyes of Rome’s efficient army.

For Joseph and Mary this meant an 85 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem on roads full of extra people and extra smells and getting jostled as Joseph walked and Mary rode the donkey.

We aren’t told that they looked at each other and said, “Oh, this will fulfill the great prophecy of the prophet Micah!”

For them it probably was just one more sense that Rome tried to dominate every part of their lives.

You try riding a donkey side-saddle from here to Roanoke while you are 9 months pregnant and see if you can keep from being irritated.

They didn’t have any money anyway. We know that because when they circumcised Jesus at the Temple the sacrifice they brought was two doves, which was what the law said the poorer among them were to bring.

What a hassle it was meeting government regulations.

 The seventh emotion of Christmas was probably fatigue and anger.

Have you ever gotten so wore out getting ready for Christmas that you were still tired during Christmas!

Joseph and Mary could relate.

Read Luke 1:6-8

So Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem, wore out from the journey, and Mary may have even been having contractions.

They try to get a room in the inn, but there’s no vacancy at the inn. And apparently nobody willing to give up their room for a scared young couple about to have a baby far from home.

The manager of the inn did let them stay in the barn with the animals. But a crowded inn meant a barn even more crowded than usual, with more noise, more poop, and more uncleanness than usual.

We can easily appreciate how tired they were, and we can imagine that they were also beyond frustrated – I think anger is an appropriate word.

The eight emotion of Christmas was probably sadness and grief.

Many times at Christmas we are reminded who is not there with us to celebrate.

Those who have died, those who are divorced, those who are elsewhere instead of with us.

For Mary and Joseph they were about to have their first baby. This was supposed to be a time where her mother and aunts and others could assist her in getting everything right.

But it was all different than it was supposed to be! No support system here. It was all very sad, and certainly was stretching the faith of this young couple that God was with them here in the midst of these frustrating circumstances.

When you are facing things like they were facing it is easy to conclude that God is mad at you. The reality was the opposite: God adored this young couple and had a plan for their lives and the Child to be born amidst these adversities.

The ninth emotion of Christmas was encouragement from new friends.

Read Luke 2:8-20

Mary and Joseph knew what the Angel had said to them.

They also had been encouraged by Mary’s trip to see cousin Elizabeth.

But they had just been through a whirlwind of circumstances, and are exhausted.

And God sends these unlikely heroes to be another confirmation that Jesus is the long awaited Savior!

And in Matthew’s gospel we learn about the wise men appearing with money and medicine for them!

Then they went to the Temple and heard from Simeon and Anna!

God uses others to help meet our needs and know we are on the right track.

Maybe He will use you in the life of another this year through a Christmas phone call or text or letter.

The tenth emotion of Christmas was a firm resolve to follow God’s leadership.

We read in Matthew’s gospel that before they returned to Nazareth they actually had to take baby Jesus to Egypt for a couple of years for His safety.

All the previous emotions they had experienced were probably experienced again.

In those early years of being Jesus’ parents Joseph and Mary had to stay prayed up with suitcases packed as they followed God’s plan for their life.

2020 had many twists and turns that we had to navigate as people of faith – and we really don’t know what 2021 holds, but we can humbly entrust ourselves to the Savior who humbly entrusted Himself to earthly parents for a season!

We are told that Mary kept and pondered all the Christmas lessons of faith she was learning, and those same lessons will bless us!

Christmas is very special to me, because I was saved during the Christmas season on December 16th, 1984. This year I celebrated that anniversary in quarantine!

Even though it’s one of the weirdest Christmas seasons ever, the message of Christmas means as much this year to me as ever!

Oh what a God, My Savior is He, born in a manger, died on a tree!

The Ancient of Days became the Infant of Days so we could join Him in having eternal life!

Let’s Pray!