The late Martin Luther King Jr. once powerfully quipped in a speech, "We may have come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now." This statement presented a diverse and problematic past while inspiring his listeners to a future of harmonious cooperation. Individual interests had to be modified, reshaped or set aside in order for the joint action of the civil rights movement to take place. Personal biases and individual agendas, however, stood in the way.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it can be at times to get individuals to work together for a common goal? If you are a parent, chances are you have had to face the challenge of getting your children to work with you on things like bedtime, curfew or homework. Perhaps in your workplace, if you are sharing space with others, you have experienced the difficulty of getting everyone to comply with the group's standard of cleanliness for example. Maybe it is you that finds it hard to work side by side with others because of your own personal bad experiences.
We can learn much from the first Christmas cooperation challenge, which of course, involved Mary and Joseph and a lot of "shock and awe." Mary is informed by an angel in Luke 1:31-32, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." Joseph similarly is enlightened to not estrange his pregnant fiancee but as it says in Matthew 1:20-21, "Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." If you know the story, you are aware that all this worked out in the end, but how it worked out can provide light for our paths.
Mary and Joseph both simply cooperated with God. In Luke 1:38, we find Mary's response to the angel's instruction, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." Joseph's response is shared in Matthew 1:24, "When Joseph woke up (from the vision) he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him." They both decided to join God in what he was trying to accomplish and this brought harmony to their relationship together.
Aligning with God involved both Mary and Joseph laying aside their own personal agendas. This new plan was disruptive to Mary's plans of marriage and intrusive to her life. I can only image how Joseph felt having to explain to others that he was marrying a pregnant woman, and she was not carrying his child. But when Mary and Joseph allowed the true light of Christmas to shine through, it changed everything for them and forever.
Are you ready to cooperate with God, joining him in what he is trying to accomplish through you this Christmas season? Maybe God wants you to work with him over a forgiveness issue in your family. It could be that God wants you to partner with him by generously giving a financial gift to aid others. Let's make it our goal to cooperate with God and discover how that draws us all closer together.
What if you and your family decided to cooperate with God this Christmas season? What would happen? Your lives would be richer and life's cooperation challenges would become peaceful harmony.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church. Genesis meets at 9:30 a.m. Sundays at North Central Michigan College and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. Visit www.genesiswired.com online for more information, or comment on Twitter @NormByers.