“Love… does not insist on its own way”
(1 Corinthians 13:4–5 ESV)
There is a part of the Christmas story that we often don’t consider or reflect upon, even though it is right at the heart of the story. It is the relationship of Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, and how their love reflects God’s love.
In many ways, Mary and Joseph’s entire lives and relationship were changed in totally unexpected ways. They were given a child totally unanticipated, with ramifications for their entire lives and for the whole world. There would be no middle ground in people’s opinions of their son, they would love him or hate him. Simeon hints at how the child who was the God/man would affect their lives:
“And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke 2:33–35 ESV)
God’s Son, their son, would cause conflict, opposition, hope, salvation, and rejection. And his parents, particularly Mary, would suffer in their love for him.
We can see from their youth, before their marriage, that their relationship was tested by this miraculous pregnancy and birth. There can be no doubt that it continued to be tested. But the transforming love of God was at work in their hearts. They each, when the angel appeared to them, were tested in their love for God and therefore each other. They had to trust God and entrust the other person to him.
And after Jesus was born, they had to entrust Jesus to God. Even at 12 years old they learned that Jesus’ first priority and obedience was to God and not to them. They lost him because he was in the temple, and they eventually lost him because he was God’s own temple.
Mary and Joseph allowed the love of God to enlarge their hearts, even though their hearts would suffer as a result. They did not insist on their own way with their son, because they learned he must suffer for God, and eventually die, because of love.