I have always had a fascination with black and white photography. There is just something special and unique about the ability to have a picture tell a specific story through the use of creative lighting and various shades of gray! Back in the seventies and eighties I did a lot of research on black and white films and the differences in the ways they captured the image. Before the advent of digital photography the outcome of the photograph seemed to be totally in the hands of the photographer and the processing lab.
That is probably why I had to have total control of my prints and spent hours in the darkroom perfecting my processing skills. I was able to procure darkroom equipment and my folks allowed me to assemble a shed in our backroom and convert it to engage in my photographic indulgences while still in high school. About ten years later after my wife and I were married and just had our first child, I purchased a bigger shed and assembled it in the backyard of my Grandmother’s house that we were renting from my folks. Once again I would literally spend long hours deep into the night as I developed my own creations and the prints I had shot as the photographer for the local Catholic diocese newspaper.
I think that skill of seeing the world in black and white and the various shades of gray that make up the view you are attempting to capture has helped me to learn a valuable lesson when it comes to the stands of faith I have taken throughout my life. This has been especially prevalent in our stand for my wife’s health over these last six years.
When we first began to take a firm stand on the Word and the directions we needed to follow, I quickly realized that in faith there are NO gray areas! Every decision, every word spoken, every action taken and even every thought needs to be what is known in photographic terms as a high contrast print. In other words, there are no gray or in-between shades, but only clear crisp blacks and whites. As a Christian taking a stand of faith in God’s Word, gray areas would be considered doubt and unbelief. Either we believe what God says… or we don’t. It is yes or no, black or white!
That’s the kind of faith I see in Mary and Joseph as they were faced with another big dilemma… just when things seemed to be going good for them! I don’t read anywhere in the Biblical documentation of today’s part of the Christmas story where either of them hesitated or doubted God’s Word for one moment! It was a black and white decision. There was no room, nor time for questioning. They simple took God at His Word, followed through on His directions and were safe!
Is that the way that you approach the stands of faith you have taken throughout your life? Are you a high contrast decision maker, or one who clouds his or her mind with shades of gray? Let that thought be your guide as you read today’s Wednesday, the third week of Advent post.
Wednesday, the third week of Advent
Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 31:15 / Hosea 11:1 / Matthew 2:13-18 / John 10:10
Have you ever found yourself in the place where everything seems to be going very well when something happens that totally rearranges your life? That is the spot that Joseph, Mary and their child found themselves, in today’s section of the story of the first Christmas.
After the rocky start of having to travel to Bethlehem with a baby due at any moment and then being forced to stay in a stable because the local Inn was full, things had finally settled down into a normal routine for Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. In fact things were looking up. Following the birth of the special child they had received confirmation of the calling that was thrust upon them, by the visit of the Shepherds, the words of Simeon and Anna in the temple and more recently by the unexpected arrival of the Wise Men who had travelled a far distance from the East in order to see the One called “The King of the Jews.” The Wise Men had brought gifts befitting a King and left with them treasures of frankincense, myrrh and gold.
I would think that Joseph and Mary were just beginning to enjoy a sense of calm and stability when the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that they had to take the baby Jesus and quickly flee to Egypt as Herod was out “to destroy Him.” (Matthew 2:13 NKJV) With that urgent notice, there was no time to think but just react by quickly packing what essentials they needed and then head off to a distant land with nothing to go by except the words of God sent through the angel.
From there, all personal plans, hopes and desires where thrown out the window as Joseph, like Abraham his great ancestor, had to “trust God with an implicit dependence upon God, not knowing whiter he went.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible – See also Hebrews 1:8) The angel told Joseph when and where he needed to take his family, and also left him with the assurance that he would come again and tell them when it was safe to return to their former lives.
That is a similar assurance that we can hold close to our hearts when the circumstances of life interrupt our well laid plans. It may seem like the rug has been pulled from under us, but we are never left alone! God is always faithful to His Word. (I Thessalonians 5:24) A turn of events may look to have rerouted the course of your life, but if the original direction that you were heading was led of the Lord, He will eventually return you to the right path. In other words, never give up! Even if what has happened to you or to those around you is cataclysmic in nature, remember that “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (John 4:4 KJV)
The fallout from Herod’s fear and hatred of Jesus and what he thought that He stood for was horrendous as the king had the boys two years and younger killed. When He began His public ministry many years later, Jesus named the devil as the perpetrator of the unthinkable atrocities like Herod’s act that we see around us in this world when He stated that “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
But in the end, did this stop Joseph, Mary and Jesus? Well, as we know, the answer is NO! They made their way through the detours in their life (without any written evidence of complaining, I might add!) and successfully accomplished the plan that God had for them.
What about you and me? Can we do the same? I think that the answer to that question is also quite easy… YES! God’s Word gives us the directions, the hope, the strength, the comfort and all the love that we need to look beyond the temporary detours and live a happy and successful life. Don’t ever give up. Joseph and Mary didn’t and either does our loving and faithful heavenly Father! Take a moment and think about the detours that you may currently be walking in your life. Then hand them, one by one, to God and allow Him to redirect your steps in 2016. Have a good day. Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Who’s STEPS am I expecting today?”