Character of Christmas

by APC on December 18, 2014

Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual, encompassing their behavior and thoughts. Character, in short, is who we really are. There are many characters in the story of Christmas, and we can learn valuable lessons from them: who God wants us to model ourselves after and we shouldn’t.

Most of the time we tend to study the Bible scripture-by-scripture or by topic. Character studies are a different way to study the Bible, as they look at a unique individual and examine their life after they’ve lived it. We can apply their life lessons to our own and our spiritual walk with God. In this “character study” of Christmas, we will look at Herod, Mary, and Joseph.

Herod

Herod’s story in relation to the birth of Christ is founded in Matthew 2. Herod was placed into power in Judea by the Roman empire. During this time, it was common for the Romans to conquer and area and set up a leader to rule over the area, but the individual would take direction from Roman leadership. History tells us that Herod was obsessed with power and called himself the “King of the Jews,” even though was an Edomite by lineage.

Through the study of Herod, we can see what God teaches us about ego, insecurity, and façade. Herod’s life teaches us:

The Top Four Ways to be an Insecure Christian

Feeling Disturbed and Threatened by Anyone Else with Power or Authority

Herod, when hearing about the birth of Christ, he was troubled (Matthew 2:3). If we find ourselves threatened by someone else’s success, or intimidated when others come to help, these are not characteristics we should display. Herod felt this way, and instead of embracing the Savior that was to come, he set out to try to destroy Him (Matthew 2:16).

Using People to Serve Our Purpose

Herod tried to manipulate the wise men to obtain information about Jesus that would aid him in his rise to power. There are people we know that will stay around others as long as they are getting what they want, but when that stops, they suddenly “disappear.” Herod allowed his purpose to rise over the people (the wise men) he was speaking with. We should never let solving a problem become more important than loving people. People are always more important than our agenda. God interrupted His plan because of His love for people. God’s Plan A did not involve going to a cross.

Lying to Hide

Herod said what he wanted to give the perception of what he “needed.” All was done to serve his own purpose and to hide the truth (Matthew 2:4–7). Many times we cloak our real issues. We try to evade and avoid uncomfortable circumstances instead of confronting problems or people face-to-face.

Jesus knows there is nothing wrong with confrontation—He knows people have conflict. However, there is a right way to deal with conflict. Jesus explains in Matthew 5:23–24 that we should reconcile a conflict with a brother before we offer a gift on God’s altar. Additionally in Matthew 18:15, Jesus explains that if someone offends us, we should go and tell them. If we reconcile our differences, we will “…gain [our] brother” (KJV).

Working to Destroy Any Potential Threat to Our Ego

Herod was a monster and a murderer, and would kill anyone or anything that got in his way. Augustus Caesar said that he would rather be Herod’s sow than his son. Herod killed two of his sons and his wife due to suspicion. We have to be careful not to become too consumed by our ego that we forget to trust others and God.

Herod’s life can be summed up in one word: insecurity. When we feel insecure, we want to eliminate any threat. When we come to Christ and surrender our life to Him, we can’t let the “natural” human feelings compromise our relationship with Christ. A life lived for Christ does not breed insecurity—it abolishes it.

Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge” (KJV). God’s children always have a place of refuge in Him. We are wise to take our fears, threats, and worries and cast them on the LORD. We need to have a strong confidence that He can navigate us through our life’s problems.

Mary

Mary’s story begins in Luke 1:28. We learn that she is chosen by God to be the selected vessel to bear His son, Jesus. In all of Mary’s experiences, we can learn about faith, willingness, and purity.

Example of Purity

In Luke 1:28, Scripture states:

And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women (KJV).

Mary was a woman who was blessed among all other women, and was favored by the Lord in how she conducted herself spiritually and morally. She was “pure” in God’s eyes. Nazareth was a city that was known for promiscuous women, but in the midst of the city, Mary was maintaining her purity to such an extent that God chose her in the middle of it. Because of her purity, she was chosen to give birth to God’s child.

Example of Faith and Willingness

When Mary was told by the angel that she would bear a child and his name would be Jesus (Luke 1:31), she asked “how shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34, KJV). While Mary had a close walk with the Lord, she still had questions. She didn’t understand all the “details” about what God was preparing to do in her life. God is not intimidated by our questions—our whole Christian life should be a quest for knowledge to know more about Him.

When we ask God a question, we may not like the answer. Mary wasn’t married, and she was a virgin. When the angel told her she would conceive a child, Mary could have been very easily concerned about what people would think about her. But, she knew that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). She responded to the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38, KJV). Mary basically said “here is your servant, Lord.” She offered herself and her will over to God.

Mary understood the social conundrums that she could face and the possibility of death by accepting God’s plan. She didn’t have a promise that her fiancée (Joseph) wouldn’t stone her to death (as was customary of the time). But, Mary understood the significance of what God wanted to do in her life. There must be a willingness for God’s will to manifest in our life regardless of how uncomfortable it can be for us. God’s will does not always match our want.

Mary’s faith becomes an important characteristic because despite her odds she holds onto a firm trust (belief) in God. She knows that God is active in her life. In our own walk with God, the more we align ourselves to Him the more He can trust us with His will.

Joseph

Joseph’s story begins in Matthew 1:18. Scripture explains that Joseph was espoused (engaged) to Mary, and that he discovers prior to marriage, Mary is found with child (pregnant). Later in Scripture when Jesus turns the age of 12, we do not read anything about Joseph. Theologians believe that Joseph was much older than Mary and may have died, which would explain the absence of him at the cross, and all the accounts of Jesus’ ministry.

When we learn about the Christmas story, Joseph tends to be a back-drop character—one only found in the shadow of the story. But, we need to remember that just as God chose Mary to bear His child, God chose Joseph to be a key character in this story. Not every man is Israel would have done what Joseph did in reaction to the events that would transpire.

Example of Humility

Humility is the freedom from pride and arrogance. When we read about Joseph, Scripture tells us in Matthew 1:19 that when Joseph discovers his bride-to-be (Mary) is pregnant, he did not want to “make her a publick example, [and] was minded to put her away privily” (KJV). According to Mosaic law, in was in Joseph’s full rights as the fiancée to humiliate Mary for pregnancy outside of the bonds of marriage. He had every right to walk away from this promise of marriage, or to stone her to death, but his goal was to deal with the matter privately.

Joseph’s ideal was to handle the situation the right way. He wanted to extend mercy to Mary. Matthew 5:7 tells us “blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (KJV). Joseph was free from pride and arrogance, and put aside his ego by not exercising his right to take Mary’s life. Philippians 2:3 says “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (KJV). We are to put others first instead of ourselves, and Joseph did this per his actions when he responded to the news that Mary was pregnant.

Example of Balance

Scripture tells us that after Joseph hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he “thought on these things” (Matthew 1:20). Joseph wasn’t hasty in his actions—he took time, stopped, thought about it, and weighed his options. Joseph thought about this long enough that the Lord appeared to him in a dream. God told Joseph the same message the angel gave Mary—that she would conceive a son through the Holy Ghost, His name would be called Jesus, and He would save people from their sins (Matthew 1:20–21).

Throughout Scripture, we cannot identify a time when Joseph speaks; we only see Joseph think, listen, and obey. We can observe great things from his character and behavior. Joseph held within his power to divert God’s plan to save the world through His son, Jesus Christ. But, because Joseph was a man of balance and paused long enough to think about his decision, he was able to take the right action.

Living an unbalanced life can cause a lot of problems. If we do not live a balanced life, we can:

End Up with A Lot of Anger

Proverbs 14:16 notes, “A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident” (KJV). The wise are cautious and avoid danger whenever they are able—they do not plunge ahead into the unknown. However, those who are short-tempered do foolish things.

Act Based on a Lack of Information

If we don’t take the time to obtain correct information or all of the necessary information, we can act improperly. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (KJV). We need to listen before we speak, and listen before we act. God will show us how to distinguish from right and right, but we must listen to Him.

Example of Integrity

Joseph was completely enamored at what was happening to his wife’s body. He was determined to treat her and her child with respect and integrity; therefore, Joseph “knew [Mary] not till she had brought forth her firstborn son” (Matthew 1:25, KJV). As her husband, he had every right to exercise certain rights in their relationship, but he abstained until Jesus was born. Joseph allowed God to interrupt his plans and use him and Mary for a greater plan. We can ask ourselves today, Are we willing to let God interrupt our plans?

Clues of Character

God uses characters—people and their behaviors—to paint a part of the picture that comes with serving Him. In this story of Christmas, we could read about Christ’s birth without these character details. But, God wanted us to see the story so we could not only learn about our Savior, but how we can live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on December 17, 2014