Dec 23, 2019
Christmas can be a difficult time if our focus turns to the godless hustle and bustle and we lose the meaning and purpose behind all our activities. Advice is plastered everywhere in November and December on reducing stress, simplifying, streamlining and embracing imperfection. Good advice, considering the first Christmas was anything but 2019 perfect.
Because despite the 90+ Best Christmas Decoration Ideas for the Merriest Home on the Block and 73 Christmas Dinner Ideas That Rival What's Under the Tree, Mary was staying with animals that smelled and did things in their stalls, this after riding –ripely pregnant– on a donkey for hours and then delivering a baby.
While some articles emphasize a woman's emotional distress during holidays, guys can have their stress too. It's called providing. Joseph probably was experiencing a few thoughts of his own.
We tend to portray the proud parents smiling down on Baby Jesus and assume they liked staying in a stable. This may not have been Mary and Joseph's idea of idyllic streamlining. Grateful is probably a better word. Grateful they weren't outside, and grateful they survived the event.
But while attention is given to Mary and sometimes to Joseph, did you know there's someone else in the Christmas story who gets hardly any credit, but without her hope and endurance, Christmas would be very different?
Leah was the oldest daughter of Laban. Her name means weary, and like other given names in the Old Testament may describe her mother's emotions as she delivered Leah. In Genesis 29:17, Leah is described as having tender (rak) or weak eyes, not a desirable quality as commentators explain. Whatever her condition, whether plagued with an eye disease, crossed eye, lazy eye, squinty eyes etc., her father decided to pass her off on Jacob.
Jacob wasn't interested in Leah. He was infatuated with her younger sister. Leah's father was a cagey businessman. Read deceptive and self-motivated. Leah, not her sister, was draped in garments and sent to Jacob for the wedding night. In the morning Jacob realized he'd been duped. Too late.
Leah was humiliated by both men. She lived her life unloved and unappreciated. Genesis 29:30 says, "...and he [Jacob] loved also Rachel more than Leah." (WEB) No matter what she did, she never earned Jacob's love. Jacob's sentiment was blatant since he and his sons wrote his toledoth, his history. But God saw Leah was hated. Such a strong word but that is the term, śânê', in Genesis 29:31.
Leah's circumstances were hard to ignore. They screamed at her in the sight of everyone. But God saw Leah's hurt and rewarded her. Through Jacob she gave birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Asher and Gad are also credited to her and perhaps Jacob's only daughter.
Here's the good part. Mary and Joseph were both descendents of Judah. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Anna the prophetess in Luke 2:36 belonged to the tribe of Asher. And just to be clear, all the Jewish priests and Davidic kings descend from Leah.
Christmas truly is the story of love. It is God's love for the world and for one discouraged young woman named Leah. We might forget about Leah's hope and yearning for love, but we celebrate her legacy.
What does this mean for us? Do we struggle for acceptance? For love and appreciation? Are you depressed at Christmas because you think no one cares about you? I say think because there is Someone worth a thousand plus someones who does care. In fact, He loves you. And if you'd just take the time to read His words to you, listen for His voice to speak to you, you'd discover the Love that will never forsake you.
No matter what you eat or how many gifts you open, maybe none, the perfect Christmas is focused on Jesus, His finished work for us on the cross completed with love and the Father's abundant loving grace.
Merry Christmas! May your days be blessed with His love.
Image by Taisiia Stupak courtesy of Unsplash
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