“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
On any given day, my husband and I have a list of tasks we need to accomplish for our family, even more so during this time of year. There are kids to drive to school, pick up from school, take to practice, and pick up from practice. There are performances to attend; Secret Santa gifts to pick up; surprise class party donations that are needed. And, inevitably, science fair projects that need to be completed.
After almost 20 years of marriage, I am most grateful that my husband helps me bear these burdens. We huddle up, review the responsibilities, and divide and conquer. We support each other by listening to each other’s grievances. We encourage one another as we attempt to accomplish our goals. Our marriage is about distributing the load. And, as my children age, they too will join in the family responsibilities, carrying their part of the burden of life. Single, married, with kids or not–we need each other because, without this burden distribution, it would be too much.
A Depiction of Burden-Bearing
When Joseph and Mary began their trek to Bethlehem for the census, we see numerous images of burden-bearing. Mary bore the weight of advanced pregnancy, taking on the burden of growing life in her young body. This is on top of the burden she bore of being considered a liar and an adulterer. Though Joseph agreed to wed her, she would not have been let off the hook of communal censor. She didn’t move to a new village but had to walk the streets every day being misunderstood and judged.
Joseph bore his share of burdens also. He stood beside Mary as she received judgment, most assuming he could not wait until marriage to consummate. If not, they probably found him weak, a cuckold. In addition, Joseph took on the burden of safely transporting both Mary and the child to his ancestral home, a journey that took several days. Without Joseph, the prophecy of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem would not have been fulfilled as there would have been no need for her to travel there and there would have been no way she could navigate that journey on her own and in her state.
Jesus Is the Burden-Bearer
The birth of Jesus is foremost a story of burden-bearing. This is fitting because Jesus’s life was about bearing the sinful burden of the world. In order for him to be born, an example of burden-bearing was displayed for us to remember every time we celebrate His birth. He was birthed in burden-bearing, and he died bearing our burdens–a full redemptive circle.
Jesus was birthed in burden-bearing, and he died bearing our burdens–a full redemptive circle.
It is not only the thematic message of the Christmas (and redemption) story. It is also a call to obedience. For those who seek to fulfill the law, we are told to bear one another’s burdens. We can look to the example set by Joseph and Mary to guide our obedience.
Christmas Lessons on Bearing Burdens
- Offer grace before judgment. Joseph’s hesitation in bringing judgment to Mary protected God’s miracle.
- Be open to being supported as well as giving. Too often we will burn ourselves out in the name of service without understanding that we are all meant to bear each other’s burdens. It is a communal effort.
- Look to see what relief you can bring, no matter how small. The innkeeper missed out on a miracle that evening.
It is these actions, more than anything else we do this Christmas season, that celebrates the true story of birth. Let’s appreciate those who bear burdens with us, and let’s be on the lookout for the offering we can bring.