Summary: Out of the cultural shame surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, God brought Great Joy to ALL PEOPLE. He will also take my shame and bring joy.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
Matthew’s account of the nativity gives us details about Mary and Joseph that Luke leaves out. Matthew’s account opens up a window on some of the personal pain…even shame...that was required to bring us the beauty of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
As beautiful as this story is to us…and we should view it as a very beautiful story…in it’s original context, as it originally happened, it was a story that was marked with shame. This morning, as we continue our series, “The Dark Side of Christmas” I want to explore the cultural shame that shrouded the nativity story and look at how God took that shame and brought from it amazing joy.
I want us to see that God is an expert at taking shame, pain, and confusion and creating indescribable joy. God’s in the business of turning our shame in to joy…our mourning into dancing.
Mary & Joseph - The shame & joy of an unplanned pregnancy
Joseph and Mary were “Betrothed” (Explain the custom of betrothal)
• Never alone indoors (some sources say that the couple is never ALONE)
• The betrothal lasts a year
• The husband spends this time preparing a home for his family
• The bride spends this time preparing for the wedding
• When the home was ready, the groom came to receive his bride (usually, though not exclusively, at midnight)
In the meantime…
• A token of worth has been exchanged (usually a ring or a coin) to “seal the deal”
• Obviously, since they cannot be alone together, there is no sexual contact/union until the actual wedding takes place.
• Though not yet living together or having sexual contact, this agreement could be broken only by divorce
Mary was now pregnant and Joseph was not the father
• The penalty for adultery during betrothal was more severe than the penalty for adultery after the marriage was finalized. (I’m not certain why this was so but that is what the various sources I checked all indicated)
• The typical penalty called for a public divorce and then the woman was taken to the front of her father’s house where she was stoned to death for her failure to remain faithful to her betrothed husband.
• There was shame and disgrace in this situation because it calls Mary’s purity and righteousness into question. (not to mention the shame/embarrassment her family experiences since they have already received a dowry from Joseph and/or his family)
A difficult choice for Joseph
• divorce the woman he has chosen as his wife and to whom he is betrothed, possibly causing her death and certainly branding her as unfaithful
• Marry her and accept responsibility for her condition and take on and share in the shame that she is experiencing.
“Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly”
Matthew 1:19 (NIV)
Joseph’s initial response was the response that would be expected of a righteous man. He would divorce her…breaking the betrothal. But Joseph was also a man of compassion and he chose to divorce her quietly…not a public divorce that would humiliate her and her family and ultimate end in her death by stoning.
However, God had another plan in mind. God steps in and intervenes, changing Joseph’s plans.
But after he (Joseph) had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."