Summary: How we respond is more important than whether or not God explains himself.
Scandals of Christmas: Part 1—The Scandal of the Virgin Birth
In some ways it is an interesting time to begin this new series. It was this weekend, one year ago, that news of a potential scandal involving golfer Tiger Woods began playing out in the media. As always seems to be the case, the public’s appetite for such a story was voracious and grew more so with each tawdry detail that came to light.
As days and weeks passed by, it became increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction as Tiger and his family steadfastly refused to speak to the media. Their circle the wagons approach fanned the flames of controversy higher and higher. When the dust finally settled, we found that indeed a scandal had taken place.
What exactly do I mean with the word scandal? Scandal means “a disgraceful or discreditable action or circumstance; an offense caused by a fault or misdeed; damage to reputation; public disgrace.”
Sadly, all of these things apply to the story of Tiger’s fall. They also apply to his former wife Elin and their children Sam and Charlie. All of their lives have been indelibly marked by scandal.
Today, and for the next two weeks, I want to use the word scandal as we think about Christmas. That’s right! I want to talk about the scandal of Christmas.
Christmas in the United States may not be scandalous but we do have our annual controversies—namely, can nativities legally be displayed in public places and should retailers say, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?
Such trivialities were not the case over 2000 years ago.
The nine months leading up to the birth of our savior were steeped in scandal from the very beginning.
Luke 1:26-38 (NIV 1984)
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV 1984)
18 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. 19 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.
20 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[a] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[b]—which means, “God with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Scandal of the Virgin Birth
Do you see the scandal brewing? A couple is pledged to be married. (Such a pledge was so serious that it could only be broken through divorce. In fact, if one was to die before the wedding the survivor would be called a widow or widower.)