Summary: God is working, almost invisibly, to draw his creation back to his heart. Come and see how God is working, even without giving all the details to this young couple.
What Mary and Joseph Didn’t Know
The Christmas story is a remarkably well-known one. The majority of those who identify themselves as Christian in any manner are well versed with the story of the birth of Jesus. I also would venture to say that, in the United States at least, a great many of those who identify themselves with another religious grouping, or even those professing no spiritual faith at all, are all likely to be familiar with the most basic elements of the nativity account.
There was a woman named Mary who became pregnant, supposedly without the assistance of a human partner and who gave birth to a baby to whom she gave the name Jesus.
And the story is rather simple and subtle – not in terms of the spiritual wonder and dynamics and theology involved. But it is told in a remarkably humble, innocent, understated, almost naïve manner. Both Luke and Matthew walk through the story without a lot of fanfare or attention thrown around. Oh, there are some amazing things taking place, some wondrous, fantastic moments in human history here. But God seems to go out of his way to attract only a specific amount of attention to specific places and to specific people. He knows he’ll eventually have the attention of the world centering on this story. But while it’s playing out, he almost seems to act surreptitiously.
I’ll give you a small example of what I mean. Look at how God brought his son into this world. He sends Gabriel to speak with a young Jewish girl and inform her about His plans for her. Quickly following Gabriel’s revelation to Mary, she discovers that she is indeed pregnant.
Now when my wife was pregnant with our firstborn child, we were serving in youth ministry in Amarillo with a large program. We knew the changes that were coming would impact the way we ministered to students and families so we decided to tell everyone fairly early in the process. We were greeted with ‘congratulations’ and encouragements’ and great gifts from that church. In fact, one of the deacons, Michael, went well out of his way to affirm and encourage my wife about the miracle God was working in her and affirm the spiritual and physical beauty a woman carries when she carries a child. He’d make a big fuss over her, setting a wonderful example for me on how to confirm my wife’s confidence in her beauty and loveliness.
But you can be quite sure, there was no such fuss being made over Mary in her hometown. This wasn’t a 30-year-old woman walking around with her husband, proudly jutting out her abdomen for everyone to come along and touch.
Girls were betrothed in marriage in their middle teens, 13-17 those days. This was a young, innocent teenager walking around with a mid-section that was about to testify to reality she could hardly explain and that no one would be inclined to believe.
Perhaps this has something to do with why Mary joined Joseph on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to participate in the census. By law, Mary wasn’t required to go. Because she’s betrothed to Joseph and with child, she can stay home and be cared for by family and friends. But perhaps the grueling hills and pathway and the 80 miles to Jerusalem offer more solace and peace than the short walks around town and around the leering eyes of neighbors and family.