Summary: Being a mother can be a costly thing. But following the call of God to be a mother of the Savior can be a costly thing as well. As Christians, sometimes, we tend to sanitize the Christmas story. We think of it as a heartwarming story of a young mother giv
A Scandalous Love Affair: when life and faith doesn't make sense
Dick Hillis tells the story of a mission trip to Africa. “She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held her tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into the mother’s outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little — but it was all I had. Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby’s mouth, she forced the soft, warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.” And then he writes, “Love is a costly thing.”
Being a mother can be a costly thing. But following the call of God to be a mother of the Savior can be a costly thing as well. As Christians, sometimes, we tend to sanitize the Christmas story. We think of it as a heartwarming story of a young mother giving birth to her first child who is in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. But from the very beginning, this call of God on Mary’s life was fraught with risk and danger. Mary was an unwed teenager who had been engaged to Joseph and now finds herself pregnant. All of us here and all of the people back then know how a 13 or 14 year-old girl gets pregnant. And Jewish law was very clear about adultery. The penalty was divorce at best which meant Mary would become a social outcast in Nazareth, having to deal with the whispers, the talk, the looks and the inevitable condemnation. She also would have to deal with bringing shame to her family. But the law also gave the option of the death penalty by being stoned to death. So this news from the angel is anything but good for Mary.
She discovers that following God’s will for your life can indeed be very costly. But how can this be when you’re following God and doing his will? When we’re faithful and doing God’s will, shouldn’t life be safe and easy. Shouldn’t things go our way? If we’re really honest: we believe following Jesus isn't supposed to get messy. But it does. A life of faith and doing the will of God is anything but safe and predictable. It is fraught with danger, risk and even opposition. Suddenly, life in God doesn’t make much sense. And yet despite all of this, Mary says yes to God.
There are several things we learn from Mary’s encounter with the angel and the call of God. First, when life doesn’t make sense, God is with you. "The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'" When God calls, God never leaves you alone or hanging. When you follow God and say yes to Him, the promise we can hold onto is that He is with you. This is why Jesus is called, ‘Emmanuel, God with us.’ But that doesn’t mean that things won’t get difficult. Now comes the messy part. The angel says, "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus." Remember Mary was just a kid of 12 or 13, she was engaged and was told she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She had been faithful in her belief and faithful to her fiancée for we are told she a virgin. She had worked hard to do everything right. She had done everything to be good - and bad shows up. Sometimes participating in God’s plan of salvation creates all kinds of pain and difficulties in life. And Mary knows the law well and the punishment for adultery. And then there’s having to face her fiancé Joseph. Matthew tells us he isn't buying it. Who could blame him? Can you imagine your fiancée coming to you and saying she got pregnant by God? I might be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m not that stupid.
The call to faith and obedience to God does not mean that life will get easier. I think a lot of us think that if we believe in Jesus, if we lead a good life and if we’re faithful, life will get easier and less difficult. When in fact the Biblical record shows that the more faithful and obedient you are to God’s will, the more problems arise and the more difficulties come our way. Why? Because the world always opposes God’s will because they’d rather pursue their own selfish desires. We also believe that the call of God and the journey of faith will be neat and predictable. I wish it was. I wish the life of faith would follow this predictable cause and effect pattern but it doesn't. Nowhere does the Bible promise that a life of faith will always make sense or follow a predictable path? Think about Jesus' birth. God sent his Son as Savior of the world and as a direct consequence of his birth, Herod murdered 100’s of babies under the age of two. Or think of the apostles. They commit their life and give everything up to follow Jesus and each of them dies a martyr, tortured, killed, and crucified. How can this be?