Joseph, a respected member of the town, with a well-established carpentry business, discovers that his fiancée Mary is pregnant. She has been living under the strict supervision of her parents and he knows that he is not the father of the child. And he had asked the village mothers to examine her before they got engaged to ensure that she was a virgin.
And as the women gathered to draw water at the well they all passed on the gossip, which was quickly relayed as soon as the women got back home. The whole village knew.
I have often wondered what Joseph’s parents must have thought of Mary. Imagine this: Your son gets engaged, and then you hear that she is pregnant. So you storm into your son’s room and ask him – "Don’t you know how to be careful?" And he says to you: “It isn’t me.” What would the next words be? Probably something like:
“Get rid of the slut immediately.”
We have dressed up the Christmas story with so much holy language that we have lost the impact of it. Mary is about to have an illegitimate child….in a culture that did not just skinder – they stoned women for such things.
Now I do not know how Mary got pregnant. I do not believe that pregnancies can be manufactured from thin air. But I do see God taking what was a disaster and turning it into a blessing.
We are told in Matthew Chapter 1 that Mary’s scandalous illegitimate child was to be called Jesus – which means “God saves”. Matthew then points us back to the Old Testament, and says that the birth of this baby is a sign that God is with us. The shame has been turned into good news. This is the way God works with us. God can take a scandal and turn it into something useful.
We do not have to be perfect before God notices us.
God is with us in our scandal.
God is with us at the places that we feel ashamed.
God is with us when the whole community rejects us.
God is with us even when we know we have failed.
This is the good news of Christmas – even when we feel rejected by everybody – God does not reject us!
If God could love Mary, and use her scandal as a blessing to the world – then how much more will God not turn our scandals into blessings.