This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
People these days tend to think that unwed mothers, infidelity and divorce are realities unique to our modern, permissive culture. We might be surprised to realize that people long ago dealt with moral failings and marriage problems. The Bible, in fact, has many references to these sorts of issues, including some of Jesus’ own words about infidelity and divorce. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Mary’s pregnancy was not the result of a moral failing and Joseph didn’t actually divorce her. True enough. The situation later became clear to Joseph, who by faith accepted the truth about Mary’s baby and where He came from. We also know that Mary’s relative Elizabeth understood what a special gift from God Mary’s baby was. And yet, it’s still true that scripture records the fact that the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth were clouded by suspicions of “public disgrace.”
I often wonder why the Bible includes certain details while leaving others out. Wouldn’t the Christmas story be simpler if we didn’t have to think about Joseph questioning Mary’s purity or considering an end to their engagement? We know it all worked out, but why would God want the story of our Savior’s birth to include even a hint of impropriety or scandal? Maybe because it reminds us why Jesus was born. He came into our messy world to deal with our messy lives, and He wasn’t afraid to let the mess of our sin fall on him. Jesus lived a sinless life, and his birth was a holy gift of God’s love given through Mary’s humble service. Jesus never did anything wrong, but his birth, his ministry and his death were all clouded by the messy suspicions and false accusations of our broken world. In the end, Jesus died on the cross to pay for it all and to wash us clean.
That’s good news for us, and we need to be reminded of it because we are sinners. What people whispered about Mary and her Child may actually be true about you and me and people we know. The Bible records lots of sins committed by otherwise good, faithful people, like Abraham, David, Peter and Paul. We are all sinners, and we all need a Savior. That’s why Jesus was born into our messy world and why his story includes all the messy details.
Father in Heaven, thank You for being honest about the realities of our world and about my need for a Savior. Forgive me for my sin, and help me to live in ways that obey Your word and honor the name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian