Isaiah 7:14 NKJV
Matthew 1:23 NKJV
Luke 1:26-38 NKJV
BE Grateful Series
The miracle story of Mary, and really Joseph as well is told every year during the Christmas and Advent Season throughout the world.
As an adult I’ve felt like while the story is a great reminder of the wonder of the birth of Jesus, some of the gutsy details have been glossed over.
The Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14 foretold, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
The problem with Mary being a Virgin who was with child is that in the 1st Century that was totally TOTALLY unacceptable for Mary. If publicly exposed she would have been stoned to death.
It was also totally unacceptable for Joseph, her betrothed to hide it.
We read in Matthew 1:23, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
In Luke 1:26-38 we read:
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But [f]when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”
No matter how many times I’ve read this in scripture, it’s still wonderful. It’s the Christmas story!
But there are some things we know from the culture at the time that shed new light on the story.
Mary was a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph was probably much older because Jewish men could not take a wife until they had an established trade and could provide a home for their family.
The Virgin birth would have been very difficult for Mary to explain to Joseph.
It would have resulted in trust issues between the young girl Mary and the older man, Joseph (see Joseph’s dream in Matthew 1:20-21).
But, what about their neighbors in Nazareth?
What would their families have thought?
How would Mary’s parents have dealt with it? Nothing was mentioned about Mary’s parents and the Virgin birth. How did her parents feel about it and what would they have said to their extended Jewish families and their neighbors?
How would Joseph’s family have felt about the Virgin birth? What would they have said to Joseph? What would they have advised him to do about Mary being pregnant?
How did Mary and Joseph overcome the gossip in Nazareth the Virgin birth would have caused? Their Jewish neighbors would have certainly calculated the timing of the birth.
Even though Mary went off to visit her cousin Elizabeth, her neighbors probably would not have forgotten about the timing of the birth of Jesus.
So what’s the point of thinking about the issues they probably faced?
The point is, it wouldn’t have been an easy ordeal for Mary and Joseph or for their families.
It would have required great faith on the part of Mary and Joseph.
Joseph’s faith would have been tried and tested. His family would have struggled with it as well because it could have caused them great shame.
We tend to talk about the Virgin Birth as a miracle (and it was) but we don’t talk about how difficult it was for Mary and Joseph and their families. We tend to take it for granted because we have thousands of years of history that have chronicled and glorified the wonderful story.
But we haven’t walked in Mary’s sandals, we don’t really know how Joseph would have struggled to believe what Mary told him.
We simply accept it.
We are on the flip side.
WE KNOW Isaiah foretold a Virgin would give birth to a son who would be called Immanuel.
We do not know about the pain and heartache they would have felt.
We do not know about the fear they faced.
In my lifetime, it’s been about a glorious event that was wonderful and miraculous. Until I started studying this lesson I’d never really thought about their fears and their pain-filled feelings. I hadn’t thought about how very much faith would have been required of them.
In reality, it was a crazy story.
A Jewish teenage girl was promised to be a Jewish man’s wife. Then, she turned up pregnant but she said she’d never slept with an man. Probably, the neighbors would have thought Joseph lost his head and made a mistake and Mary didn’t want to rat him out.
Her parents probably grilled her about what happened and her Mother went a little crazy yelling about what she’d done and what the neighbors would say.
Her dad was probably scared to death that Joseph would back out of the deal and then no man would ever want to marry his daughter and she would die alone, an old maid.
Joseph’s parents probably went nuts asking him what he was thinking?!? Did you do this? Don’t you know better? They probably confronted him about how much shame would come to their family name because of this! Joseph’s brothers probably teased him…
And the neighbors could have had a field day with this! They were in a Jewish community so they would have kept their comments within the community of faith, but if they found out about it they would certainly have had something to say about it!
We aren’t told about anything that went on behind the scenes. We are told a wonderful thing happened when the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin girl Mary and she became the Mother of God.
And we think it was easy…
The truth is there was nothing easy about it.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Faith
Think about the most difficult act of faith you’ve faced and compare that to what Mary and Joseph had to go through because of the Virgin Birth.
Think about it…
In God, Deborah