Something about a baby changes lives. I remember when my wife let me know that she was expecting our first child. Life changed from that moment as we were no long just husband and wife, we were parents. We prepared the house for our child’s arrival. We got the nursery ready. We talked about work and school, trying to figure out how all of this would be possible given our current financial situation. A quick hint – most people are never ready for the financial changes a child brings. We didn’t do a gender reveal party, because, we didn’t know that our child was a boy until he was born. Does that tell you how old we are or what? Back then, we weren’t so old and it was an exciting time of preparation and sharing of love.
Mary had a bit of a different problem. She’d been betrothed to a man named Joseph. Many translations of the Bible use the word engaged, but the process was different back then. The betrothal period, depending on where you lived, was about a year long. It was a bond that could only be broken by divorce. In the midst of this time, Mary had her visit with Gabriel and got the news about her child. It was scandalous, and Joseph had a right to make a public spectacle of Mary by divorcing and renouncing her. Sex was not an option during a betrothal period, and a pregnancy was a sure sign that Mary, in this case, had been unfaithful. Well, almost sure. Joseph was going to put Mary away privately, according to Matthew’s account, and then, he got visited by the angel in a dream. Still, the scandal was there, and Mary headed to see Elizabeth, her cousin, in the hill country. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43 NIV)
Elizabeth seemed to know what was going on. She was past her childbearing years, but she was now pregnant, albeit naturally. She had plenty of time to think with the silence in the house. When Mary visited her, she believed that Mary’s pregnancy was of God and the reaction of her baby, John, confirmed it. This is when it all began. Elizabeth, instead of condemning Mary for getting pregnant out of wedlock, recognized the special nature of Jesus. This child Mary would bear would be blessed in ways that neither of these two ladies truly understood just yet. Just having Mary there was a blessing because of the child she bore.
It’s important to remember that the birth of Jesus that we celebrate during this season is just the beginning. When Jesus was born, it marked a change in the way God dealt with us. No longer would He look upon our sins and count them against us. Instead, God would look on us as sinners and show us grace and mercy. We still haven’t experienced the end of the story of Christmas, although the crucifixion and the Resurrection remind us of God’s power over life and death. It was through God’s power that Mary had Jesus. It was through God’s power that Jesus led a sinless life. It was through God’s power that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. It was through God’s power that Jesus was resurrected from the grave and will return again. It is through God’s power that we receive mercy and grace for our everyday lives. We might echo Elizabeth and ask why we’re so favored that our Lord would do all this for us. All we can say is that God’s grace is mysterious and amazing.
Thank You, Lord, for Christmas. Thank You for entering into the arena of mankind and showing all of us Your love and grace. Help us to deal with the problems of life through Your grace.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.