Mary was unmarried and pregnant and the punishment in her culture for sex outside of marriage was death. There is no doubt that she was privileged to give birth to the son of God but she was also persecuted and rejected by the people in her community.
Joseph heard the news that his fiance was pregnant and he knew that he was not the father. He would have lived briefly with the feeling of betrayal and disappointment until an angel filled him in on what was happening. Although Joseph was convinced, to his wider community he appeared as someone who had been mistreated and taken advantage of, considered to be a real fool by his contemporaries. People would have looked at Joseph and Mary and assumed that they had turned their backs on God because of what people thought were immoral actions. Ironically, they were serving God and Joseph actions of grace are a picture of who God is.
Mary had to make a long trip (around 70 miles) when she was heavily pregnant. The Bible doesn’t mention a donkey and so we don’t really know if there was one, if she walked or if perhaps there was a cart. What we do know is that the journey would have taken a few days and that it must have been discouraging for Mary to be forced to travel so far.
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem where Joseph’s family was from and yet no relative was willing to take them in and so Mary gives birth in the place where the animals are kept. Jesus is born in absolute squalor and poverty.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus became refugees as they were forced to flee their homeland for fear of their lives after Herod started to slaughter baby boys.
This isn’t a happy, shiny nice story, this is hard and painful life.
It is in amongst all of this this stress and hardship that Jesus the light of the world is born, bringing life and hope.
In the midst of rejection and ridicule God brings security.
In the midst of what seemed like a randomly enforced journey, God brings purpose.
In the midst of exhaustion, God brings strength.
In the midst of poverty, God brings fulfillment.
In the midst of fleeing for safety, God brings peace and hope.
In the midst of what seems like chaos, God sends people and signs to remind Mary & Joseph that he was at work and that Jesus is the son of God.
If you take Jesus out of the Christmas story then it is probably one of the saddest stories you will ever hear. We need to understand this and see that God is at work in the pain and uncertainty of life. If we follow him, he doesn’t promised us an easy ride but he does promise that he will be with us, leading and giving us what we need to carry on.
There are a lot of terrible things happening in the world at the moment and our prayer should be that we would look to Jesus and the hope and peace that only he can bring in amongst the evil that we see.
We need to remember that it was into this mess, stress, angst and darkness, that the light and the hope of the world was born.
May Jesus and his hope be born in you today. The Light really does shine the brightest in the darkest places.