“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.”
— John 3:16
When the angel visits Mary, I’m not shocked that she accepts the baby, but I am shocked that God leaves him with her. She’s not an experienced and accomplished mother. She’s not in a stable relationship. She’s not in a financially comfortable place in life. Despite her inexperience, despite her fiancé, despite her poverty, despite Jesus’ inestimable value, God entrusts His only child to her.
We talk a lot in church about people putting their faith in God, but for a moment we should also acknowledge the faith God puts in people. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” to an inexperienced mom and her mistrusting husband, to be born in the most disappointing of situations.
She wouldn’t have been expecting a jacuzzi birth tub and an epidural, but she would have imagined giving birth with her mom there encouraging her, with her grandmother providing a quilt to wrap the newborn in, with her aunt sending flowers, with neighbors bringing meals, with her friends at church praying for her, with Joseph’s buddies showing up with “It’s a boy” cigars.
Instead the conception is kept quiet, the carried child camouflaged, his birth less Handel’s “Hallelujah” and more “Hee Haw.”
When Jesus is born there is no party, no light blue decorations, no cute little outfits, but only husband and wife whispering a little prayer of thanks to God for their sweet little one, then nervously looking over their shoulders.
Government forces search for them: Joseph and Mary each become a person of interest. An amber alert is issued with a description of their donkey. Yet they are faithful. Yet they are obedient. Yet they go wherever the Lord leads.
None of us will go through what Joseph and Mary did, but we will all have moments that will challenge our faith: we will look at our lives and wonder how we ended up where we are, we will look at a relationship and wonder what became of it, we will stand in the cemetery and stare at a casket with disbelief, we will sit in the examination room and hear the diagnosis, and weep.
Yet Jesus entered our darkness so we could experience his light. He was laid down in filth to lift us up to cleanliness. He became vulnerable so we could become invincible.
This Christmas, whatever gifts we give or receive or return, let us always first remember the reason gifts are given: because —incredible as it is —God “gave His only Son” to us, for us, out of love for each one of us.