18This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David's family. But before they were married, she learnt that she was going to have a baby by God's Holy Spirit.19Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to call off the wedding quietly.
20While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her.21Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said,23“A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
24After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord's angel had told him to do.25But they did not sleep together before her baby was born. Then Joseph named him Jesus.
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
Life is messy and things don’t always go according to plan.
Consider Joseph’s story: He’s a good man, in love with Mary, maybe thinking about the wedding or dreaming about growing old together. And then the slammer: he hasn’t slept with her, but she’s pregnant (v 18). Imagine the turmoil in his mind – the pain in his heart.
Consider Mary’s story: She’s unmarried, pregnant, and her fiancée thinks she cheated on him (v 19). Imagine being in her sandals. In Israel 2000 years ago pre-marital sex was taboo and woman could be stoned to death for adultery.
An unplanned pregnancy, fear, possible public disgrace and divorce, trying to explain the inexplicable . . . the Grinch shows up – he “stink, stank, stunk”1.
Which begs a question: Is it right for us to always expect things to be hunky-dory? Probably not. Life isn’t about entitlement. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee special privileges (cf. Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12; Ecclesiastes 2:23). We’re not exempt from hardship, pain, or suffering – not at Christmas or any other time of the year.
In the NIV two words stand out in the story: “But after . . .” (v 20). But after Joseph’s shock, fear, confusion, disorientation over the pregnancy, thoughts of divorcing Mary; after all these things, God shows up. He sends an angel, who appears to Joseph in a dream, with instructions and explanations (vv 20-23) that help Joseph take Mary home as his wife (vv 24-25).
“But after . . .” After the Grinch, there’s grace. Grace brings understanding, reorients, restores, heals, sustains, and enables us to get up again. Yes, the Grinch is “a crooked dirty jockey” who drives a “crooked hoss”1. But grace ultimately triumphs over the Grinch!
1. Dr Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Random House, 1957.
Lord, thank you. While life may sometimes look like “dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots”1, you’re there, reaching out to us with your kindness and unmerited favour. The Grinch doesn’t have the last word. You do! No matter what happens, we can move forward because of your grace. Amen.