In the first Century, a Jewish betrothal or engagement was an essential part of the marriage process and was as binding as marriage itself. Those initiating the betrothal and witnesses to the event would likely sign a marriage contract called a ketubah. Therefore, if one or both parties wished to end the engagement, they would be required to get a divorce. It was also a common custom for the bride to join the groom’s father’s household rather than the groom and the bride staying alone. After the engagement, the groom would return to his father’s house to prepare a place for him and his bride to live. This process traditionally took a year or more. When the home was complete, the groom would return and fetch his bride. The bride would not know the day or hour of her husband-to-be’s return, so the groom’s arrival was usually announced with a trumpet call and a shout, so the bride had some forewarning. The wedding was usually a week or so with banquets, music, and friends and family all celebrating together. For the bride and her family, it would take months of preparation.
I wonder what Mary was planning and arranging for her wedding week. Music, food, and events for the couple had to be planned months ahead. When the groom was ready for the wedding, a trumpet would sound, and her betrothed, Joseph, would come and get her to signify the beginning of the marriage. Until such a time, Mary wondered what that moment would be like. Have we completed everything that needs to be done? What will it be like to be married? How many children will we have? Where will we eventually live?
All was going well according to her plans. Everything, so far, was in perfect order. She was happy and content with what was happening in her life. And then, in a moment, her world changed, along with all her plans for her upcoming wedding. The angel Gabriel made a surprise visit to the young teen and announced that God had found favor with her and she was going to give birth to God’s Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power from the Most High would overshadow her. Her response was quick and straightforward: “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.” She knew full well that her being pregnant before her wedding would separate her from the families and women in her town. She would be ostracized. Alone. And to make matters worse, Joseph considered divorcing her because she had broken Jewish law.
In the midst of her broken dreams and plans for a wedding, God stepped in to call Mary on a mission whose outcome changed the world forever. God would forever revere her obedience to do, by human standards, the impossible.
What happens in our lives when we are interrupted from the path we were living? What if God would divert your journey with news that you have cancer? What if a family member dies, you lose your job, or your best friend turns away from you? God uses these dark moments to draw us closer to Him. He wants us to know that we are not alone; He is with us always. It is in these places that we experience His presence, His comfort, and His truth. God’s grace is in good times and hard times as well.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right handIsaiah” (Isaiah 41:10).
Mary and Joseph, after the birth of Christ, moved into a house. When Jesus was almost 2, the wise men followed a star to worship the Son of God, the King of the Jews. They assumed he was born in a palace not in a dark cave with animals. They found him, not in an estate for the famous, but in a home like everyone else in her town. Nothing special. Very ordinary.
Why didn’t God provide a room in the Bethlehem Hotel with rooms with a great view of the rolling hills and an excellent breakfast in the morning? He did not want His Son to be born into a wealthy and entitled community. God sent His Son to be one of us, the ordinary hard-working citizen who also experiences the harshness of life, starting with being born in a filthy animal manger. God the Father wanted Jesus to learn what it meant to be human, to love, and to suffer. Jesus understands us; He has been there. He lived a humble life. He was kind and friendly, a relational man who taught and listened to all who approached Him. He knows what it feels like to be rejected because His closest friends abandoned him. He gave us the greatest gift ever given: the forgiveness of our sins. How did He do it? He was beaten, whipped, spat upon, insulted, mocked, hung on a tree, and died for every single one of our sins. Why, because He loves us and wants to live eternally, in perfect peace, with us.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Max Lucado wrote this: “God still looks for Josephs today. Men and women who believe that God is not through with this world. Common people who serve an uncommon God. Will you be that kind of person? Will you serve, even when you don’t understand? No, the Bethlehem sky is not the first to hear the pleadings of an honest heart, nor the last. And perhaps God didn’t answer every question for Joseph. But he answered the most important one. “Are you still with me, God? And the answer came through the first cries of the God-child. “Yes, Joseph, I’m with you.” In our wonderings, there is one question we never need to ask, Does God care? Do we matter to God? Does he still love his children” Through the small face of the stable-born baby, he says, “yes”!
Yes, your sins are forgiven.
Yes, your name is written in heaven.
Yes, death has been defeated.
And yes, God has entered your world.
Immanuel. God is with us.”