How often does our fear of what people think stop us from doing what we know we’re called to do?
Today is the Third Day of Christmas, and an appropriate moment to contemplate the humility of God. When He became man, God could have chosen to be born into circumstances appropriate to the majesty of the occasion. Instead, He chose to be born not to a king or a priest, but to a teenage girl who was engaged to a construction worker. Engaged, not married — in a strongly monogamous, patriarchal culture where that meant He was born under a cloud of family disapproval, to parents whose reputations would never recover from the scandal. If you didn’t grow up in a culture where sex was put off til the wedding night, it’s hard to wrap your head around the shame that Mary and Joseph were willingly signing up for, but trust me, it’s real, and very, very costly.
The gospels describe Mary’s encounter with the angel who tells her what’s about to happen, but can you imagine her conversation with Joseph afterward? He knows the baby’s not his, but how is she supposed to tell him what’s happening? How is he supposed to believe her? The gospels tell us that an angel also appeared to Joseph in a dream, and that convinced him of the truth. But when he decided to go through with the wedding even though Mary was pregnant, Joseph was kissing his own reputation goodbye. If he couldn’t be trusted to do right by his future wife, what would you trust the man with? The scandalous birth cost Mary family support that she would need to raise a child, cost Joseph social connections and business deals he would need to support his family, and made Jesus an outsider from birth, a child that shouldn’t exist — in a small-town culture that would never, ever forget.
Jesus willingly submitted to this scandalous birth, and it followed Him for His whole life. (For example, they throw it in His face in John 8:41.) He didn’t let it stop Him from fulfilling His calling.
What about you? What are you called to? Who is going to disapprove? Sit your reputation down on your lap, kiss its forehead, and say goodbye. You, too, are called to more important things than being respectable.