I don’t know about you but I get really jittery around awkward moments.
I just want to get out ofthere! I know it is part of our human condition but I’d rather not be that close to this aspect of our humanity. But I guess this is who we are as human beings, and as it turns out, it is also part of the Gospel story. Matthew, after telling us about Jesus’ genealogy – that he is the great-great-great…grandchild of King David – let’s us peep in on an intimate exchange between a newly engaged couple just when the husband-to-be finds out that his soon-to-be-wife is expecting a baby and he knows full well that it isn’t his. This is one of those moments.
A couple of weeks ago we watched ‘Juno’ at our film evening. It’s the story of a high school student who get’s pregnant and her journey. After she is finally able to blurt this news out to her parents, and leaves the room, they have a brief conversation:
Dad: ‘Did you see that coming?’
Stepmom: ‘Yeah… but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.’
Dad: ‘That was my first instinct too. Or a DWI… anything but this!’
I’m thinking that Joseph was thinking similar things when Mary told him this ‘good news’. You probably know the story. Joseph is mortified – this is scandalous and he is in a quandary. Does he make this confession public which it will soon be anyway, and would be a legitimate thing to do, or does he divorce her quietly. Continuing with the engagement and marriage is out of the question. He decides that he really doesn’t want to disgrace her because he still loves her, so determines to do the annulment quietly and let things be.
But then he has this strange dream – in fact his life with Mary and this new infant is filled with a number of strange dreams – in which an angel tells him that he doesn’t need to be afraid. He doesn’t need to worry about whether she has been unfaithful, because she hasn’t been, nor about how the child came to be, because this one is a special one, ‘from the Holy Spirit’. And so Joseph says ‘yes’ to the angel’s request and takes Mary and the infant on as his own. The only thing he doesn’t have control over is the scandal which will surely follow him and his family.
Awkward moments. You would think that God would find less disreputable ways to break into the world but this isn’t the way God works. The mystery and wonder of God’s coming in the flesh is shocking in many ways – from the initial shame filled pregnancy and birth, to the company the adult Jesus keeps, to the ways he expects his followers to give up all they have to follow him, to the outrageous call to treat as loved ones those who intentionally hurt us. And yet this is the amazing power of the gospel that invites us to live in love, not fear, and to join in this scandalous journey on the way that leads to life, to wholeness and grace.
Have a Blessed, ‘Scandal-filled’ Christmas.