Believing The Unbelievable - A Not So Silent Night You Can Relate To
Has doubt ever invaded your heart?
Do you ever question your purpose? Path? Choices? Circumstances?
Did you know you are not alone?
Did you know the most famous mother of all time, Mary, also struggled with acceptance and believing the unbelievable?
For most of us, depictions of the nativity scene show a serene setting, with calm and stately adults surrounding a sleeping baby.
But I'm not so sure that rendition is entirely accurate. It most certainly was a holy night, but I wouldn't bet so much on a silent night. Mary and Joseph had to travel out of town in her 9th month of pregnancy for a census. (You know how today we fill out a form that comes in the mail? Yeah, they didn't have that back then. Joseph had to actually GO to his hometown to be counted.)
That town, Bethlehem, was crowded. Census time brought in people from everywhere and all the restaurants and inns were full of loud and boisterous people. And what did those noisy people ride into town on? Loud and boisterous animals. And where did those noisy animals spend the night?
But I got ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.
As I stated above, most photos of Mary and Joseph, have them both being adults. And Joseph probably was, but most likely Mary was still a teenage girl. In the custom of those days, girls became engaged or 'betrothed' in the early to mid-teen years.
Now think of a teenage girl you know before reading any further.
In the culture at the time of Jesus' birth, women's rights were not quite as advanced as they are today. They didn't receive higher education, hold jobs outside the home, and they certainly didn't get visited by angels! And not just any angel. Gabriel was pretty high up the archangel ladder and yet he took a short business trip at God's command to visit young Mary with an unbelievable message.
The Bible doesn't really describe the setting, but it does say Gabriel appeared. So it wasn't a dream. Or just a thought or 'quickening' in her heart. He actually showed up in Nazareth where she lived.
Now I don't know about you, but at 57 I'd be pretty freaked out if an angel showed up at my home. So you can imagine that young Mary was pretty terrified.
Gabriel reassured her all was well. That he had good news. That Mary had found favor with God and she was chosen to be the one to bring the Son of Man into the world.
This was one heavenly gender reveal!
Except there was one problem. She was still a virgin.
No problem, Gabriel said. God's got this. This was going to be a holy in vitro.
Now, this was a heavy bit of news for this teenage girl. I mean, how could this possibly be real. Maybe the goat milk was spiked. Or the lamb chops had gone bad. You gotta remember, she didn't have the benefit of knowing what we know. She couldn't jump ahead a few chapters and know what
was going to happen.
She had to accept this news on FAITH! She had to believe the unbelievable.
Then she had to face Joseph.
Can you imagine how that conversation went?
"So Joseph sweetie. You are never going to believe what happened to me today. I had lunch with Gabriel, the angel, and I'm going to give birth to the Savior of the world."
You know that moment in the movies when one of the characters hears news that is too incredible to believe and everything just slows down and the camera closes in on their expression of disbelief. That turns to suspicious, and then wary, and then even anger.
Yep, that's how Joseph felt.
"Surrreeee........ An 'angel' visited you today and said you were going to have a baby. Right! Who is this Gabriel guy and how could you do this to me? I will be the laughingstock of the town. My fiance is having a baby and I've only stolen a few kisses behind the barn!"
I mean, you get it right? This was a big deal. His (and her) reputations were on the line. His carpenter business could suffer if word got out. And he certainly didn't want to raise another man's child.
See, we have the benefit of the neat and tidy version from the Bible. And we know the reasons and the wonder of it. But at that moment, both of their lives were in turmoil and Joseph was trying to 'handle' the situation. He was trying to find a way to move on with his life and still keep Mary from being a social outcast.
He fell into a troubled sleep and then Gabriel shows up again in a dream. He confirms that everything that Mary had told him was true. He encouraged him to stay the course. He assures him that all of this is God's divine plan and that he and Mary were chosen and highly favored.
So even though Mary and Joseph are now on the same page, it is still not an easy page to be on.
There is still gossip, disapproving glances, whispers. There isn't any mention of how their families reacted, but you know this was highly unusual and a heavy burden to bear.
And yet still teenage Mary continues to believe. I mean, it's hard not to. She is still a virgin and yet baby Jesus is growing inside her. But there had to have been hard days. Of confusion. Fear. The "why me". The inexplicable pressure of raising the Son of God.
There must have been days when the crushing stress and fear of failure caused tremendous tension on their relationship. Yet she believed.
Then came the trip to Bethlehem. Very late in her pregnancy. No comfy car to ride in. No midwife to travel with them. And once they got there, no room at the inn.
As her labor pains started, she found herself surrounded by smelly animals in a stable that was definitely less than sterile. No ice chips. No epidural. Just a scared teenage girl in a dirty stall laying on the ground. While the world around her was oblivious to the miracle happening in the most humble of places, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And to keep from putting him on the ground also, Joseph made room in a food trough (manger) to put him in.
At that moment Mary probably questioned everything she thought was true. Surely the King of the world would not be born in a stinky stable all alone. He should be born in a palace and she should have help and servants. This is not how she envisioned it.
Does that sound familiar? Has life not exactly turned out the way you thought?
Yet, Mary held on to the hope and news she received that day those months ago. And she believed that God would turn this questionable beginning to unquestionable wonder.
So, you might ask, how does my retelling of the Christmas story (with a little creative license) have to do with your life? You most likely were not visited by an angel and not asked to be a famous and integral part of the history of the world.
But you still play an integral part in YOUR world and with your family and friends. And I'm willing to bet you still have doubts. Of your place in this world. Of God's plan for your life. Of your ability to handle whatever you are going through.
And that's ok, because everyone struggles with fear. Loneliness. Doubt. It's hard to believe that everything is going to be alright. This time of the year especially brings out insecurities and hurt feelings and problems seem to grow.
But just like Mary believed, I want you to believe. That you are strong enough. That you are capable. That this world needs you and your contribution and your light.
That God will give you the grace and strength to handle your circumstances.
That the world's whispers don't matter. That where you find yourself today, however humble, will not be where you stay. That you have a future and God has a plan.
Your struggles and fears are real. I'm not asking you to ignore them. But I am telling you to not give up. Give it your best every day. Show up. Be consistent. Be the best version of you.
And even if, and when, good things seem too good to be true, and unbelievable....'
I'm asking you to BELIEVE!
And to always....
Hope With Abandon