The Nativity Story part 2:
The Consequences Mary Faced
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 10, 2006

 

Main Passage: Luke 1-2 (NLT)

 

Last week we began our message series based on The Nativity Story, and we saw how Mary was chosen by God to become the mother of Jesus. And we saw that anytime we are chosen by God for anything, it’s a reason to rejoice. When God calls us, He calls us for a purpose. He calls us to make a difference. He calls us to carry on His work and be His representatives in this world. And so when you and I are chosen by God, it’s a great honour.

Problem is, it can also be a bit intimidating. It can even be downright scary. I’m sure that Mary, even though she was honoured by God by being chosen by Him, and even though she willingly participated in God’s plan – I’m sure that she had some concerns. She had some valid reasons to be afraid.

And so this morning, just for the next ten minutes or so, I want us to talk about some of those concerns and see how Mary dealt with them. Okay?


Now, do you remember how Mary found out that she was going to give birth to Jesus? She was told by an angel – the angel Gabriel. I’m not sure what Mary was doing at the time… maybe she was cleaning house, maybe she was preparing supper, maybe she was addressing invitations to her wedding, maybe she was watching reruns of Saved by the Bell. I don’t know what she was doing. But whatever it was, it was suddenly interrupted when Gabriel appeared before her with the announcement.

Not exactly an everyday event. We’ve all heard the story so many times over the years that we’ve kind of written it off as nothing out of the ordinary. But really, it was extraordinary. An angel appeared to Mary and told her that even though she was a virgin, she would give birth to a Son.

But she wasn’t the only one. She was also told that her relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah were also going to have a son. In fact, they were already six months pregnant! Oh, their son would not be a virgin birth… Zechariah certainly had a part to play… but the birth of their son would still be a miracle because they were both old and well beyond the age they could expect to have children.

Well, this whole experience with the angel was thrilling and disturbing at the same time, and so Mary decided that she would go and visit with Elizabeth and Zechariah. Who better to talk to about her miraculous pregnancy than someone else experiencing a miraculous pregnancy? So just a few days after the angel’s announcement she set out… a journey of about 120 km (75 miles).

Well, Mary did find what she was looking for. Elizabeth welcomed her and encouraged her… they talked about their pregnancies. In fact, when Mary arrived, Elizabeth told Mary that her own baby leaped for joy inside of her. Elizabeth understood the huge honour Mary was chosen for. And so Mary stayed with them for about three months. In fact, she could have even been there up to the day Elizabeth gave birth to her child, John… John the Baptist.


But the time had come for Mary to return home. And remember, when Mary left, she was only a few days pregnant. I doubt anyone at home even knew she was pregnant. But by now she would have been beginning to show. How would her family react? How would her fiancé react? Here… take a look at this…


VIDEO – THE NATIVITY STORY – "MARY ARRIVES HOME" SCENE


If this really was the first time they were finding out about the pregnancy, I’m sure they would have been shocked. Especially Joseph. I mean, think about it. He was engaged to Mary. In fact, in their society engagement was as binding as marriage, just without the sex. Joseph knew he wasn’t the father, and so as far as he was concerned Mary must have cheated on him. He had been betrayed.

Oh, and we’re not told anything about how her parents would have reacted. But think about it. How do you think they would have reacted? They could have been ashamed of her, they could have been angry, they could have been frightened about what would happen to her… Take a look at this scene from The Nativity Story of how her parents may have reacted when Mary tried to explain how she got pregnant…


VIDEO – THE NATIVITY STORY – “I HAVE BROKEN NO VOW” SCENE


Okay, so that’s a possible conversation Mary could have had with her parents. And right within that scene we see several of the possible consequences Mary could have faced because of this pregnancy. So let me just highlight five of them for you. In your notes…

 

Potential Consequences – Mary Could Have Been…

1. Accused of lying

Hey, Mary was still teenager. And teenagers can come up with all kinds of excuses for anything. Some adults aren’t bad at it either. “An angel appeared to you? Sure, that explains everything!”

I mean, would you have believed her? Somehow I doubt it. You would have been checking to see if she was taking her medication.

I would be surprised if anyone believed her story. Oh, well, her grandmother might have believed her… “That’s nice, dear”… but anyone else, they’d think she was loony. Things like that just don’t happen. It takes a mother and a father to make a baby. I know that because I used to major in biology. And even though Nazareth would have been a pretty primitive town at the time, I’m sure they knew it, too.

Obviously, Mary must have been lying. There’s no way her story could be true. That’s what a lot of people would have thought. That’s one of the consequences she would have faced.

Along with that, Mary could have been…

 

2. Treated with contempt

Now, it’s almost in vogue to be a single parent today. Every once in a while you’ll hear about a celebrity who decides that they want to have a baby. And perhaps someday, they’d like to get married, too. They kind of get the whole thing backwards. In fact, I have friends who are single parents, never been married. For them, it’s no big deal.

But not in Mary’s day. If Mary had a baby without a husband, it would certainly be frowned on. She would have been treated with contempt. She would have been looked down upon, she would have been rejected, she would have been labelled as immoral.

That’s just the way it would have been. I’m sure Mary had seen it happen to other people. And so I’m sure she knew that was a potential consequence she faced.

 

3. Rejected by her own family

Again, we’re not told how her family actually reacted, but I think this is a reasonable possibility. In fact, I’d say it was likely her family would have rejected her. Or at least thought about it. As far as they knew, Mary had brought shame to their family. She had betrayed her fiancé, an engagement they had probably arranged, and had broken their religious and cultural rules.

So what could they have done? They could have thrown her out of the house. They could have disowned her. They could have never spoken to her again. I hope that didn’t happen, but it certainly could have. Maybe it did – we don’t know. She could have been rejected by her own family.

 

4. Abandoned by her fiancé

How did Joseph react when he found out about the pregnancy? Well, we’re told how he reacted. He planned to break it off with her. He felt betrayed and wanted nothing to do with her. Now, to his credit, he was going to break it off quietly so that Mary wouldn’t be disgraced. But he was still going to break it off. And would have, if not for some divine intervention which we’ll talk about next week.

But being abandoned by her fiancé was a real possibility that very nearly happened.

 

5. Executed by stoning in the streets

If Joseph had decided to make a big deal out of it… if he had decided to go public about his apparent betrayal… then there was a good chance that Mary could have been stoned to death. According to Old Testament law (Deut. 22:23-24), that was the penalty for an engaged woman who slept with another man. In fact, both participants were supposed to be stoned.

The only way around this would be if Joseph claimed the baby as his own. Then they would have both been looked down upon as being unable to control their hormones, but at least Mary wouldn’t be executed.

Now, next week we’re going to see how God intervened and worked things out between Mary and Joseph. But at the time, Mary had no way of knowing how all of this would work out. As far as she knew, a stoning was a very real possibility for her.

 

So there were lots of drawbacks… lots of potential consequences for Mary all because she chose to go along with God’s plan. In fact, some of those consequences would have really happened. There were personal and socials costs for Mary as well as for Joseph.

How did Mary survive it all? Why did she even agree to participate in God’s plan? I think it’s because she understood this truth… it’s in your notes…
 

Any sacrifice to be in the centre of God’s will is no sacrifice, because there’s no better place to be.
 

Whatever costs, whatever embarrassment, whatever humiliation, whatever rejection, whatever dangers… whatever sacrifice to be in the centre of God’s will is no sacrifice, because there’s no better place to be.

Mary understood that. How about you? Do you understand that?
When following God costs your reputation, do you understand that it’s worth it?
When following God changes your plans for the future, do you understand that it’s worth it?
When there’s a personal cost, or a financial cost, or a social cost, do you understand that it’s worth it?
When people insult you and belittle you because of your faith, do you understand that it’s worth it?

Do you understand that any sacrifice to be in the centre of God’s will is no sacrifice, because there’s no better place to be?

What did Jesus say about this?

Matthew 5:11-12 (NLT)
“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

 

I wonder how many people have bailed on God because they weren’t willing to pay the price. I wonder how many times people have refused to follow God’s leading because they weren’t willing to take the risks or face the rejection or weather the accusations. I wonder what great plans God has had that never came to fruition because comfort and convenience got in the way.

Mary understood that whatever God requested and required of her was worth it. And may we learn that from her this morning. May we learn that any sacrifice to be in the centre of God’s will really is no sacrifice because there really is no better place to be.

 

 

 

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