Matthew 1: 18-21
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
Consider Mary, who is probably 13-14 years old, pledged or betrothed to be married to Joseph. He is probably about 15. In the first century getting married involved three steps: the first was engagement, a formal ceremony in which you promised yourself to one another.
The second step was betrothal, a legally binding step. After declaring your intentions, you lived apart for about a year. You are legally husband and wife, you just don’t share the same house and you haven’t consummated the marriage yet.
The third stage is the wedding service, when the whole village gathers to celebrate and bless the couple.
So Mary and Joseph are in the middle stage, the betrothal stage. She is getting ready for the big day. Joseph is working on the house, probably adding another room, turning it into a home for his bride to be. There would have been all the expectations and longings, the dreams of the future, love and happiness and joy, counting the days until they can actually be together.
And then the news comes that shatters everything. We don’t know how Joseph found out. Did Mary sit him down one evening and say: 'Joseph you not gonna believe this, but I something to tell you.'
Maybe he heard the rumours and whispers around town: 'Poor Joseph, Mary has been unfaithful, she’s pregnant and the baby is not his.'
Maybe he noticed that she was putting on some weight.
We don’t know how he found out - but I’m sure in that moment he was absolutely devastated. So confused. His trust had been broken, his world shattered.
I have been with people who have found out that their spouse or fiance have been unfaithful and it is one of the most heart-breaking things to watch.
Then think about poor Mary - how must she feel? She has done nothing wrong and yet everything is a mess. In fact, she had done everything right, that’s why she was chosen to carry the son of God in her womb. Imagine how she feels to have lost the one she loves, knowing the truth that she has not been unfaithful, yet carrying this stigma and the shame of an adulterous woman.
Notice what it says about Mary: she 'was found to be pregnant.'
In other words she found herself in a place and a situation that he never imagined she would be in this moment. She had all her plans, dreams, ambitions and desires - but there has been an unexpected change of plans.
And maybe this Christmas that’s where you find yourself - in a place you never thought you would be.
As you reflect on 2016 maybe things have taken a turn that you never anticipated, planned or expected. And you’re confused, and fearful, uncertain, surprised, you don’t know how it all happened like this.
Maybe a routine visit to the doctors led to tests which led to a diagnosis which has shattered your world this Christmas.
Maybe you find yourself single when you expected that a relationship would have progressed this year.
Maybe you find yourself unemployed when you expected to have a job this Christmas.
Maybe you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant when you hadn’t planned to have a child yet.
Maybe you have found yourself being misunderstood and you want to just explain to everyone what is happening but they won’t believe you.
Maybe you have something within you, a burden, heartache or even a dream you’re carrying - but you can share it with anyone because they just won’t get it, or it’s just too personal.
Maybe you find yourself in a place in your life, your marriage, in your career, in your relationships, in your Christian walk-really never expected to be.
That’s where Mary is right now.
And yet, we discover if we keep reading, that what looked like a total mess was actually the soil for the greatest miracle.
If you find yourself this Christmas in some situations you didn't expect to be in, please be encouraged. God would speak into your heart today: "What I am doing in you is so much more important and significant and what is happening to you. Sometimes what looks like a let - down can actually be a set-up. In the biggest messes is where I do my greatest miracles."