The Bible is so wonderfully and frustratingly understated. A whole event, that may be several pages long in an embellished childhood Bible story book, can take place in a single verse. Often leaving us underwhelmed as to the true significance of what is contained in those few words.
Even the conception and birth of Jesus - a pretty important event, I think we'd all agree - is summed up in six verses in the first chapter of Matthew.
And so when we read quite sedately that an angel told Mary that she would have a baby from God, that Joseph thought of divorcing her, but then was told in a dream to marry her, and did - we just carry on sedately reading like thats all normal.
Wait, what? Hang on. First of all, an angel tells a girl she's pregnant even though she's a virgin. Just imagine your friend or daughter coming to you and telling you "I've never done the deed, honest, but I'm pregnant.".... Oh, sure, Mary.
And add to that, "God told me" and I'm sure that sort of thing has been grounds your family having you committed. Or burnt at the stake.
It sounds extreme. But seriously, imagine it. Would you have believed her, truly?
And then Joseph. Understandably, he comes to the conclusion that some other guy has made her pregnant. As far as he is concerned that leaves two options. One, quite legally, is to have her stoned to death. Horrific as it sounds to us, that would have been quite an acceptable punishment for what everyone would have considered adultery.
Joseph, though, was obviously a good man - he decided on the second option - to just quietly divorce her. As far as everyone else was concerned, he would have been well within his rights to get justice in the situation. But instead he chose to protect Mary and just quietly walk away.
But God - you know how he is, always turning our plans upside down - tells Joseph in a dream that Mary is telling the truth, and that the baby will be the Saviour, and his name will be Jesus.
Oh, ok. So off he trots to marry her. Off we go sedately reading again now...
Um, let's back up a little again. First of all, how convincing would a dream have to be to make you go against your instincts and forget what everyone else would think? Because this would have been scandalous! Imagine the gossip! Move over, Charlie Sheen.
Even in our society, where we hardly bat an eyelid and sex and pregnancy, we would wonder what on earth was going on with these people.
"Did you hear about Mary? My cousins friend's mum lives next to her mum, so I've heard it all."
"What you mean that crazy girl who thinks God got her pregnant."
"Yeah, that's the one. I mean, how silly does she think everyone is, to think we wouldn't know she's just been fooling around."
"Poor old Joseph, I wonder what he'll do."
"Well, you think he'd be at least happy to get out while he still can. Would have been a narrow escape, if you ask me. But, I heard he's going to marry her."
"What? When she's pregnant to some other guy? And crazy, to boot. Why would he...unless, it's not some other guy..."
"Exactly...why would he do that, unless he's got a guilty conscience. He got her into this mess, so he figures he better marry her."
"The whole things a mess. I'm just glad it's not my daughter! Can you imagine? I couldn't look my neighbours in the eye ever again with a family like that...."
And that's just a mild look at what we might think. Imagine the intensity of judgement that would have come from a society that stoned people to death.
Yet through it all, through what would have been a scandal and a stigma to follow them everywhere, through the danger and judgement...they were obedient to God no matter what it cost them.
And from that obedience came Jesus.
If Jesus was a store, the sign would read "Jesus Christ. Disrupting our comfortable lives since 6 B.C."
But aren't we glad he does.
Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.