Just as they were handed down to us by those who were first eyewitnesses and services of the world. -Luke 1:1-2
We all know the Christmas story. You know, Mary (a virgin!) and Joseph couldn't find a place to stay, and Mary was in labor. Baby Jesus ends up being born in a stable (a lowly way for the Savior of mankind to come into the world) where the 3 wise men come to visit him, bearing gifts- and the news that he and his family cannot return to their homeland, or else their safety will be in jeopardy. The new little family lives their early years under the radar, and eventually Jesus grows up to school the religious scholars, give the Pharisees a taste of their own medicine, and yes, save all mankind.
Please don't take the smidge of sarcasm that that paragraph was written with as disrespect or anything of the sort. The story of the birth of the Messiah is awesome, and I love that at least this bit of Biblical knowledge is wide spread in our society. But the thing is, Christians ignore the rest of the story- we make it all cutesy, and we forget about how all this really went down- especially for Mary.
See, according to the times, Mary was probably about 14. She was betrothed, but imagine being 14, having just "become a woman" (a weird enough time in a girl's life), and getting ready to marry a man that you hardly know. Not a fabulous place to be, even if it is "normal" for girls your age.
So, you're stressed and uncertain. You finally get to sleep one night- a sleep that is probably fitful and not very restful- and you're woken up by this angel who is telling you, "Hey, God thinks you're awesome." The Bible says that Mary was "greatly troubled" at his words (Luke 1:29). The angel tells her that she's going to have a baby, what to name him, and that he's going to inherit the throne of David.
Quick examination of what this means for Mary: She's going to have a baby. But wait- she's a virgin. Even if Mary knows she's going to be made pregnant by the Lord God, the rest of the world doesn't know that. So, here's this 14 year old girl, engaged to be married, and she's pregnant. According to the law, she should have been stoned, and her family would have been shamed. So, on top of all the worries of being a teenage girl who is wondering what all is going to go down on her wedding night, which is steadily approaching, she now has to worry about what her family and fiance will think, what the town will think of them, and of her impending doom.
Let's say she accepts the challenge. She gets to have this baby- not really her choice, by the way... I mean, she didn't ASK to carry the son of God in her womb!- and doesn't even get to pick his name. "He will be called Jesus." Ok, thanks, creepy angel. You can leave my bedroom now.
Oh, and, by the way, he's going to take over the throne of David. Which means that people probably won't be a huge fan of him, including the king. Your son, the love of your life, flesh of your flesh, will be hated by his world.
Back to the story. Mary tells the angel, "I am the Lord's servant." I.e., "I will do this, because God is asking me to. It doesn't mean I'm not shaking in my boots, but I trust God on this one."
Cut to Joseph. He thinks he's engaged to a nice virgin girl who will stay with him through old age and give birth to many sons. Now, I'm not a theologian, so I have no idea how Mary would have gone about informing Joseph about the pregnancy- all I know is that he finds out. Now, Joseph is a good guy- he doesn't want to marry Mary anymore, but he's not going to be mean about it and cut off the engagement publicly, with everyone knowing. He's going to do it between them, which means Mary's family won't be as ashamed by the community, and Mary probably won't be murdered. How nice of him! Except for the fact that it means he's not trusting Mary, but I mean... How many of us would?
But then the angel appears to Joseph. He tells him to not worry about taking Mary as his wife, that this was a God thing. Joseph wakes up from this dream, and I can only imagine what's running through his brain- "Did I eat too much pizza last night?"
Either way, Joseph decides to take Mary as his wife, but doesn't consummate the marriage until after the birth of Jesus. That's a little rough! I think the conversation between the two of them probably went something like this:
Joseph: Hey, Mary, we're going to get married. Apparently God did do this thing... I'm sorry for not trusting you.
Mary: Well, thanks for believing me now, Joe.
Joseph: You're welcome. By the way, we're not going to have sex until after this baby is born. (muttered under his breath:) ...Which is the suckiest part of this whole ordeal...
Soon afterwards, everyone has to go into their hometown for the census. Mary is pretty far along in her pregnancy, but she has to travel with her husband. So she's pregnant, the wedding night is still to come, and she's about to give birth. She's also away from all of her friends and her mom. Oh, and Joe forgot to make the reservations, and all the inns are full, so they can't find anywhere to stay.
Joe finally finds a place to settle- a barn, where all the animals can look on while Mary gives birth. She delivers this baby, by herself, in a strange town, in front of a man who has never seen her nakedness or had sex with her before- his first glance at her body is as she's giving birth. Awesome. Great way to start out that aspect of their relationship!
She wraps Jesus in cloths, places him in the feed bin, and then all these strange, smelly men- shepherds, wise men, and bears, oh my!- parade past her newborn.
Ok. That's all I've got. I think the rest of the story is depicted pretty well from everyone's point of view in the Bible.
Remember- the reason for the season IS Jesus. But also remember that the Christmas season is about sacrifice- Mary and Joseph both sacrificed immensely for the birth of our Savior.
As I think about beautiful babies, presents, trees, snow, and everything else that "comes" with Christmas, there'll be one thought in the back of my mind- would I have the obedience and dedication to follow through with what God asks me to do in the way Mary did?