They were in love and dreamed of future happiness. Then everything changed. An angel appeared and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored."
"The Lord favors me," asked Mary? "Yes, you will give birth to God's son," answered the angel. "I don't understand," said Mary, "yet, I want to be the Lord's servant." After the angel left, questions rushed through her mind. "What will people think? Will Joseph believe me? How will we cope with this inconvenient circumstance?"
Joseph was stunned. He loved Mary and knew that she was an honest woman, but this was hard to believe! Soon, however, an angel appeared to him and said, "Don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She is going to give birth to God's son." "God's Son?" asked Joseph incredulously. "Yes," replied the angel, "Go ahead and marry her." And Joseph thought, "This is awkward, not to mention inconvenient! But, because of God's command they did as they were told. However, the story was not yet over.
"They're doing a census now?" asked Mary. "Yes," said Joseph, "in Bethlehem." "But, I'm about to have this baby" said Mary. "I know it will be hard Mary," Joseph said tenderly, "but we don't have a choice."
After long days and nights of travel, Jesus was born in a Bethlehem manger; again, not a very convenient place for such an event. Then shepherds came to worship with a story that they had seen a star and angels.
Joseph and Mary found a permanent place and settled into a somewhat "normal" lifeif raising God's son could ever be considered "normal!"
In the mean time, wise men searched for Jesus. They found King Herod to ask directions to find the newly born "King of the Jews." Herod worried that his new baby might threaten his throne so he ordered his aids to search the prophets' writings. When they reported that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, Herod sent the wise men on their way. He then calculated the time of the wise men's trip and had all baby boys who were born in that time frame killed. That, he thought, should save the Herodian line!
Knowing Herod's plans, God again sent an angel to Joseph and Mary to tell them to get out of town quickly. Imagine traveling long distances, some by night, with little preparation, riding a donkey with a toddler? However, convenient or not, they continued to do as God commanded.
Jesus' birth inconvenienced many people. In addition to Mary and Joseph the shepherds were shocked out of their quiet night by angels and asked to leave their flocks and seek this child. Other men traveled for months to bring gifts to Jesus. Due to Herod's plan a multitude of families were overwhelmed with grief over the loss of their sons. Jesus himself went on to suffer the most painful inconvenience of all when he was nailed to the cross to pay the debt for our sin.
Does God expect us to do inconvenient things today? He might ask us to sit for a while and sip some tea with someone who needs a friend. He might ask us to leave groceries on a doorstep or purchase a gift for a stranger. He might ask us to shovel a walk. He might ask us to go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in spite of gift opening and meal preparations in order that we might remember and worship! As I think about these modern inconveniences, do they even come close to comparing with the inconveniences faced during Jesus' life and death?
Let's do some inconvenient things during this Christmas season as we remember the inconvenience Jesus went through for us!
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.