The Scandal of Christmas
Have you ever thought about the scandal of Christmas? Jennifer Willcock takes a look at the well-known nativity story and points out some “scandalous” facts.
The Nature of Christmas
It’s nothing new. As I sat listening to my husband preach on Sunday (yes I do listen!) about Jesus loving all people and how we should follow His example, I was struck by the whole scandalous nature of Christmas. It’s nothing new. People have written and preached lots, on the scandal of Christmas over the years. I am probably not telling you something you don’t know but these were some thoughts that came to mind about loving all, even those you don’t like, and the scandal of Christmas. I’m not sure about you, but I needed the reminder. Maybe you do too. Some people think it’s appalling that Christmas has been hugely commercialized. They are offended by Santa Claus and the whole secular version of Xmas. Others are scandalized by the fact the world is trying so hard to take Christ out of Christmas. Happy Holidays! (As if anyone can really take Christ out of Christmas!) These are concerns for sure but the real scandal of Christmas lies with the one who created it. The whole nativity story is ripe with scandal. For some of us, we know the story inside and out, but let’s not let the well-known facts get in the way of the actual story and real meaning of the birth of Christ.
I’m sure Mary’s claim to have been visited by an angel after four hundred years of silence, raised a few eyebrows. Scandal doesn’t even begin to describe Mary’s pregnancy in a day and age when she could have been stoned for such a crime. The Nazareth gossips were probably in a tizzy trying to get all the salacious details. A pregnancy outside of marriage brought shame down on not just Mary, but everyone she loved. It affected everyone in her family, not just her but Mary still obeyed God regardless of the consequences for herself and her family. That takes courage. Her pregnancy was not the scandal. Her obedience and trust in God were what was really outrageous.
Joseph had the “right” to divorce Mary. He was an innocent party in all this. But God asked him to give up those “rights” and marry Mary. God asked Joseph not just to marry a pregnant girl, but to raise and love the God child, a son who wasn’t his own. It was outrageous God would even ask that of Joseph. What would people think? Why would God do this? Why would God ask Joseph, who has done nothing wrong, to give up his rights to a normal life? It’s an affront to our “I’ve got rights society today. It probably was in Joseph’s day too. Joseph had the right to divorce Mary. To ﬁnd another wife and lead a normal Jewish life. Joseph, in view of his society, could walk away, scandal-free. He chose not to. Instead, he dived right into the mess. Joseph obeyed God rather than claiming his “rights”. Scandalous indeed. It’s becoming a rare thing indeed today, for someone to give up their rights and privileges. The bigger outrage? God isn’t concerned about our rights and privileges. He’s more interested in our hearts and our eternal future. What would have happened if Joseph had claimed his right to a normal life and walked away? Oh God would have taken care of Mary and His Son. Another way would have been provided. But what would have happened to Joseph? Would he have regretted his decision? Would he have always wondered what if? Would his relationship with God have suffered? What would have happened to Joseph? It’s a sobering thought.
Then there were the shepherds. Wasn’t it an affront to the religious leaders of the day that lowly, unschooled, animal keepers were the ones who ﬁrst received the news of the newborn Saviour? These guys were on the lowest rungs of society’s ladder. Yet God chose them to witness one of the grandest shows in the sky this earth has ever seen. And then they got to see the newborn Saviour! It was more than any Jew could have asked for! And it was granted to shepherds.
It was not just a scandal but also a tragedy that Herod killed off so many children in his egomaniacal attempt to ﬁnd the one who threatened his power. Senseless deaths of children, babies.
The Wise Men
It was also scandalous that men from the Far East came to worship this new King. Francine Rivers pointed out in her book, Unafraid, that they were probably Gentiles.They were different than Mary and Joseph and Jesus. I had never thought about that. It would have broken every rule for these men to step inside and be near the toddler King. Yet God gave these men the wisdom to read the stars and the curiosity to seek out this child King. Because Jesus didn’t just come to save the Jews but all mankind. And in this birth story, all mankind were asked to join in and worship.
The Scandal of Christmas Still Rings True
But the biggest scandal of a story ripe with so-called black marks in the world’s view is that God, the creator of the world, loved us so much that He gave up His one and only Son for us. He loved all. Mary. Joseph. Their families. The town gossips. The lowly shepherds. Herod. Gentiles. He sent Jesus to earth, to save us all, even those who wanted nothing to do with Him. Who wanted him dead. Isn’t that outrageous? The thing is? It hasn’t changed. This scandalous nature of the true Christmas story. It’s still the same today. The scandal of the birth of the Son of God, who chose to give up his seat with God and come among us, is still true today in 2017. The scandal of the cross is still true today. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 The Christmas story represents love so scandalous that it blows our minds. A God who loves us so much he gives us his greatest gift. His Son. And the gift is for everyone. Sinners all of us. Gentiles, Jews, People who are different than us. The lowest of low in our society. Teen mothers. Grandparents. Cousins. Siblings. Friends. Our neighbours, our enemies. We are no better or worse than anyone else. He loves us all. As we are. It’s downright scandalous.
This Christmas will we accept His scandalous gift of love?
Jennifer Willcock grew up dreaming about being a writer. A voracious reader from a young age, she knew she wanted to tell stories like the many authors she read. She blogs her stories at jenniferwillcock.com and wrote a book, Whole: Hope for the Broken Pastor’s Wife which was published in February 2017.
Jennifer’s husband, Mark, is lead pastor at a church in Kitchener, Ontario. They have two boys and a dwarf rabbit, Whiskers. Jennifer enjoys a piping hot cup of coffee and going to the ballet or symphony. Someday she hopes to retire to a secluded mountaintop.