Think about what it was like to be Mary. Fourteen years old. A quiet, meek little girl. Innocent and sweet. Poor but happy family. Quiet life, teenage friends.
Can you imagine the confusion? She had finally written off that weird angel dream as nothing more than a bad bit of goat meat the night before. Now all of a sudden, it’s so…real. And now she can no longer hide the fact that Jesus is inside her.
Did she tell her parents? Or did they inevitably just notice the swelling of her little belly?
Mary’s parents Joachim and Anna… now they are the hidden heroes of the Christmas story! They raise a beautiful, well-behaved daughter…who suddenly turns up pregnant. Now keep in mind, God didn’t have much of a history of impregnating young girls with His Holy Spirit up to this point, so you can naturally understand their reaction. What was their reaction? Were they mad? Did they yell at her? Did they believe her at all?
Today, pregnant teens are the norm. But in Mary’s day, she would have been more respected had she been an ax murderer. No one would speak to her anymore. Children were instructed to stay away from her. People went out of their way to avoid her.
She jostles around aboard a donkey for mile after a mile in the sweltering desert heat. The sun is burning her skin. Her clothes are soaked in sweat. She is developing blisters and saddle sores. She throws up every couple miles.
They finally reach the crowded, noisy, dirty streets of Bethlehem. People are everywhere. Tired, road-weary, stressed out travelers line the streets. It’s tax day. Every room in the entire town is full. Every bed is taken. Joseph spends hours trying to find a place for them. He finally shoves some animals out of the corner of a cave just outside the town, and attempts to spread some hay into a make shift bed. The animals stink and so does the cave.
Mary only has one prayer that day: “Yahweh, please don’t let the baby come now.” But the second she collapses onto the hay, her water breaks. So there lies this little fourteen year-old girl, in bloody hay, surrounded by goats, screaming as her body is wracked with pain. No medicine, no mother, no midwife.
A few months earlier, the angel had told her she was “highly favored of God.” So this was what it meant to be favored of God?
Soaked in sweat… convulsing in pain… far from everything familiar… overshadowed by a cloud of scandal everywhere she went… ruined reputation… rejected, misunderstood, avoided, alone… this was the favor of God?
I wonder if she longed for the days before God’s favor? When her friends still talked to her, and the neighbors still greeted her. When she was just an ordinary little girl with a simple life.
The favor of God had caused her to fall out of favor with man. The favor of God had ruined her community standing. The favor of God had brought her much pain and heartache.
There’s something in our human nature that tells us that if we are experiencing pain, something is wrong. But as Mary found out, sometimes it means just the opposite.
When the family is healthy, the marriage is strong, the bills are paid, and life is going well, we feel like we are favored of God. But could it be that when we find ourselves in pain… afraid… alone… uncomfortable… made fun of… rejected… that the favor of God is still upon us?
Like Mary, you have Jesus in you, and are playing a part in the greatest story ever written.
Man may not favor you, but God does.