A Teenage Christmas Story – The Risk of Perceived Wedlock

*The following is a guest post.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. -Luke 1:26-27

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When I was younger, I imagined the story in my mind this way: I envisioned a young woman in her twenties being confronted by this bright, supernatural being with wings. But, when I began to study this Christmas story, my view on the whole thing was shaken.

The Greek word there for virgin actually means “young, unmarried woman” (which by implication means that she had not engaged in sexual relations). Now, marriage and engagements were much different back then than they are now, naturally. Usually the parents of the young man made an arrangement with the parents of the young woman about engagement and marriage. Once the “contract” was written up, the two were engaged for a year before marriage. The only way this contract could be voided was with a certificate of divorce. To bind this contract, the young man sometimes would say to the young woman, “In my father’s house are many rooms, I go to prepare a place for you. If I go then I will come back for you.” Then the young man would spend the next year building the home for his new bride. During that time people were engaged between the ages of 12 and 14. There are actually some writings that say it was between 17 and 18.

The Bible says that Mary was engaged. This puts her somewhere in between 12 and 18 years old. Not some young woman who is out of college and ready to start a family. She’s a kid. She’s a teenager. She’s in a youth group. An angel appeared to Mary and told her she was going to give birth to a child. This unmarried teenage girl was going to give birth. She was shocked and surprised, but she says some of the most remarkable words ever, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.”

If, during the period of engagement or after marriage, a woman was found to be unfaithful it was a huge disgrace for her and her family. A woman found pregnant before marriage would face harsh, harsh ridicule for the rest of her life. There was also a chance for public humiliation, such as being beaten and hung in the city center for other women to bring their daughters to you to show them what happens when you commit adultery. There was also a chance that a woman could face stoning for adultery. When Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word,” she was really saying, “I am willing to face embarrassment, ridicule, beatings and even death to follow God’s will for me.” This came from a teenage girl.

The Bible tells us that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary “quietly” after he found out she was pregnant. He didn’t want to see her and her family face public humiliation and disgrace her. But, an angel appears to him and tells him the whole story of what is going on. After he finds this out, he takes Mary as his wife. This is huge. Now Joseph will face strong ridicule. Now people will think that he is approving and okay with Mary committing adultery. Now people will look down on him for raising a child that wasn’t his. A teenage boy was willing to face this because he was willing to follow God’s will.

Are you willing to do this? Knowing what you could face if you follow God’s will, would you still be willing to follow it? When God nudges you in one direction or another are you willing to follow Him regardless of the cost?

These two teenagers were willing to do that, even at the risk of perceived wedlock…

What a Christmas story!


*John Wise blogs regularly at www.jhwise.com. You can also find him on twitter.

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