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December 23 – Is This The End, Or Is This The Beginning?

Mary had a bit of a different problem. She’d been betrothed to a man named Joseph. Many translations of the Bible use the word engaged, but the process was different back then. The betrothal period, depending on where you lived, was about a year long. It was a bond that could only be broken by divorce. In the midst of this time, Mary had her visit with Gabriel and got the news about her child. It was scandalous, and Joseph had a right to make a public spectacle of Mary by divorcing and renouncing her. Sex was not an option during a betrothal period, and a pregnancy was a sure sign that Mary, in this case, had been unfaithful. Well, almost sure. Joseph was going to put Mary away privately, according to Matthew’s account, and then, he got visited by the angel in a dream. Still, the scandal was there, and Mary headed to see Elizabeth, her cousin, in the hill country. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Luke 1:41-43 NIV)

It’s important to remember that the birth of Jesus that we celebrate during this season is just the beginning. When Jesus was born, it marked a change in the way God dealt with us. No longer would He look upon our sins and count them against us. Instead, God would look on us as sinners and show us grace and mercy. We still haven’t experienced the end of the story of Christmas, although the crucifixion and the Resurrection remind us of God’s power over life and death. It was through God’s power that Mary had Jesus. It was through God’s power that Jesus led a sinless life. It was through God’s power that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. It was through God’s power that Jesus was resurrected from the grave and will return again. It is through God’s power that we receive mercy and grace for our everyday lives. We might echo Elizabeth and ask why we’re so favored that our Lord would do all this for us. All we can say is that God’s grace is mysterious and amazing.


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