All scripture references NIV
Based on my research, Mary was a very young lady, anywhere from 12 to 20 years of age. I realize that’s a pretty wide range, but because of the customs of that day, most believe she was probably 12 to 14. So we can only imagine at that young age, that when the angel Gabriel appeared telling her she was going to be “with child” she was very confused and frightened. Although she was betrothed to be married, she didn’t understand how this could happen. In Luke 1:34 Mary says: “’How will this be….since I am a virgin?’” And so very matter-of-factly, Gabriel replied in vs. 35: “’The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Not really much of an explanation if you ask me. Amazingly, in verse 38 Mary said: “’I am the Lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said.’” Now we can only imagine how Joseph must have reacted and how confused and hurt he must have been, since they had not yet come together as husband and wife.
Matthew 1:18b tells us “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” But an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home to be his wife.
I have to confess that I was always curious about how Joseph could divorce Mary since they apparently weren’t living together, so in my mind they weren’t married. I also have to confess that the word “husband” earlier in that same sentence had never registered in my mind. Even if it had though, I think I probably would’ve still been confused because of them not living together yet. But according to The International Bible Commentary on page 1122 it says “Here let us note that apart from the divine activity in conception, Christ’s birth was completely normal. He was not conceived until Mary was married; betrothal was legally marriage.”** So Joseph could have divorced Mary.
Joseph did as he was instructed and took Mary to his home. They were then called to go to Bethlehem for the census. They could find no rooms available and for all practical purposes we’d have to call where they were staying a good old-fashioned barn. The time came for Jesus to be born and He was laid in a manger – a feeding trough for animals. Jesus’ birth at this time and place was necessary to fulfill the prophesy in Micah 5:2 that tells of the savior being born in Bethlehem.
We all are very familiar with how an angel then appeared to the shepherds that were nearby in fields. This angel gave the details about how to recognize this child and where he could be found. Then a host of angels appeared proclaiming the birth of the Savior with praises. It seems as soon as the angels left then the shepherds decided to go find this child.
When the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem, they found Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. Can you imagine, based on what the angels had told them how amazed and completely overcome with joy they were? In fact, they apparently were SO excited they couldn’t contain themselves and left to go spread the word of what they’d been told and that they had found the baby.
This again is something that never clicked with me. I just assumed that when they found the child they were so happy they just stayed there for a long time – admiring him, talking with Mary and Joseph and asking to hold him like most doting visitors do when seeing a new baby. But in Luke 2:17-18 it says: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Since they had left their flocks they had to return to care for & watch over them and verse 20 says: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
What I have discovered that for me is the most interesting part is that the Magi did NOT appear at the same time as the shepherds as we see depicted in all the stories and pictures. In fact, they did not even go near the manger. It was, in fact, quite a long time before they visited this wonderful young family. (My research indicates that it could have been anywhere from 6 months to 2 years later.)
Luke 2:39 tells us that after Joseph and Mary had completed all required by law for their child, that they returned to Nazareth. (No mention of the Magi between verse 20 when the shepherds were glorifying and praising and verse 29 when the family leaves for their home.)
The account of the Magi is in Matthew 2. Verses 9-11, speaking about the Magi, tell us: “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” So this would seem to indicate that the family was back in Nazareth in their home.
Because instead of a lamb, a pair of turtle doves or pigeons was Mary and Joseph’s offering (Luke 2:24) at the time Jesus was consecrated at the temple, the assumption has been made they were poor. So when the Magi visited them and presented very valuable gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, it gave them funds that would soon be very much needed.
After the Magi left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him they needed to escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13.) The International Bible Commentary, on page 1122 indicates that the “gifts of the Magi were divinely provided” in order to help fulfill the prophesy that He had to come out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15b.) Those funds likely helped them afford the travel to Egypt as well as getting established once they arrived and apparently resided for quite a long while; thus saving the life of Jesus from Herod. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.
So there you have it…The Christmas Story Revisited.
**I just read another scripture in my Bible study that confirms this information – Deuteronomy 22 discusses marriage violations and verses 23 & 24 say: “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death – the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife…”
I pray that each of you will have a most blessed Christmas and don’t forget, in the midst of your celebrating, to be reminded and thankful for the most wonderful gift ever given – the birth of the baby that saves us still – Jesus Christ our Lord.
Written by Karran Martin
October 21, 2018