While we know that this “Jesus” would eventually change the world, the scandal that would have risen from the baby bump Mary would soon carry would have been devastating. This tiding of great joy could only have been seen as greatly troubling, for at the very least, Mary would have been pushed to the margins of her community and at the worst, stoned.
But this is how God works.
God stepped into the life of a poor girl who was turned away from every respectable inn, was finally brought into something slightly better than a cave, and whose baby was laid in a feeding trough.
What kind of God is this that the first people to hear that He was born were people who smelled so bad that others would avoid them like the plague? What kind of God is this that over and over again the people we would aspire to be are pushed away as unworthy?
This is a God who goes into the broken places and makes things right.
This is a God who steps into scandal.
From the very moment of his birth to his death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus challenges everything we know to be true. He verbally abuses everyone we would have been culturally conditioned to respect and honor. He keeps company with people we would have been embarrassed to be associated with. He saying things such as “The first shall be last,” and “If you want to save your life, you must lose it,” and “This is my blood, which is shed for you.” This Jesus is messy. Moreover, this Jesus asks things of us that are uncomfortable and awkward and against what we would call our better judgment. The thing called the Christian life could not rationally be called joyful. And yet, it is.
It is a good and joyful thing to be caught up in the scandal of it all: to risk, to step into the broken places, to call for peace and reconciliation, to boldly follow the light the Virgin Mary brings into the world.
And perhaps this is the great scandal of Advent, that we wait for this God to wade into our mess, our drama, our chaos, and transform it from being something ugly and painful into something lovely. After all, the good news offered to the Virgin Mary ended up being the best news ever heard, even if it would have been scandalous, even if she was greatly troubled by it. This message from an angel put things in motion that would make things right again.
Collect of the Incarnation
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 252).