I want to be a little bit daring today and invite you to think for a minute whether you happen to know anyone who was conceived outside of a marriage, or who was adopted, or whose parents were young and poor, or someone where there is some doubt as to who their father is . . . .
All of this describes Jesus! We know there is more to the story but this is the human outline!
The “more” of the story is that Jesus’ conception was a miracle; some scholars think that one can see a correspondence here to the conception of Isaac when his mother Sarah was already an old lady, something that was not likely to happen. (Remember that Abraham was also challenged to sacrifice his son, as Jesus became a sacrifice.)
We can also consider here that all life comes from God; every human spirit comes from God. We can even say that in that sense, all human conception is a miracle, not a given. Consider that many couples struggle to conceive a child. A human child is a gift from God.
So many aspects of Jesus’ birth story can also make us think and perhaps recognize and see our own prejudices in a new light:
Jesus was conceived out of wedlock;
Joseph and Mary were young and poor;
They were humble, not demanding and haughty;
They sought to do things right, both before God and according to the customs of their society, but they weren’t “getting ahead”;
Joseph had the right to divorce Mary, but he felt compassion for her and did not want to see her maligned or even stoned;
Joseph and Mary sought and listened to God’s guidance;
And yet nothing about their situation was “regular” or “normal.”
What are we to make of all this?
God came into our human midst in the least promising way and yet was Immanuel – God with us – God Himself as Everyman. Think of the millions of human beings born in this way everywhere – the unplanned, out-of-wedlock, poor millions born everywhere all the time. We may turn our backs on people like this but God does not, and He knows what this condition feels like.
And then there was Joseph, a young man willing to adopt and raise as his own a son that was not his. In faith he put his pride and doubt aside to take care of his young wife and a baby that he knew was not his own. Can you imagine the confusion and doubt that he endured?
What seems so striking to me in this story is how there seems to be something in it for all of us to relate to, regardless of our own background. If we are middle-class, conventional thinkers then we can console ourselves with Jesus’ divine heritage. But what if we ourselves or some of our relatives or neighbors and community members have backgrounds like this?
Notice how in this lowly way God came into the world for each one of us!
One of my own great-grandfathers was a foundling . . . .
One of my aunts adopted six children who had become wards of the state because of their impoverished and neglected status; this means I have six cousins who are not my blood relatives. Are they any less family?
Jesus as the Christ came to meet humankind and therefore each one of us in every situation, from every kind of background. With God’s help and guidance may we meet others in our community and on our travels in that same humble spirit of love and acceptance! May we have the courage and faith of Joseph!