Scan`dal: noun. an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” - Matthew 1:18-19.
Approximately 2,022 years ago, a young woman (we would call her a girl today) was pregnant and unwed. The woman Joseph thought to be virtuous and pure was carrying a baby not his.
He could have her killed, but Joseph was merciful. He would give her a divorce quietly (betrothal required legal actions to end). Mary would not die, but could live out her existence in shame as a poor, single mother. The child fatherless, unclean, and despised.
"But as [Joseph] considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:10-21
This changes everything…at least for Joseph and Mary. The baby is “from the Holy Spirit”; Mary has been true and faithful. They will be married and they will raise this Savior-child as God has instructed. Others were not privy to Joseph’s dream. Would they still consider this to be outrageous and scandalous? Yes. Possibly a reason they stayed in Bethlehem a couple “extra” years.
Is this the extent of it? No. Not by a long shot. The true outrageous scandal of Christmas is not found in the newlywed couple, but in the babe in their arms. The one wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a feeding trough. He is the scandal, the OUTRAGE for all of time.
How so? Because within the flesh of that baby is God. The Master of the Universe, dwelling within his own creation. Maker of the innumerable stars, born under them. The Creator of the fields, the sheep, and the very hands that held him, now in the form of a helpless child. The Masterful Potter at the mercy of his ignorant lumps of clay. Everything within us should scream, “NO! This is wrong! It should not be this way!” We should be outraged.
Jesus was the Word, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:14, 3-5, 10-11.
What happens to this God-baby? He grows and the scandal grows with him. Though human, he lives in perfect righteousness as only God can. He saves and heals and loves. But the ignorant lumps of clay hate him. He claims to be God because he is God. They abuse him and finally nail the Light of the World to a cross to die. Outrage.
Yet this man will not stay dead, he really is God. He rises, he forgives, and he calls us to be his. He has paid our debt of sin with his holy God-blood. He was the needed sacrifice for our atonement. We can be with him in glory…SO undeserved! Ignorant lumps of clay now fashioned into vessels of beauty by the hands that bear the scars from the wounds we gave him. How can this be? It is outrageous!
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” “And we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:5, 14, 16.
That is our God, he is outrageous. Do not take his birth lightly. His love for us is nothing short of scandalous. We are utterly unworthy, yet he gives it. Are you listening, are you paying attention to what he has done? Are you seeing it over and over on the pages of his Book? I hope so. Celebrate it with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength this Christmas. Live outrageously for the God who loves you outrageously.