I’ve been reading “The End of Religion” by Bruxey Cavey. In it, he explores the idea of Jesus not coming to begin another religion… but to save us from religion. If you’re interested in a Biblical treatise of this idea, check it out. In related themes, this morning we read in our family devotion Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp about the angel that came to visit Mary. (You may be wondering about how these two ideas intersect… just hang onto your hats, my friend…. )
The angel comes and tells Mary that she will carry a baby that will be fathered by the Holy Spirit. Ok, what? Who came up with this crazy scheme to save us anyway? God did? A holy and pure God? How could a holy and pure God decide that using a young, unmarried Jewish woman was the best idea?
I love watching The Nativity Story with our family at Christmas. It depicts the political atmosphere of the time, the way that people lived during that time of history, and the lives of Mary and Joseph as they may have been. It also clearly shows the results of Mary’s choice to believe the angel and to submit to the plans of God. Despite what it would cost her, Mary’s response is to say, “May it be to me as you have said.”
I admire Mary’s courage. Knowing that she would bring disgrace to her family, she said ‘yes’. Knowing that her betrothed husband might abandon her, she said ‘yes’. And even knowing that she could face death by stoning, she said ‘yes’.
I don’t think I would have that courage. I think I might have pulled a Jonah and gone tearing in the opposite direction.
But Mary chose to trust God and His plan more than her own thoughts and feelings on the matter. She chose to trust God despite the ‘scandal’ that her ‘condition’ brought upon her. God didn’t tell Mary she was the chosen one and then make the journey smooth for her.
But back to the intersection of ideas. To any righteous religious leader of the day, Mary would have been a scandal. According to the Jewish laws and religious customs, Mary would have been labelled, scorned, rejected, disgraced, shamed and possibly even stoned. She would have been thought to be crazy, standing by the idea that she was told by an angel that she was going to carry the Son of God. There is so much of this story that looks scandalous and unholy that religious heads would have been reeling in disbelief.
This is where I think God shows us, as Cavey does, that the religious rules are secondary. God chose Mary to carry Jesus, and she faced ridicule and judgement from her family and from her entire community. Any righteous, God-fearing Jew would have seen this situation as a complete disgrace. Shameful. A slap in her father’s face.
God sees things from a different perspective. God sees beyond rules and regulations. God sees things that we don’t.
To people, it looked like a complete scandal.
But to God… it was his chosen plan for salvation.