This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
- Matthew 1:18
Surprise! Can you imagine what it would be like to be Mary and Joseph in this situation?
Mary and Joseph would have been engaged in a very formal way. Their families would have signed contracts and their whole community would have known about their commitment to each other. When Mary was found to be pregnant before the wedding date, it would have been a significant scandal in their community.
Christmas came as a surprise for everyone involved. No one would have expected God to act in this way.
The events of the Old Testament happened hundreds of years before that first Christmas. All of the prophets and miracle-witnesses had died out. The Jewish world contained loads and loads of legends, but God’s activity seemed mostly buried in the distant past. To go around claiming that the Holy Spirit had fathered this child would have been met with disbelief, scorn, and ridicule.
The pagans all had their legends about how the gods fathered children, but the Jews utterly refused to accept that their God would behave in this way. To this day, many refuse to believe the truth of this element of the Christmas story.
When God engages with the stories of our lives, his engagement is often challenging to believe. We can always come up with alternative narratives to explain away the surprising work of God.
When have you seen God work in your life in a surprising way? What elements of that surprise did you find difficult to believe or explain?