When I was a child, we could pick up the local TV station on our radio, and I would occasionally listen to a musical program named “Hee Haw!” While thinking about our service on Christmas, I was reminded of a comedy routine from which the title of this blog originates. I know my sense of humor is a little unique and sometimes considered odd, so bear with me while I try to explain myself as I re-tell the narrative of the birth of Christ.
Roughly 2000 years ago, the world was much like it is today. There were numerous wars, and turmoil was everywhere. In Israel, the toll of war was prominent. The Jews chaffed under the weight of a government they despised, and most of the ruling elite were either corrupt or suspected to be so. They were required to pay punitive taxes and saw very little benefit from them. There were significant anti-Roman groups that consistently upset the status quo. Morality was scoffed at and sin was rampant.
Mary was born into this kind of world. She grew up hoping, like every Jewish maiden, that she would be the chosen mother of the Messiah. And, like all the others before her, she had come to realize that her chance was quickly slipping away, for the prophets clearly stated that the Messiah would have a virgin mother, and she would soon be married. Suddenly, Gabriel appears and tells her the wonderful news! She was the chosen one!
Joseph was a respectable carpenter in Nazareth, a typical little town. He had worked diligently for the duration of the betrothal to prepare a home for his bride. The day was not far off – just a few more months – and they would have the wedding celebration. He would finally be with his betrothed! One day, Mary shows up with “wonderful news” – she was pregnant by God! This had never been heard of, except in the prophecies. How should he deal with this? He knew he was not the father of the child, but he could not figure out who was to blame. One doesn’t simply become pregnant; however, there had been no indications from Mary that he had a rival. He cared for Mary and did not want her to bear the shame that would result from the ending of the betrothal, so he was trying to figure out a way to do it privately.
Then, his answer appeared before him – Gabriel. He was thankful that his worries about Mary being unfaithful were quashed. Imagine the relief! Imagine the honor – to be the surrogate father of the Messiah! But, oh the problems…
Nazareth was a small town, and like typical small towns, the rumors had already begun to circulate. Mary would always be branded as a loose woman, and Joseph would always be considered a weak man. Why could He not wait a few more months? They had their entire life before them! And the child… everyone would always look at him as one who was conceived out-of-wedlock.
At the end of the pregnancy, Caesar decrees that everyone must take their families and travel to their city of origin and pay a tax. As they were already legally “a family,” Joseph and Mary made the minimum four-day journey to Bethlehem.
We are quick to glamorize the birth of Jesus with little factual basis for our glorious views. Jesus was likely born in a dark, damp, smelly cave, as none of the “respectable” people would give up their bed in the inn so that this poor pregnant girl could rest (let alone give birth) in comfort. Jesus’ first bed was a hollowed out rock and padded with straw, and His first clothes were rags. The angels sang to the lowest class and least educated of their society (there is also no Biblical proof that Joseph and Mary were entertained by a heavenly choir). These ignorant and smelly men were the earthly messengers that proclaimed Jesus’ birth to the world.
As there is no Biblical explanation given, it is likely that Joseph and Mary were content to immerse themselves in the bustle of Bethlehem. Being a suburb of Jerusalem, it is likely that their unconventional family would not generate the gossip and social disdain that they had experienced in little Nazareth. They lived in relative obscurity for nearly two years when foreign dignitaries burst on the scene bringing expensive gifts and wanting to worship the toddler. After another angelic encounter, they are once again running from their circumstances, staying in Egypt for at least a year before returning to Israel after the death of Herod.
Imagine how it would be to have another angelic warning to not return to Bethlehem. The Bible does not give the reason, but it is easy to imagine the anger (and even hatred) that the residents of Bethlehem felt towards this young family. Consider how it must have been when the town gossips began to realize that they had narrowly escaped Herod’s jealous purge, and their baby had not been killed along with all the other little ones living in Bethlehem.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me could have easily been Joseph’s and Mary’s theme song. As we read our Bible, we often don’t see the turmoil in which the events occurred. We think that Joseph, Mary, and their family had an idyllic life. We put our Biblical heroes on a pedestal and think that they were perfect; however, when we really begin to study, we begin to see some of the obstacles they had to overcome.
I’m sure you were able to see many parallels between the time of Christ and today’s world. Yet, they overcame their circumstance. Many times, we look at Jesus’ birth only in its prophetic fulfillment or its necessity for salvation, for our Savior could not have been crucified for our sins had He not been born. There are so many lessons we can learn from this narrative, if only we dig a little deeper.
Yes, times are hard. The economy is in shambles and there is political uncertainty everywhere you look. But, when we think that things cannot possibly get worse, maybe we need to take another look at the time when Christ was born and realize what came of their turmoil. If we allow God, it is likely he can do something wonderful in our lives also!
Gloom, despair, and agony on me? Not a chance! I know who my Daddy is!