What Would Christmas Be without Mary and Joseph? - Part 1

Fredy Peter

Luke’s Gospel reveals Mary’s extraordinary character, and Matthew’s Gospel reveals Joseph’s. Still, Galatians 4:4 and Micah 5:2 suggest that the “holy couple” wasn’t without fault. Their example shows us that Christmas is about every person’s need for a Savior. A biblical exploration.

Christmas without Mary and Joseph would mean a completely silent night. There would be no mother and child in a Bethlehem stable. We’d know nothing of the wonderful woman and noble man to whom God would entrust His Son. The Christmas story is the most beautiful story in all of world literature, surpassed only by the fact that it’s true in every detail.
Let’s start with Mary.

Mary
People tend to go to extremes where Mary is concerned. Either she’s revered to the extent that Jesus takes a back seat, or she is undeservedly ignored. Mary was an extraordinary woman! I’d even go so far as to say that there has never been a woman like her before or since. Interestingly, the physician Luke focuses on her specifically in his Gospel. He shows that:

Mary was pure. 
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…” (Luke 1:26-27). She wasn’t just a young woman (generally assumed to be around 15 years old), but also a virgin. This means that she’d never had sexual relations. This truth is also clear from the context.

Mary was pure despite her engagement.
“…Betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David…” (Luke 1:27). Engagement signified a great deal more at that time than it does now. The engagement period lasted for one year, and was just as binding as marriage. It could only be annulled through divorce. Therefore, the couple was already considered husband and wife, although they didn’t move in together until after the wedding feast. A relationship outside of this arrangement was considered adultery.

Mary was humble.
“And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one…’” (Luke 1:28). Mary received grace, undeserved favor, because she was humble. Humility means not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought (Rom 12:3). God gives grace to the humble, according to James 4:6. And Mary was undoubtedly humble, because she received the very essence of God’s grace in Jesus.

Mary was blessed.
“…The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28, KJV). God bestowed a generous gift upon this young Jewish woman and granted her great delight. At the same time, she had to accomplish the most difficult task. There is only a single reason why God chose Mary: He simply wanted her.

Mary was ordinary.
“But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). Mary didn’t encounter the angel as some placid saint on equal footing, but as a regular, upset young woman. Surprisingly, the encounter didn’t prevent her from thinking steadily. That was also necessary to understand the extraordinary revelation about the magnitude, origin, and future of the baby she was to conceive (Luke 1:30-33).

Mary was deliberate.
“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34). The Bible clearly speaks of purity during the engagement period. Mary wasn’t surprised that the long-promised Messiah was to come, but marveled at how (as a virgin) she could become His mother.

Mary was resolute.
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38). Consider what this meant for the young woman: illegitimate pregnancy, shame, scorn, possibly being punished or shunned by others, and no wedding feast, congratulations, or gifts. “Let it be to me according to your word.” She wasn’t looking at the unforeseeable consequences, but at the exceedingly rich grace, causing her to become the boldest heroine of faith in the entire Bible.

The unbelief of one woman (Eve) brought the world to ruin through sin and death. The faith of the other (Mary) brought forth the world’s Redeemer over sin and death. 

Mary took action.
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40). It’s truly said that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. What kinds of thoughts might have been going through her mind during the dangerous, lonely, days-long journey? Regardless, Mary immediately acted on the angel’s practical remark about Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:36), so she could find refuge, a listening ear, and an understanding heart with Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the only one who would believe her, since her husband had experienced something similar with an angel…

Mary was thankful.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever’” (Luke 1:46-55). Mary’s incredible knowledge of the Bible is revealed in this highly impressive Magnificat, as her song of praise and thanksgiving is known. According to Charles Ryrie, 15 Old Testament quotations can be recognized in just 10 verses! She reveals her spiritual insight and deep worship. She praises God’s mercy in what He does for her (vv. 46-49), for us (vv. 50-53), and for Israel (vv. 54-55).

Mary was courageous.
“And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home” (Luke 1:56). She probably stayed until John the Baptist was born, and then made her way back. She left it all to God. This is one of the bravest walks of faith that the Bible records. What could she expect at home? What would her family say, and what would Joseph say?
And that leads us to her groom.

Midnight Call - 12/2023

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