A pregnant, unmarried teenager. That’s enough to cause a scandal. And not a teen about to finish school. Oh no! Let’s estimate a girl somewhere between 13 and 16. Some of us had our children when we were young – maybe as young as 18 or 19 – but cast your mind back to the kids starting high school as you were finishing. Better yet, remember what you were doing and how you behaved around your 13th birthday. It was probably the year you had to prove yourself – the year when you entered that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood – where somehow you didn’t seem to fit in anywhere! Fine time to fall pregnant!
Let’s make the situation a little more complicated. What if this girl was known to be a professing Christian? She went to church every Sunday. She never swore. She didn’t mess around with boys. She respected her parents and didn’t rebel. She was loving to everyone, even that awful girl who teased her about the way she dressed. I think you all have someone in mind as you read these words.
Add another complication: there was no sex involved. Say what?!? So now, imagine trying to spin the story that you haven’t had sex but you’re pregnant – at 13 – and there is no father to speak of. Would you have believed this if a teenager had told you that in high school? Not likely!
And yet, this story is true.
One day this young girl was busy around the home of her parents, probably helping out with the house work and the next day she finds herself pregnant. Now needs to tell her parents, her friends and worse, the man she’s been promised to one day. I don’t know about you, but I would want to curl up and cry and never emerge from under my duvet cover!
You all actually know this woman. Her name was Mary.
She was likely between the ages of 13 and 16 when, out of the blue, she saw an angel. Yes, we read about angels in the Bible. It might seem Biblical commonplace for angels, miracles and even God to appear to man but actually, she lived in a time where none of that had happened for 400 years. God had been quiet. Just to give you some sort of idea of a time gap – that’s like God sending an angel today when the last time a human heard from God was in the 1600s. Better idea now? This was not the norm! Imagine today, at work while you are busy typing on your computer or at home as you are folding the washing, an angel appears to you. I would also be scared!
Now the angel greets her and tells her she is “highly favoured,” and if she didn’t hear him clearly enough the first time, after telling her not to be afraid, he repeats himself…
“Mary, you have found favour with God.”
He then tells her that she’s going to fall pregnant…and give birth to the Saviour of the World.
Her response is not
“Please don’t choose me!” nor is it,
“You’ve got to be joking!”
No, she asks a very practical question. In short,
If I were her, I would be wondering if I was going marry Joseph imminently and then fall pregnant. If not, who would I have to sleep with? Scary thought!
Once the angel explains that it will be a supernatural process, she doesn’t lose her mind like most teens would. She humbly replies that she will do exactly what God wants her to do. No more questions. No arguing. No rebelling. Just humble, submissive obedience. She calls herself a servant of God. These are not the words of a teenager!
God could have gone to a princess or the daughter of a priest, but He didn’t. He chose a girl from a humble background. She wasn’t a woman with prestige, but, she had the qualities He was looking for. And God chose her to parent His Son! Imagine being “highly favoured” by the Almighty God! He gave Mary Jesus Christ to care for! He entrusted the upbringing of His only Son to a girl of 13. The future King of All was growing inside her womb! Mind-blowing!
Now all the thrill of the miraculous announcement is over when the angel leaves her…and she is on her own. Now she has to tell people – and how does she even begin to explain it? If a young girl told us today that she had been visited by an angel and that she was now pregnant, we’d definitely think she was trying to cover up a scandalous act. In fact, she would be the object of mockery. I’m sure that’s exactly what Mary endured – at her tender age. Honestly – forget her parents – Joseph, her fiancé would be a very scary person to face. Imagine telling your fiancé that you were pregnant. Firstly, he would now have to raise a child. Secondly, the child isn’t his – which means his wife-to-be has been sleeping with another man. And, in addition, he can’t make love to his bride until the baby arrives…that’s if you decide to marry her.
Imagine Mary walking up to Joseph’s house, rehearsing what she was about to tell him in her head. Maybe she was calm. But I think she must have been a little scared. Back then, her “offence” was deserving of death by stoning. This was not going to be an easy conversation to have! Not easy to explain to a man jealous for her love. But, in the face of possible death and at merely 13 years old, she does it. She tells him. And he doesn’t believe her. She has to face the fact that she probably wouldn’t ever get married even if he didn’t decide to stone her. But thankfully, God intervened and he married her anyway.
Mary spends three months with her cousin, who, in her old age is also miraculously pregnant after being barren all her life. And when Elizabeth sees Mary, she praises God for the honour of carrying His Son. She doesn’t whine like most of us and as teenager would most probably do. No, she praises God!
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
I know for sure that this would not have been my response!
But Mary didn’t just praise God…she rejoiced! She was humbled! This gives us a good indication of why God chose her!
Then, if all the scandal wasn’t enough, she now has to leave all she knows to ride to a faraway destination on a donkey, heavily pregnant! What a trooper! Donkeys seem to be quite bony compared to the sleek, muscular and well-padded backs of horses. Yet she, without complaint, bears the pain and rides one anyway.
When they arrive in Bethlehem, there is nowhere for them to stay. At this point I would lose it! My sense of humour and grace would be long gone!
Mary has not had it easy so far and yet, she has borne it all with immense courage and grace. And now, she’s about to give birth, far removed from the women she loves who would probably have delivered her child, away from the support of her mother, in a strange town without even a place for her to lie down!
The place they find is on scratchy straw in a smelly stable with an audience of animals lowing and bleating while she goes through active labour with only the support of a man (definitely not the done thing)!
But then the world changed forever!
Her body bore the Son of God!
Imagine the relief she felt when she heard the baby she had carried for nine months cry as He entered this world on the floor of a dirty stable. Imagine holding the Saviour of the world in your arms as his arms flailed. Imagine the overwhelming emotion spill over as she cradled and nursed her firstborn. And all the while, knowing that heaven was rejoicing, that God, the Father, was pleased.
Creation had waited in eager anticipation for the arrival of this Saviour. And she was the one chosen to bring Him into the world. She was one of the two privileged people to see His birth, to hold Him in her arms and chosen by the Creator to raise Him, love Him and parent Him.
While the rest of the world lay sleeping, a young girl became a mother to God’s child in a draughty stable welcomed only by animals on a cold floor littered with straw. But in that moment, the world would never be the same again. It had changed forever…
Tags: 13 and pregnant, baby, Christmas, Jesus, king, Mary, nativity, pregnancy, Saviour, scandal, shame, shock, teen pregnancy, teenager