Fully Human 3: Shady Birth

Now Reading
Fully Human 3: Shady Birth

I was born into a loving family who eagerly planned for my arrival. Sadly, many people were not planned for and feel like they were never really wanted or loved by their families. Amazingly, I think Jesus understands (and knows intimately) exactly how they feel.

Each Christmas the cute Nativity scene of Jesus’ birth fills us with warm fuzzy feelings of love and bliss, but we completely overlook how scandalous, shady, humiliating, and shameful it really was. We do not realize that the self-humbling and self-emptying of Jesus began before he was even born (Phil 2:5-8).

Luke begins the birth-story by mentioning three key details: God sent the angel Gabriel ‘to a virgin pledged to be married (Lk 1:27-28)’ to tell her ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon’ her and that she will soon be pregnant. So she is: 1) a virgin; 2) pledged to be married (but not married); and 3) soon to be pregnant by God’s Spirit! When an ancient Jewish couple wanted to marry, they made a formal pledge of marriage and then had one year to prepare themselves while still living with their parents. During that year the couple was considered legally married, but they would not live together or have sexual relations until the actual wedding.

We must also remember that God and His people took sexual purity very seriously, and adultery was so offensive that Jewish Law called for adulterers to be stoned to death (Lev 20:10). In fact, because couples like Joseph and Mary, who were ‘pledged’ to be married but not fully married, were legally considered husband and wife, Mary’s pregnancy while ‘pledged’ to Joseph would have been interpreted by their families and society as adultery. According to Jewish Law, Joseph could have had her executed.

In fact, Mary’s pregnancy was so scandalous that at first Joseph did not even believe her and was going to divorce her (Mt 1:19), presumably to avoid the shame and humiliation of staying together. He only believed her later because an angel appeared to him explaining everything, but their parents, families, friends, and neighbors never received any angelic explanations and must have viewed them with suspicion and disgust.

We see these themes again in Jesus’ actual birth (Lk 2:1-7). Joseph and Mary go to Joseph’s ‘own town to register’ for the census (v.3); since he comes from the family of David, they go to Bethlehem. It is almost certain Joseph would have had tons of (extended) family living or staying in Bethlehem during the census, because they all had to go there to be counted. This is important because v.5 says Joseph went ‘with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.’ Again: ‘pledged to be married’ (but not married); and Mary is pregnant. That means everyone would have assumed that either: 1) Mary and Joseph had pre-marital sex; or 2) Mary committed adultery, both of which were completely scandalous.

Then comes our favorite line: ‘She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.’ Having to go to an ‘inn’ implies that in a town overflowing with Joseph’s family, Joseph and Mary were forced to go to a hotel. Seriously? But that word translated ‘inn’ can also mean the ‘upper room’ of a Jewish house, which would imply Joseph and Mary knocked on his families’ doors and asked to come in, but were told the rooms were full and were then shut out to fend for themselves. Now even if the ‘upper rooms’ were full of Joseph’s relatives, you would think they would have seen his desperate situation and made room for them! But they did not.

So why on earth would Joseph and Mary be forced to give birth alone and outside, placing Jesus in a feeding trough for animals, when Joseph would have had family living and staying in houses all over Bethlehem? What could possibly explain why Joseph’s family shut them out?

I think the answer is simple: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were not welcome. I think Joseph’s family saw this pregnancy as so shameful, unacceptable, and embarrassing, that they rejected Joseph, Mary, and their illegitimate child. But how disgusted would they need to be in order to reject their own family like that?

And why on earth would the God of the universe choose such scandalous circumstances to come to us? Why as a weak, rejected, illegitimate child of shame, embarrassment, and scorn? Maybe it is so we know just how much He cares for and identifies with the most unwanted, rejected, and broken people around. Maybe it is to remind us that in this world of multi-national corporations and billionaires, God is especially concerned about the weak and oppressed, and therefore we should be too.

Jesus’ humanity reveals the ultimate paradox: the Humble God. Before Jesus, being ‘humble’ was not a compliment; it was an insult describing the weak and powerless. But Jesus’ birth demands this paradox. The creator of the universe arrives on the scene covered in blood, pooping his diapers, despised and rejected by most of his family.

What could have possibly caused Him to do such a thing?

Love.

If this story is true: then how does that change the way you view God? How might it affect the way you view those who are weak, helpless, oppressed, or cast aside by society? When I think of Jesus willingly coming to us in this way, it leaves me in awe. What a breathtaking demonstration of love! The challenge is: how do we respond to it?

 

For the entire Fully Human series click here.

About The Author
Greg Haugh
Greg Haugh
Greg is a church-planter in northern Chile who grew up in Orange County and studied Spanish & Speech Communications at Cal State Long Beach before getting his M-Div from Fuller Theological Seminary. He recently planted a church called ‘Fuego Urbano’ (Urban Fire) in La Serena, Chile (www.fuegourbano.org) where he is seeking to reach and disciple the disenfranchised and un-churched younger generations of Chileans. Greg has been developing skateboarding, surfing, sports, arts, and music ministries that are culturally relevant to, and meaningful for, Chile’s younger generations. He has been surfing since he was a kid and before meeting Jesus that pretty much dictated his life. Since coming to know Jesus in college, however, he has devoted his life to trying to reach other young people around the world with the love and good news of Jesus, and has been fortunate enough to be able to use his gifts and passions like surfing in order to fulfill that greater calling. Among the many things Greg loves are: Jesus, surfing, playing guitar, skateboarding, the Lakers, Kobe, history, Spanish, Latin America (esp. Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica), learning, theology, dark beer, storms, History Channel, sports, camping & fishing in the mountains, traveling, the blues, Hendrix, music, Zambia.
53 Comments
Leave a response
  • Gloria J. Greb
    June 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Jesus birth was as the Lord prophesied. It fulfilled Gods word on the subject. God chose the time and place. Circumstances do not diminish the awesomeness of the birth.

  • Monica Calahan
    June 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    No, some of us do not. That is why we are filled with warm fuzzy feelings of love and bliss; because, our Lord paid the ultimate price, the giving of his own life. It was not scandalous, shady, humiliating, or shameful, the people were.

  • Greg Haugh
    June 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Gloria: I think you might have misunderstood the point I was trying to make. You’re right that circumstances don’t diminish the awesomeness of the birth, but rather enhance it. That’s my whole point! When we see the circumstances that God chose to come to us in (as you wrote above), it should leave us in awe of His great love for us and how much He was willing to suffer and endure for us!

  • Greg Haugh
    June 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Monica: that’s my whole point…if you read what I wrote you’ll see that given the cultural context of Jesus’ day, and what the Bible says about the birth, the people would have viewed Joseph, Mary, and Jesus with scorn and shame. We know the truth and source of the pregnancy (the Holy Spirit) because we read it in the Bible but the Jewish people who lived around Joseph and Mary had no way of knowing the truth and therefore would’ve assumed either that Mary had committed adultery or that Joseph and Mary had pre-marital sexual relations, both of which were cause for great shame in that culture and context. Either way, the people would have viewed them with great scorn and shame. that’s my point

  • Deborah Ann Hooper
    July 1, 2012 at 4:29 am

    You know, nobody likes to read or hear anything so negative and hateful said about the deity they choose to worship. When I read your post above, I was ready to fight…..but would Jesus really want that? No…so I waited and listened. God has his reason for EVERYTHING he does. God knew all of the above.. the shame, the great scorn. He knew, and it did not change throughout the life of Jesus, but still He moved on doing what He and Father had agreed upon to live and die to be the ultimate sacrifice for us and our sins. Praise God; THANK YOU, JESUS, THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME SO MUCH! and thank you Mr. Haugh for stirring me up enough to cause me to stop, wait, and listen, in order for my God to talk with me and teach me something. Have a beautiful day in the Lord! I know I will.

  • Linda Cantrell
    July 1, 2012 at 4:39 am

    that was the way god planned it as part of his path to save us from sin so why would you say something like that about gods plan

  • Danielle Dee Edison
    July 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Linda, if you read the article or Greg’s comment above you will see that he is not speaking about God’s plan per say but the reactions to God’s plan. Like today, with some states in the US having the highest teen pregnancy rates you could see how some women may feel a great shame in having a child. Now, Mary’s situation was much different, having an honorable pledge to get married but I am sure she felt shame and disgrace from those around her. However, no matter hooch shame the world may bring to young mothers now, there is always a celebration in Heaven when a child is born, for it is what God planned. God may have planned for there to be a scandal or great shame in Mary’s pregnancy but a lesson was taught to the people who treated Joesph and Mary is such regard that there is beauty, hope, and life in Jesus’ birth. He wasn’t born as royalty and laid upon silk and showered with expensive gifts, He was born amongst a chaotic and corrupt world. That is what is so beautiful about it. If Jesus could come into the world like that and become our Savior, then those who were born in the regard could have a great purpose in life as well!

  • Danielle Dee Edison
    July 1, 2012 at 7:54 am

    *hooch = how much. Whoops.

  • Greg
    July 1, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Deborah: THANKS FOR YOU COMMENTS!!! THAT’S IT!! In your own words: “God has his reason for everything he does…He knew the shame…the great scorn…and it did not change throughout the life of Jesus…but he still moved on doing what he and the Father had agreed upon…to live and die to be the ultimate sacrifice for us and our sins.” Now given all the shame, scorn, ridicule, and suffering Jesus had to endure (from what we read in the Bible about him), which God ‘has his reason for,’ How great must his love for us be that he would knowingly and willingly suffer and endure all that for us!!? THAT is love! And THAT is what leaves me teary-eyed every time I think about it. Thanks for allowing God to speak to you through that post and for sharing with me about your experience as you processed it. The truth is: if we understand what really happened then these events SHOULD shock or anger us like it did to you! The problem is (like I said in my post), we’re uncomfortable with the truth and have therefore turned Jesus’ scandalous birth into the “warm fuzzy blissful” images of baby Jesus at Christmas time, which are not really historically accurate and not what the gospels say actually happened. The truth should shock and scandalize us! And then, like you’ve experienced, it should inspire even greater gratitude, appreciation, and love in us for the one who willingly and knowingly went through all that for us!! LOVE IT!!

  • Greg Haugh
    July 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Linda: please read Danielle’s comments below regarding your question about “God’s plan.” And Danielle, thanks for giving that insight! Also Linda: I’m not criticizing ‘God’s plan’ at all. In fact, what you said is the truth that I hope we all come to terms with: that Jesus was born into weakness and full dependence on his mother, not power and strength; into a situation where others would have assumed he was an illegitimate child and therefore shunned & rejected him (as well as Mary & Joseph), instead of welcomign and loving him; where he was most likely rejected by even his extended family, not accepted and loved by those who are supposed to be in his side…and all this was, as you said, ‘God’s plan.’ Now if all that was ‘God’s plan’ (which I agree with), then we must ask ourselves why on earth would God have chosen to come to us in such questionable and difficult circumstances?? He could have come as a powerful king or ruler like Caesar at the time, or least like King Herod who was the local ruler of Galilea. He could have been born into a royal palace, with royal celebrations, parades, and festivities fit for a king! But ‘God’s plan’ was NOT that. It was what I’ve tried to explain in my post: filled with scandal, scorn, rejection, weakness, vulnerability…and all because of Jesus. Now if ‘God’s plan’ was to do it this way, and if Jesus knowingly and willingly went through it all, then he must have had a pretty darn good reason for doing so!! And that reason is you and I, and every other human being who has ever lived. Jesus willingly and knowingly endured rejection, scorn, insults, criticism, being made fun of, laughed at, beaten, spit on, and finally executed like a common criminal! And for what? What on earth could possibly cause someone to willingly suffer and endure so much? LOVE. Love for you and I, and for every human on the face of the earth…a relentless desire and passion to rescue us from our own sin and death. Now if he was willing to go through all that as part of ‘God’s plan’ to rescue us, then how much ought we to stand in awe of his great love and sacrifice, and willingly endure the same for him?? I hope that helps (along with Daniell’s comments above). Thoughts? Questions? Blessings!

  • Greg Haugh
    July 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Deborah: THANKS FOR YOU COMMENTS!!! THAT’S IT!! In your own words: “God has his reason for everything he does…He knew the shame…the great scorn…and it did not change throughout the life of Jesus…but he still moved on doing what he and the Father had agreed upon…to live and die to be the ultimate sacrifice for us and our sins.” Now given all the shame, scorn, ridicule, and suffering Jesus had to endure (from what we read in the Bible about him), which God ‘has his reason for,’ How great must his love for us be that he would knowingly and willingly suffer and endure all that for us!!? THAT is love! And THAT is what leaves me teary-eyed every time I think about it. Thanks for allowing God to speak to you through that post and for sharing with me about your experience as you processed it. The truth is: if we understand what really happened then these events SHOULD shock or anger us like it did to you! The problem is (like I said in my post), we’re uncomfortable with the truth and have therefore turned Jesus’ scandalous birth into the “warm fuzzy blissful” images of baby Jesus at Christmas time, which are not really historically accurate and not what the gospels say actually happened. The truth should shock and scandalize us! And then, like you’ve experienced, it should inspire even greater gratitude, appreciation, and love in us for the one who willingly and knowingly went through all that for us!! LOVE IT!

  • Denise Taylor Daughtry
    July 2, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Yes, what our Savior endured has never been fully understood by humans, else they would have worshiped instead of whipping, beating, cursing, and killing Him. He did it just for me and you!Amen!

  • Dan Murphy Sr
    July 2, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Do not judge until you read the whole story. I did but God lead me to read and I am forever thankful that he did. God Blessyou Greg.

  • Greg Haugh
    July 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks so much Dan, I’m so glad to hear that!!

  • Greg Haugh
    July 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Amen Denise…Exactly!!

  • Jose Quinones
    October 2, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I agree

  • Becky Smolski
    October 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

    The humility and shame of the situation has always struck me when I see a nativity scene! It reminds me to be grateful and appreciative of all my blessings and to treat everyone with kindness!

  • Gloria J. Greb
    October 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    It was designed by the Father, who knew what thae days would be like. Jesus came at the right time in the right place and lived the life foretold in the old Testament. I am so gratefu to God that He came, Lived and died for us.

  • Gloria J. Greb
    October 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I cry when I remember the cross and what it took for our sins to be forgiven. John 3:16.

  • Joy Izm
    December 24, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Humble King Jesus❤️

  • Kristy Griffin
    December 24, 2013 at 6:08 am

    To answer that question is easy! READ THE BIBLE!!!

  • Janet Everly
    December 24, 2013 at 6:21 am

    It’s a MIRACLE! For GOD so loved the world that HE gave his only begotten SON and that whomever believes in HIM shall not parish but have everlasting life….. Jesus paid for the sins of all who believe

  • L Jean Proctor
    December 24, 2013 at 6:33 am

    His will, timing, and plan is perfect!

  • Ari Web
    December 24, 2013 at 7:12 am

    to prove a point from a disagreement of old from someone who was jealous and questioned is Jehovah have a right to rule his creation.And Jehovah being the fast thinking he is had set in motion the proof he is THE ALMIGHTY,he sent his son who stayed loyal to the very end.And now we much get in line on the true month of Jesus’ birthday.

  • Caroline Mellon
    December 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

    HE did not….man did…man to whom he gave free will……

  • Paula Miller
    December 24, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Get a grip Joy…it was and is a miracle !

  • Joyce Thacker Mitchell
    December 24, 2013 at 8:06 am

    AMEN

  • Patricia Nugent
    December 24, 2013 at 8:47 am

    This is only the beginning! Wait until he comes back!

  • Marcella Jackson
    December 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Because, HE FEELS THE PAIN OF HIS CHILDREN! THE WELL NEED NOT A PHYSCIAN, BUT THE SICK!

  • Sharon Harms
    December 24, 2013 at 9:18 am

    But isn’t it wonderful that He did!

  • Mario Salazar
    December 24, 2013 at 9:27 am

    It’s call being humble my BROTHER, SUCH A GREAT N IMMENSE POWER WITH OUT OPPRESSION CANT BE FOUND ON ME OR U, OR ANYBODY ELSE FOR THAT MATTER!!! 🙂

  • Amanda Pierce
    December 24, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Because he loved us and he is a care a just GOD.

  • Charles Berry
    December 24, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Because He is God!

  • Sylvia Hernandez Avey
    December 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    We did it to ourselves

  • The Flawed Christian
    December 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I think Hillsong United said it best in their song Scandal of Grace- “The scandal of grace, you died in my place
    So my soul will live”

  • Nathan McLain
    December 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    There’s not much He did that wasn’t scandalous.

  • Eileen Governor
    December 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    This is what Love is ^_^

  • Louis Williams
    December 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Because he loved us first amen my Jesus

  • Donald Cates Sr.
    December 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    a men:::

  • Hazel Smith
    December 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Because HE loves us

  • Kathy Horton
    December 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    because of His great love for us

  • Kathleen L. Parkhurst
    December 24, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Why does He love us when we are such sinners? Because He is God!

  • Shweta Gyasi
    December 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    People were in sins but God loved us so much (n still do) that He gave Jesus Christ to save us from sins n death! But the sad thing is that people still don’t realize that which is such a shame. So wake up people n realize that Jesus Christ is the one n only living God!!!!!

  • Patty StGermaine
    December 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Happy birthday Jesus!

  • Deborah Jackson
    December 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Because he loves us

  • Merrell Palmer
    December 25, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Dont blame God Blame mankind fir disobeying him…..True

  • Bettie Stanley
    December 25, 2013 at 6:13 am

    John 3: 16.

  • Bonnie J Hunsperger Cearley-Bolan
    December 25, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Because he lives us!

  • Herb Garfield
    December 25, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Odd. Mary and Joseph accepted being turned away – at the inn where the travelers lodged. Well enough though, the manger scene would prove far more peaceable, though a bit cold.

  • Linda Dixon
    December 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I believe to simply “search the hearts” of man (and woman) to see how we will respond and Believe what God’s Holy Word says. . . . and that the riches of this world is NOTHING compared to the riches of Heaven … He will give to all who will “listen” and come to Him. Isaiah 55: 2-3

Leave a Response