She was a young girl, barely into her teens. Suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably pregnant, Mary had to face a fiance who had nothing to do with the child inside her, and a society that found girls in her situation to be, at best, greatly dishonored.
He was a man of character, if not great wealth. Yet his esteem was surely tested when his young bride to be started carrying a child who was not his own. Joseph was going to do as honorably as he could, and put Mary away quietly instead of subjecting her to the harsher penalties he could have legally demanded.
They were shepherds, watching their sheep at night. Perhaps they talked about their families, perhaps the latest Roman tax increases. Maybe they spoke not at all to each other, and instead just thought about their families, or the Torah. But it was unlikely they were thinking of Messiah, or that their lives would (that very night!) be altered forever.
They were magi, wise men and astrologers watching the sky. They were of high esteem and social status, considered desirable as advisors. Yet when they saw the stars align, they knew one greater and wiser than they was near. So they packed up their camels for a journey that would bring them to the king of all kings.
Not one of these characters, so familiar to us from our Sunday School pageants, understood God's plan. All of them were tied together, though, by one little baby boy. Jesus was born in humble circumstances -- no king e'er was born in humbler to be sure. Certainly the promised Messiah would not have been born thusly: an out of wedlock birth, in a stable, with shepherds the first to worship Him.
Yet worship they did. Angels proclaimed the birth, first to Mary, then to Joseph, then to the shepherds. Angels worshipped from the beginning, shepherds and Magi from the baby's birth. This worship was informed by faith.
Mary believed the angel. So did Joseph. So did shepherds. The magi believed the star. Faith led each of them to the child, and uninformed it was. The disciples didn't know the fullness of who Jesus was, and He had spent three years trying to explain it to them. Mary, Joseph, shepherds and magi had none of this background. But they believed anyway.
Jesus commends to us a childlike faith. For these people, first to know God incarnate, their faith was certainly childlike. They had no comprehension that one day this boy would sacrifice Himself so that they each could live eternally with God. They had no idea that the babe they held, crying and hungry and happy and thirsty - like any other baby - would be the most exalted One. Their childlike faith was in this child, that someday He'd grow to be the promised One of God, whatever that meant.
The faith of these folks, simple and regal, was placed on the testimony of angels and prophecy, yet vaguely defined. But it was enough, and on that night, oh that Holy night, our savior was born and worshipped. Mary worshipped when she heard the announcement, the shepherds worshipped when He was born in a stable. The magi worshipped when they brought Him gifts. Worship and faith, hand in hand, and beautiful in their wonder.
We don't need to understand everything God does, how He does it, or why. It is enough to know He is working and to trust that He knows what He's doing. The shepherds couldn't have explained the Gospel, and the magi could not have explained His future atoning death. Mary and Joseph had no idea their son would be raised from the dead. Yet they all had faith enough to worship the savior.
In this Christmas, may we also have faith enough to worship the savior. May we have the childlike faith that doesn't demand all answers before offering worship. And may we have that childlike faith in the work, person and lordship of that small baby.
Rejoice and worship. Believe and praise. Love and serve. Jesus has come to save us from our sin. This child, oh this holy child, Christ the Lord has come!
Merry Christmas, and God bless!