Throughout the year, many Christian ministries deal with teens, young men and young women who have gotten themselves into various kinds of troubles whether it’s bad grades, problems with parents, addictions to drugs or media, gangs, or other things. Sometimes it seems there is nothing surprising anymore…but I’d like to share a story about a troubled teenage girl whose life was drastically altered by choices she made that caused enormous difficulties in her life. Most of the time, pastors strive for confidentiality, to protect teens and their families from ostracization and disgrace. So I’m a little concerned about sharing this story because some of you may figure out who this girl is. But the lessons of her story are very important for us all to understand. As you listen I want you to put yourself in this teen’s shoes. Try and feel what she must be feeling…(This article is partly from reading an original version “The Same Old Story” by pastor Michael T. Powers, but modified quite a bit.)
The young girl was probably about 14 years old and she was raised in a very conservative religious community. She loved her parents, her siblings and the people around her. She was one who often looked around her to find who she could help and cheer up. She was very sincere in following the principles of God and her church and family.
Thus it was with utter shock one day that that she realized that she is pregnant. And she was not married. She realized that her life was going to drastically change in many ways, especially because of how teenage pregnancy was considered such a taboo and scandal in her community.
Her parents…She has always been worthy of the trust her parents have put in her. In fact other families have remarked to her parents how they wish their daughters were more like her. But now she has to stand before them and explain how she got pregnant. And if that is not bad enough, she is going to have to explain to them that the father of the baby is not the young man that her parents think she should marry…
Her boyfriend…She loves her boyfriend more than anyone! Well, more than anyone except God and maybe her parents. She is afraid to tell her boyfriend. Normally she can go to her boyfriend and talk about any problem. He is a pretty stable, understanding and dependable guy. But this time it’s different. You see, the baby is not his. She lays awake that first night thinking about all the people she has to face. How is she going to face him? Where is she going to get the courage? It would almost be easier if she could tell him that it was just a big mistake and that she is oh, so sorry for it. But she can’t lie to him. She will have to look into his trusting eyes and tell him that she intentionally chose the path that led to this little life growing inside of her. She knows deep down inside, that if she had to do it all over again, she would make the same decision, and end up in the same precarious situation. “Please God! Please let him understand and not abandon me. I need him so much right now!”
Her friends…Right or wrong, they have always put her on a pedestal. Always looked to her for answers. Always modeled their life after hers. But she knows instinctively that they will not understand. In fact she knows that she may never be able to explain to them what made her do what she did.
Then there’s her community. Those with power and wealth are always looking down on people of her race. You see, her country has been occupied for a long time by a foreign empire. So in America, she would be a Native American Indian. In Europe, she might be a Muslim refugee. In China, she might be one of the Uigyer people. And you know what the media says about those minorities. They are just lazy, good for nothings. They get into all sorts of trouble. They aren’t disciplined. They do drugs, they get pregnant out of marriage, can’t hold down a job. She will be just another poster child for their media campaign to blame most of societies on foreigners.
It was such a scandal. If only she could keep it a secret from everyone.
It seems like all of society is against her. She lays there in bed, afraid, overwhelmed, and reaching out to God for strength to face what is ahead of her. She knows that she must soon tell her boyfriend. He has a right to know. Have you ever thought of how a girl would tell her boyfriend news like this, one that she hoped would be her future husband? She’ll have to go to him and say, “I’m pregnant and the baby is not yours.” Do you know the name of this young teenage girl yet? Anyone? Normally we keep the names of underaged girls private. But in this case there’s an important reason to share it, so that others will understand what she went through and be encouraged…If you haven’t figured it out yet, it is Mary, she lived 2000 years ago in the country of Israel and the boyfriend she has to break this uncomfortable news to is Joseph. We don’t know for sure, but their conversation may have gone something like this:
Mary: “Joseph, I have to tell you some news that is very difficult for me, and it’s going to hurt you at first. But, please listen to the end because there’s very important context.
Joseph: “I love you and I’m listening, but this sounds strange.”
Mary: Well…uh….um…I did not plan this…but I recently found out that I’m pregnant.
Joseph: You’re what? Did my ears deceive me? I can’t believe this. You’re not that kind of girl.
Mary: No, you heard right. I’m pregnant.
Joseph: You, pregnant? How? It sure wasn’t with me…I’m not that kind of guy…and I didn’t think you were that kind of girl.
Mary: I’m not.
Joseph: Well, clearly you are, and I seriously misjudged you. And to think…I was about to marry you. I thought you were a godly woman…and we could make a godly family together…but now this? Our marriage is definitely not going to happen now. Who did you cheat with? Is he going to support your baby?
Mary: Please don’t get angry at me. I knew this would be hard to hear. But I also want you to know that I didn’t cheat on you…”
Joseph: (Interrupts) “Come on Mary! Don’t take me for a fool. It’s bad enough that you’re pregnant, and now you are covering it up with a lie? Do you think that will make things better? You know better than that. You know the Torah and what God says about lying. You know that we were never intimate. We were waiting for our marriage. So the baby can’t possibly be mine! The only other option is that you cheated”
Mary: “Joseph, you have to believe me. I have never been intimate with anyone!”
Joseph: “Please Mary, I’d like to believe you. I’ve never known you to lie. But no one gets pregnant without being intimate. No one. So either you are lying to me or you have taken leave of your senses or both.”
Mary: “Joseph, I don’t know how to tell you this…but, I was praying one an angel of God came and told me that God wanted to have the Messiah born though me. I couldn’t believe it, but I agreed to be God’s servant and I am pregnant because of this.”
Joseph: “Mary! Please! You’re usually very spiritual, but now it’s like you’ve joined some cult and they’ve messed with your mind or something!” Who are you?
Mary: “You have to believe me Joseph!”
Joseph: “Believe that God came to our tiny dusty town and wants to have a baby with you? That’s insane.
Mary: But it’s the truth. Believe me…or at least give it some time and prayer.
Joseph: Yeah, and I’m the emperor of Rome. I’m sorry. I thought we had something and could make a life together.
But this betrayal is too much to bear.
I just can’t trust you. And that means I can’t marry you since trust is the
basis of love. I could shame you publicly for how terribly you’ve treated me. But
we had something together and I did love you. So, I will just separate from you
quietly and you can live your own life with the choices you’ve made and their
consequences. I hope you learn a good lesson from this.”
Joseph walks away, leaving Mary distraught and worrying…He reacted just as she feared he would react. I’m sure that Mary became anxious and questions God: “Why God? Why? I desperately need Joseph now! I need a husband to help me raise this baby you’ve given me. Who else would marry and love me and be a good father other than Joseph?” Mary, a young teen girl, went to bed that night like more afraid than ever, feeling every bit the young child that she is…but also trusting that God would somehow take care of her.
As you know, an angel appears to Joseph and verifies that what Mary says is truth and Mary and Joseph become the parents of Jesus.
Have you ever thought of the Christmas story in this way before? Think about it! You are a 14-year old girl and an angel appears to you and says, “I’m going to place a baby inside of your womb.” Most 14-year-old girls I know would say, “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t fit in with my plans for my life. I have my whole life ahead of me and I can’t be held back by a baby! How am I going to go to prom now!?”
And think about Jesus. If any famous writer had written about God becoming a human being, they would have had him riding a stallion out of heaven with every hoof-beat leaving lightning sparks on the streets of gold and peals of thunder in the air. The stars would line up as letters in every language that would blink: “The King of Kings is Coming!” There might be a couple comets streaking by or stars falling to grab people’s attention with clouds. And angel trumpets would deafen the ears while millions of beautiful angel’s voices would announce the coming of the Prince of Peace.
But Jesus’ came in an almost totally opposite way. We hear that Jesus was put in a manger. It sounds warm and comfy because we live in a different culture. But the original word refers probably to a cave for animals, a very smelly and dirty one. God was born a helpless baby, to poor peasants and was put in a feeding trough where cows put their tongues to lick up food. That’s where the King of the universe slept. He who sustains the entire universe was now being sustained through the milk of a teenage girl. Priceless paintings and works of art did not hang on the walls in this nursery. No, if you were to look on these walls you would see cobwebs.
Is it hard to imagine Jesus in such a mundane and human way? In fact, it is almost irreverent. But the God of the universe loved us so much that He was willing to humble Himself and give us the most precious Christmas present ever given: His Son Jesus. And He asks us to look out for those who are suffering and oppressed and give them some of the incredible gifts He has given to us at Christmas, for the benefit of all. Won’t you do that this year?