A Christmas Contretemps

Read Luke 1:26-35 and Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas is just around the corner. By now, you have made plans with your family and friends: there will be ham and turkey, potato salad and sauerkraut, eggnog and fruit punch, gifts and stockings. After all, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

But what if Christmas turns out to be less than what you thought it would be? What if the party gets crashed, and your plans get crushed, and the gifts disappoint? If that’s the way things turn out, then maybe it’ll be good for you to remember that’s actually the way the first Christmas went.

Mary and Joseph had plans: since they were legally married, they were going to have a wedding some day, they were going to have a honeymoon some day, and finally they were going to start a family some day. They had their plans, and they had their dreams.

But all that changed when God sent an angel to give Mary news. The angel told Mary she was going to become pregnant and give birth to a baby who would not only be the Messiah but also the Son of God.

Although these were wonderful news, Mary immediately recognized a problem: the angel appeared to be talking about what would take place now, but Mary’s wedding and honeymoon were still a matter of the future.

The angel explained to Mary that all this would happen without the need of a man because God the Holy Spirit would perform a miracle. Mary received the word with faith and joy, but things wouldn’t be too easy: after all, what would Joseph think?

Mary had to explain to Joseph that she was pregnant and that her pregnancy was a miracle. That couldn’t have been easy: that’s not the way women usually become pregnant. The stakes were high: if Joseph did not believe her, he could legally accuse her of adultery and cause her to be stoned to death.

That conversation between Mary and Joseph could not end well, and it appears it did not end well. The Bible tells us that Joseph was a just man and that he did not wish to make Mary a public example. What does this mean?

It seems Joseph believed he had biblical grounds for divorce because he thought to divorce Mary privately. However, it also seems that he did not want to bring an accusation against Mary just in case it really was a miracle: after all, Mary was claiming that it was a miracle, so he had to give that a chance.

For Joseph, the idea of raising a child that was not his own could be a challenge, just as it would be a challenge for many men in our own times and culture. It would be hard to find an emotional connection to the child.

God had to finally intervene and send his angel to speak to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23).

Mary and Joseph had to make adjustments to their plans and to their dreams to allow God’s will to be done in their lives. They probably had to disregard society’s wrong opinion about them, even though there would always be those who thought bad about them (John 8:41). Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she had given birth (Matthew 1:24-25). Joseph and Mary had to make a long and inconvenient trip right before the baby was born (Luke 2:1-5), and therefore their baby’s first bed was a manger (a trough), because Mary had to give birth in a barn since there was no room for them at the inn (Luke 2:6-7). Eventually, the family also had to move to Egypt for some time, since Herod sought to kill their baby (Matthew 2:12-16).

Thus, the point of this devotional is that Christmas (and life in general) is not about your plans and your dreams, but about God’s plans. You may think everything is going wrong, but in reality God may have a different opinion: after all, God is in control.

Christmas is not about the turkey, the ham, and the deviled eggs; it is not about the stockings and the gifts; and it is certainly not about Santa and the Grinch. Christmas is about remembering that over two thousand years ago, God sent his Son to the world to save us from our sins.

The announcement came as a contretemps to the Jewish couple (to Mary and Joseph), but once they decided to believe God’s word and obey it, they became instruments through which God delivered to humanity the greatest gift of all: Jesus, the Messiah and the Son of God.


  • What news did the angel have for Mary?
  • Why were these news important?
  • What complications did the angel’s news represent for Mary?
  • What complications did the angel’s news represent for Joseph?
  • How were Mary and Joseph able to pull through these setbacks?
  • What setbacks are you facing this Christmas?
  • Do you believe that God is in control of your situation(s)?


Lord, thank-you for sending your Son and Messiah, Jesus, to the world. Through faith in him you have given me eternal life because you are gracious. Help me to remember that Christmas is a time when I can remember this great event, and a time when I can share with others this wonderful news. Help me to respond to the challenges I am currently facing with faith in your word and obedience to you. Amen.


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©2018, Marcelo E. Carcach. All rights reserved

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