Advent 4 – Scandalous Night (The Night Love Came)

Oh what a scandalous night!

 An unmarried couple, road-weary and exhausted, plod into town under the shroud of evening.  The woman, young, no more than  15, is swollen with child.  White knuckled, she clutches the mane of the donkey and bends low on its back as another contraction grips her and then moves like a wave across her hardening belly.  She clenches her jaw, attempting not to cry out as the pain increases.   Can this really be God’s plan?  Scandal!

Oh what a scandalous night!

She has had months to prepare for this.  Months since she stared wide-eyed with wonder and her heart trembled fear as Gabriel spoke of impossibility.  And really, how could she, a nobody, a woman be part of God`s plan?  And the disgrace, the outrage she would face – there were laws against this, laws that could bring her death and yet with quivering lips she placed her faith in a God who had promised a Saviour and said yes.  She said yes.  Scandal!

Oh what a scandalous night!

He is leading a donkey, a donkey carrying his pregnant wife.  Bethlehem, a normally quiet town, is teeming with unhappy strangers all waiting to be counted.  Despite his fear, his terror at the unrest, he is glad for the darkness that covers them. He hears a small gasp and can see the tears on her cheeks, shimmering in the moonlight.  Another wave has gripped her small frame.  It is time, it is time and the road is no place to have a baby.  But where can he go?  Where can he find a place where there will be no questions asked about the unwed couple so obviously expecting life?  Scandal!

Oh what a scandalous night!

A cave, a shepherd’s winter retreat carved crudely in rock.  A cave?  This, this is where the Son of God will be born?  This is where the Prince of Peace will begin His reign?  The stench of the stable permeates the air, the damp, dank and the dung.   Joseph holds his breath as he lights a fire attempting to hold the cold at bay.   Mary says it`s time and he can see her there trying to find purchase on the rock with her hands,  bending low as another contraction takes her breath in a gasp.   How on earth, how on earth can God have planned this?   Such a lowly beginning, such a crude way for God to veil Himself in flesh.  A King, born in a barn?  Scandal!

Oh what a scandalous night!

There are shepherds.  The lowliest of people are standing timid at the mouth of the cave.   Joseph has half a mind to shoo them away.  But they tell of an angel, proclaiming the birth of the Christ child and thousands more filling the heavens with songs of Gloria. And he remembers another time not too long ago when he too had a holy visitor. And really hasn’t he already been living the extraordinary? But shepherds?  A Royal Announcement to dirty, filthy, uneducated shepherds? He glances at Mary; sweat has matted her hair,  and there are dark blue smudges under her eyes.  He can tell she is exhausted.  The child is nestled there, in a trough, crying in the cold. He is wrapped only in what rags and straw Joseph could find to warm his tender flesh against the bite of the night air.   She smiles weakly, and bids her visitors welcome.   Scandal!

Oh what a Scandalous night!  A night that ushered in a King like no other king.  A night that brought promise in a baby’s first cry and justice in a tiny fist clenched. 

Oh what a scandalous night! 

“For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!”  (Isaiah 9: 60 NLT)

 

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