When the gospel gets an overdose of the dominant culture then the result is a very cozy and comfortable picture.  Christmas is an excellent case in point.  Just walk into your local mall and look at the manger scene.  Jesus surrounded with smiling faces and a donkey that can talk is the culture’s version of Jesus’ birth in a smelly stable which in first century Palestine would have been a cave.  Christmas is anything but comfortable.  It challenges our picture of God’s activity.  In this coming Sunday’s lectionary text, Luke 1:26-38, we see how uncomfortable it really gets.  An angel visits a girl (scholars agree that Mary was between twelve and fourteen years old) and tells her that she’ll be pregnant.  Oh and Mary is to be married to Joseph.  Our familiarity with the story can so easily diminish the discomfort associated with the angel Gabriel’s visit. 

Mary and Joseph lives in a small town where everyone’s business is well everyone’s business.  Premarital sex was not just frowned upon in their culture – it could get you stoned (not the drug induced stoning.)  In Luke we read the story from Mary’s perspective, last year we read Joseph’s perspective in Matthew.  The Christmas story : God sends an angel to tell Mary that she’s blessed.  How will she be blessed we might ask?  By becoming pregnant with a child that doesn’t belong to Joseph, in a town where stories spread as fast as a wildfire.  That’s the Christmas story.  It’s hard, and uncomfortable and the absolute real thing – and it still happens today.  In the kingdom the blessing looks totally upside down.  People have to make uncomfortable decisions in order to make the Child comfortable in the centre of their hearts.  This Christmas as with the first one Jesus is looking for a Mary response.  Mary’s response to the discomfort stands as a worthy attitude to emulate :

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”