Everyone loves a good goss.
“Did you hear? That actor left his wife for his co-star, and it seems his new marriage isn’t going so well either. I just read about him flirting with the nanny while his wife was away.”
“That teacher was caught watching pornography in the classroom! By students! With his pants down! How shocking.”
“That new girl’s not been here 3 months and she’s already getting chummy with the boss and being involved in all the big projects! I bet she’s giving him extra favours on the side. I heard she cheated on her husband too, and got a ton of things done on her face and body.”
Whisperwhispherwhisper. Rhubarbrhubarb. Tsktsktsk.
These days, it’s not just the celebrities and public figures who are the target fodder of tabloids, government officials and principals of the high school in the next suburb find their affairs publicly splashed on the front page of the paper too. Even your regular Joe may get a mention somewhere in the middle, if his story is juicy enough.
We love to gasp and gawk at the lurid details, reeling in faux horror as we click from one story to the next, all the while conveniently forgetting that our own mental fantasies as we watch the next Transformers movie or Game of Thrones episode may be little different.
We thrive on gossips and scandals. We always have. It’s human nature.
Imagine the hushed whispers as a young couple walked into an inn late one evening, looking for a place to stay that night.
“Oh my goodness, check out that girl. She looks like she’s about to pop anytime!”
“They look like they’re still in their teens. Having a child even before they’re married? What a disgrace!”
“Who knows? Maybe the child is not even his. They look like they’ve hardly any money, they might do anything to get a bit of spare cash.” “Peasant fornicators.” Snigger snigger.
“Please,” says the young man to the innkeeper. “Could you give us a room? We need a place to stay.”
The innkeeper checks his fingernails, then replies without looking up. “It’s the busy season. You want a room, that’ll be thirty coins.”
“But we don’t have that much,” he pleads. “Please, do us a kindness. My wife, she’s about to give birth.”
“Look buddy,” growls the innkeeper, now enraged, “we don’t run a charity, we run a business. You want a place to stay? You can go to the manger. The animals won’t notice, you smell like them anyway.” The onlookers chuckle at his comment, then catch themselves and look away in awkward embarrassment, pretending not to notice.
And so, Joseph and Mary went to the manger, where the animals were. Even though they were both descended from the kingly lineage of David, who probably owned that inn in Bethlehem, there was no room for them at the inn that night when they needed a place to stay.
And in the midst of those scandalous conditions, Grace was born.
It’s hard to comprehend why Jesus did that. As God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, He could’ve chosen to orchestrate the events any way He wanted. He could’ve made it such that He was born to a recognised king, or into an illustrious family well respected and prominent amongst the religious leaders of the day.
And yet He chose to come directly into the filth of man, as an insignificant baby under seemingly sinful and scandalous circumstances, yet without sin. Who would’ve believed Mary when she said the baby had been divinely conceived and she was still a virgin? And the jeers and ridicule that must’ve come Joseph’s way when he took a pregnant girl as his bride?
Jesus knew all about that, when He chose how He would come. He knows all about our messes and our skeletons, both publicised and hidden, acknowledged or denied. It doesn’t surprise Him and it doesn’t faze Him. It’s the reason He came.
Jesus came into world not to condemn or to chide us into right behaviour, He came to save us from the corruption of the world. He came to save us from our messed up thoughts and lifestyles. He came to save us from even our self-pious behaviour and well-at-least-I’ll-never-be-as-bad-as-that-other-guy pretence.
Grace is so radically impossible to understand, because it’s so unlike how the world thinks and operates. Grace dismantles the façade of rules and should-dos and cuts straight to transforming the heart. Grace can even produce results so unbelievably good and unwarranted that it may seem scandalous.
December 25 will always remain the day that the Scandal of Grace came into being.
Today as we celebrate Christmas, know that the rumours are true. Your past (or present) mess ups don’t have to determine your future. One who was perfect died in your place so you could walk free, both in thoughts and in behaviour.
Because when we truly encounter the person of Grace Himself, we will never stay the same.
And when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.