They were two insignificant people from a backwoods, no-count town. If the play were being cast, their roles would not be the ones any big name actor would choose. The king of the nation, the religious leaders who held influence over the people, even the emperor's governor who lived in the capital, any of these would be better than a carpenter or a young woman of unimportant birth.
And theirs were not roles they would have chosen either. He was a man preparing to marry, building a house and accumulating possessions in order to take a young wife and make his place in society. She was a young girl, looking forward to the time she would become a wife, the maker of a home, a woman with a role in her community. They were ordinary, simple people preparing for an ordinary, simple life. Neither one of them asked to see angels, to hear an upsetting message from God, to be caught up in a story larger than their own.
Maybe she was working on some embroidery for her new house or sewing part of the dress for her marriage ceremony. Maybe she was daydreaming about finally getting out of her parents' house or of becoming a wife and a mother. Perhaps she was praying in preparation for that day. Then a stranger appeared and told her that all of these dreams were ruined. She was already a mother, a pregnancy forced upon her, her reputation ruined, her betrothed ashamed to take her as his wife.
Maybe he was dreaming of the home he would build and the bed he would lovingly craft for his new wife. Maybe he was dreaming about his new status at the city gate, his place secured by his role as "man of the house." Maybe he had drifted off in prayer for his future bride or his future firstborn, a son of course. Then he had a dream not of his own making. His betrothed would have a son as her firstborn, but it would not be his. In fact, she was already pregnant. He had a choice. Any smart man would leave her, denounce her for her unfaithfulness, and start again with a new woman, a more virtuous one.
That could have been the story. An unwed woman and illegitimate child made outcast, no man to protect them. A man shamed by his unfaithful betrothed, having to seek a new wife. But it was not. She accepted the message of the angel willingly and with a glad heart, though she must have known the rumors that would surround her and her child for the rest of her life. And even more amazingly, he chose to accept her anyway, to take on her shame. He practically confessed that this child was his and that, even if it was not, he was crazy enough to take this woman as his wife anyway.
No one would want to associate with them. What could they do? No one would believe God had spoken to them; they were too insignificant. God spoke to religious leaders or crazy prophets, not to carpenters and young women. Maybe a few close friends believed them. At least one relative did. But they would spend their lives surrounded by rumors, ostracized because of their questionable past. Their son would endure sneers. "Is that the carpenter's son?"
And yet they chose it. This man and this young woman, two insignificant people from a backwoods, no-count town. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Theirs were not the roles the big-name actors would choose. They were not kings or queens, religious authorities, or ruling governors. They were a carpenter and a girl, on the verge of an ordinary, simple life, yet there they sat, with kings bowing before them and the King on their knees.
For the full story, read here and here, and for another reflection on this story, read here.