Although the Christmas story that we are most familiar with doesn't even really mention it, we should not forget that the story of Jesus centers around Nazareth. Note that later in His life, He is often referred to by this location - Jesus of Nazareth. That is because this is where Jesus was from, not Bethlehem. And if it is where Jesus was from, we can say with confidence that it is also where Mary and Joseph lived. And if it is where Mary and Joseph lived, then it would not be a stretch to say that when Mary became pregnant with the Christ child, it was Nazareth who knew it first.
In fact, it's probably safe to say that this is one baby that Nazareth couldn't stop talking about. It was Nazareth where the whispers started, when a woman betrothed but still unwed became pregnant with a child that she and the father insisted was God's, but let's be honest - we all know how that happens.
Not only that, but we know there was some disdain for the little city and perhaps this little town had picked up on some of that itself. Later, someone will ask with disgust, "Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?" So even those inclined to believe in the Spirit of the Christ child may have hesitated for this very reason.
This baby is what? No, He can't be. This is Nazareth! Nothing good comes from here!
In other words, stuff like that just doesn't happen, and if it does, it just doesn't happen here. Not for us. Not from us.
And all this talk that it might? All these rumors that Mary and Joseph are trying to start? All these arguments they're making in their own defense? They just add to the shame that is Nazareth's. Really. A Christ child!
Now, Nazareth is the laughingstock of the world.
I don't know if you know this or not - maybe you do - but we're living in a place like Nazareth this Christmas. We really are.
We're living in a world that can't stop talking about this baby, that can't stop whispering about Jesus this time of year. We're living in a world that knows the story, that feels privy to the details, that feels entitled to share in what's developing, but that doesn't really buy into the truth of what's going on here.
A God child? Really? What nonsense!
Because you see, we are a broken people. We are a sinful people. We are an unworthy people in an evil world. Why on earth would God come here in the form of one of us? What kind of God could that possibly be?
And the world laughs at us.
We talk about the baby as though He's coming, and the world knows He is. But we talk about Him as if He's good, and the world scorns us. Good? Good? Look around, you fool - nothing good comes from here. Nothing good can come from here. Don't you know this is Nazareth? And all this talk of hope and peace and joy that we have just adds to the shame of being a broken humanity. How foolish, the world says, to pretend to have something to believe in....
But I say that to say this, and this is important: whatever the whispers, no matter the scorn, it doesn't change the story of Christmas. It doesn't change what's happening here.
Nazareth didn't believe the story. They didn't believe that the Christ child was coming, and they certainly didn't believe He was coming through them. But He came nonetheless and was known forever as Jesus from Nazareth.
We may not believe the story. The world may have trouble believing that the Christ child has come, and they certainly struggle to believe that He would come in human flesh to a place so dirty and disgusting and broken and evil as this one. But He came nonetheless and He's coming this Christmas and He is known forever as Emmanuel, God with us.
This Advent, may we be aware of the whispers. May we understand what the world believes and what it doesn't, what it's talking about and what it can't stop talking about. May we know what we believe and what we don't, where we're prone to give in to the whispers and where we're confident to stand on the Promise.
And may we recognize that whatever we believe, the story is the same. Christ is come, to even such a place as this, in even such a flesh as this...and this is Christmas.