This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19).
Mary’s story was undoubtedly a scandal in first century Palestine. But I’m going tell you about modern day scandal.
It’s about my husband and me. We met at university, fell in love and got married. But in all the time we were engaged we didn’t have sex.
Are you shocked? My colleagues were. The office gossip went wild when I said we weren’t going to live together before the wedding day.
But that’s not the most scandalous part: it wasn’t just that we didn’t have sex before we were married, it’s that we didn’t have sex for a full seven days after we were married.
Now don’t get me wrong, we had a great honeymoon. We went to a re-enactment run by the English Civil War Society at Caldicott Castle, we walked six miles along the Offa’s Dyke footpath, from Chepstow to Tintern Abbey, and we even went kayaking down the River Wye. It’s not everyone’s idea of a dream honeymoon, but we loved it.
The only problem was that, as the week progressed, I began to worry about the scandal that would erupt if anyone ever found out that we weren’t having sex.
We’d both been brought up in good Christian households you see, that moulded our moral and spiritual perspectives. In that sheltered upbringing we never imagined that anything so dreadful as not having sex could happen – let alone happen to us. It’s not how the story’s meant to go.
Once I realised that this scandal was happening to me, I felt isolated, ashamed and afraid. Afraid of what other people might think if they knew, but most afraid that I wasn’t loved.
People don’t talk about sex scandals – they whisper instead. And like in a game of Chinese Whispers, the truth goes in at one end and comes out unrecognisable at the other. But the truth is, this modern-day scandal happens to many people and comes knocking at the doors of many marriages.
I’m not telling my story because I want to shock anyone, but in the hope that people might be spared some shock in the event that they find themselves embroiled in such a scandal of their own.
And like the gospel writers, I’m telling it because I know that anyone who really understands this unconventional story will know that it isn’t a scandal at all.