Disclaimer: I like to write. And I really like Mary of the Christmas story. The Christmas story is the greatest story because it is one of God redeeming and loving us, saving His world. And it is the greatest because it is true. I love to think of Mary’s role in God’s rescue. I wrote this a while ago, not around Christmas or Easter, but just as a way to sort of Worship. With Christmas’s approach, I looked at it again. The theology might be wrong. The voice might be too modern for Mary’s culture. It is fiction. But through looking at the coming of the Savior, I have worshipped. And while I am stating disclaimers: a lot of this is not new. “Ave Maria” by Jason Gray and “Labor of Love” by Andrew Peterson have long been some of my favorite songs, and much of this is inspired by them.
I bow here watching my son die, and it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was told this day would come.
I remember kneeling in the temple. I remember hearing tales of our ancestors, stories of our God. I felt special because I was part of Israel, the nation that God loves. But why were the stories no longer ours? I wondered, even as a little girl. When would He speak again? When would the next prophet come? I couldn’t comprehend it then, but four hundred years seemed like a long time for silence.
But those thoughts were unusual. Most of the time, I was a carefree girl. My parents loved me. My brothers and sisters loved me. I had friends. I laughed and giggled, especially when he glanced my way. He loved me, my Joseph. At the time, we thought that it was such a large love, but we did not know a fraction of the depth of the love we would later know. God, the father of our ancestors, gifted us with a love so deep.
In that summer of laughter and light, he began to smile at me. And I returned his smiles, wondering if they were the smiles of an older brother or the smiles of someone who may soon be asking my father for my hand in marriage. Even then, deep in our youth and innocence, my Joseph was a righteous man. I watched him often. I saw him talking with his friends and brothers in the field. I spied him greeting the children as he passed by the well. I watched Joseph as he prayed in the temple. Unlike some of the other men his age, he seemed to grasp that there was something bigger to the story. He seemed to think like I thought, that God loved us and that we should treasure this love. He was good.
And I was overwhelmed when it came time for me to be pledged unto him, my hero and my Joseph. “Mary, you’re pledged to be married.” My friends whispered. And I giggled and nodded. I could not have been prouder or happier- or so I thought. The town called us the golden couple and for that time, we were.
But “forever” changed when God spoke again. I had heard the stories, how a virgin would be with child and would give birth to a son, and they would call him Immanuel- which means, “God with us.” I had assumed that God would one day speak again; I just never thought that it would be to me. My deepest imaginations could not have conjured up the events that unfolded.
In the sixth month, the virgin of the prophecies was given a name. My name. Mary. He called me highly favored and I was shocked. This angel, Gabriel, did not just speak to my ears, or even just to my mind. He spoke to my heart and my soul. In that moment, I grew up. The angel told me that I had found favor with God. Me. What had I done? I only believed his stories. What did I do to deserve such a blessing? I would give birth to the Son of the Most High.
Some boldness I still can’t comprehend caused me to ask. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel, man of power and light more than I could conceive, was gentle with me and profound in his answer. He said the Holy Spirit would come upon me. The power of the Most High would overshadow me. And that was how the holy one to be born would be called the Son of God. I believed him. And I responded with the only response I could think of, the only thing that seemed appropriate, “I am the Lord’s servant.” And I was glad to be so.
For that day, the secret weighed upon me. My mother questioned me as we ate that night. Joseph asked usual questions, but I didn’t know the answers. I was no longer alright. The questions about this overshadowing were overwhelming as my mind began to stray from the miracle to the “practical.” I began to worry. What would other people think? I was the golden girl. People admired me. Joseph was betrothed to me. Would all of this change? I was a virgin, but they would not know that. I could be put to death. Would the power of God protect me from that? I was afraid. I was uncertain. Was there anyone to whom I could turn? I laid my hand on my still small stomach and cried myself to sleep that night. From exhaustion of the day, from the fear of the unknown, and from the joy of being spoken to by God.
As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that the angel had given me an answer to questions I forgot to ask. He told me that even Elizabeth, my dear relative, was going to have a child in her old age. This was an act of God. So I went to see Elizabeth. I entered Zechariah’s house and I knew, despite it all, everything would be alright, everything would be made right by my baby. The same joy that caused Elizabeth’s baby to leap in her womb filled me. It remained with me. Elizabeth confirmed my belief. She said that I was blessed because I believed that the Lord would actually accomplish what he said he would. I had believed; I just didn’t quite comprehend until that moment. That Holy Spirit that had come upon me sang through me:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—Holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” *
During those three months that I remained with Elizabeth, it was easy to believe, to be joyful, and to be at peace. I learned more in that time than I thought possible. God’s plan was unveiling itself.
It was difficult. Especially when I returned home. I returned home to confused parents. It was as if I was suddenly more mature than them, these who had guided me through my life. The ones who taught me about God did not believe that God was working His largest miracle through their daughter. But that was not what hurt me most. For a time, it seemed my beloved Joseph was going to dismiss me. He was a righteous man. I didn’t think he would have me publically punished. Sometimes I wanted the punishment—anything was better than the loss of love. And the loss of love yet undiscovered.
My strong carpenter wept when I told him. His work-worn hands covered his tear-stained face, so I wouldn’t see his broken heart. I felt disloyal to him, and incredibly unworthy of his love. Yet the only one I had betrayed him for was God. He did not understand that in the moment. I can’t comprehend the love that caused my young, handsome, righteous betrothed to forgive me, but Joseph did forgive. And then God spoke to him too. He believed.
“Mary is with child.” My friends whispered. There were no giggles. They would never understand, but it would be their loss. I was separate from my childhood friends- by their ostracism and by the maturity that was coming to be mine. I was still full of joy, but happiness was hard that season. The town scorned us; I learned to depend on God.
The curse became mine because the blessing was mine. Pregnancy. I experienced the promised punishment of pain in childbearing. I felt too young. Too unworthy. I would walk through the street and people would turn their faces, hide the eyes of their children. A few even spat at me. I was sad for them. Would my baby, God’s baby, be treated like this forever? Scorned, spit at. Yes, He would. My baby was being born for pain. He was the hero in a tale of a long journey from death to life.
We had to travel. Though in name only, I was Joseph’s wife, and it was our names that the government wanted. Looking back, the only way I survived was because of that overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. For weeks we traveled. We went to Bethlehem, the town of David, because my Joseph belonged to the house and line of David. We just arrived when, as sudden as the appearance of the angel, pain assaulted my body. Joseph knew the time had come. The time when I would give birth. The time when God would enter His world, leaving it forever changed.
Our baby was the King, and we could not even find a bed. The inn was full. The ground was cold. It smelled. And we were all alone. Joseph, me, and this Holy Spirit that was still upon me. The animals in the stable seemed to sense the reverence. As they slept, I fought. I writhed. The pain soon gave way to joy. Joy. Joy.
Jesus. Our baby was perfect. My firstborn was a son. The Son of God. And I wrapped him in some cloths and put him in a feeding trough. This little King had a head shaped like a potato, my eyes, and a manger for His throne.
And there He was, a King with a crown of thorns on his head, my eyes, and a cross for His death.
The same blood that stained the stable floor now poured out. For He is the way, the truth, and the life. He said it. “No one comes to the Father except through me,” he said.** It’s time for my son to be my Savior. Time for Him to pave my way, humanity’s way, to the Father. But, oh, how I have loved being His mother.
*Luke 1:46- 44
** John 14:6