Luke 2:19 "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."
Christmas, a favorite time of the year for so many. A joyous time for celebration with friends and family. A special moment in time that we take, to remember the story of Jesus. This year I would like to try something new over the next few blogs and travel through the story of Jesus with new eyes. Hopefully, you will take the journey with me as we find a new take on Christmas. Today let's journey with Mary.
I was so happy; my father had found a wonderful man for me to marry. Not someone rich and well known but someone kind and gentle. A man who loved God as I do. Even if a simple carpenter, all the girls have been swooning over him, but he picked me. I'm so lucky.
One day as I was daydreaming of my betrothed, doing my wash, thinking of the family and home I was going to have with Joseph my life changed. A bright light shone from my room and before I could speak a radiant being stood before me saying I was highly favored, and the Lord was with me. I loved and believed in God and knew it was an Angel, but I couldn't understand why an Angel would visit me saying I was highly favored.
The words he spoke next would change my life forever. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”
At first, I was speechless. I'm just a common girl from Nazareth in the middle of nowhere. I questioned the Angel how it was possible; I was still a virgin, unmarried.
The Angel told me how the Holy Spirit would come upon me and the holy child would be called the son of God. For nothing is impossible with God. Although I could not make sense of everything, I trusted God, didn’t I? I told the Angel I was God’s servant. May it be as you have said.
Once I spoke those words my room fell silent again, leaving me alone in my thoughts. I wasn't sure I understood this honor fully. Was this the King of all Israel we had prayed for? We all expected a military hero, a warrior, a King ruling a nation. Yet was it He that would arrive as a baby through my womb? Was I going to be God's tool to deliver a King to Israel?
My joy quickly vanished when I thought of my dear Joseph. Although we were betrothed, which was considered married, it was customary that we wait a year before coming together as man and wife. What would Joseph say? He would know the child wasn't his and our custom also would have the accused flogged in the public square. I would not only be a disgrace for Joseph but would live the rest of my life in disgrace, alone with this child, God's child, and he would be disgraced.
That afternoon I sat a long time on a bench praying, crying, and trying to take it all in. At moments I would be happy, then sad again, and then joyful, back and forth, until I resolved to trust the God, no matter what.
When I finally had the strength and courage to tell Joseph he reacted like any man would. Stunned and hurt by my betrayal. As I recounted the story of the Angel visiting me, I prayed he would believe me. Yet I feared the betrayal was too much for him. But because Joseph was such a sweet man who cared so much for me, he chose to divorce me quietly so I would be saved the public flogging and disgrace. My heart broke as Joseph turned away, unable to look at me. He said he would sleep on everything first and then the next day go to the authorities to make the divorce official.
That night our God of miracles had done it again, which is a story Joseph can tell, but the next morning my broken heart was filled with joy, love and hope. Joseph came to me all excited because he too now believed! Even though we couldn't understand the how’s and why’s we didn't care. God had chosen us to be part of His miracle to bring His son to this earth.
I will spare you the many things we faced over the next several months. Although it was hard facing my parents and the town, Joseph paid no mind. He was my protector and strength. Instead, we busily prepared our home and Joseph's other children for the arrival of our new baby, God's son.
But as luck would have it. In my ninth month we all were called by emperor Caesar Augustus to report to our hometowns for a census. That meant Joseph and I had to travel seventy miles to Bethlehem. Seventy miles and nine months pregnant, are you serious! We had no choice, Caesar ruled with an iron fist.
Joseph was a rock the entire journey helping the best he could, but my body felt every jolt, every rock, and every bump in the road. It was a long dusty journey as I rode our donkey at times and walked to stretch my aching muscles at other times. Although at nine months Jesus had become an active little baby, I began feeling pains like none other as we neared Bethlehem. I tried to keep a smile on my face but inside my heart was crying. I needed my family; I needed my momma. I was so scared I would be delivering the Holy One amongst this mess.
Reaching Bethlehem, I could no longer hide my pain and pleaded with Joseph to find me a bed quickly. The town was full, and Joseph began knocking on the doors of all the inns, yet with each open door, we heard the same response, “Sorry no room, the Inn is full.”
Finally, one innkeeper took pity on us and let us stay in his barn. I cringed, not at the pain I was in, but at the idea of our Savior coming into this world heralded not by trumpets but by the sounds of sheep and cattle. Jesus, the Son of God would not be born in a nice warm bed with warm bedding but in straw and a manger with only my extra clothes to swaddle him. My heart ached because this was not the entry our King deserved into this world.
But Joseph did not let that bother him. He made do with what we had. A couple lanterns, some warm hay that he covered with garments and his arms and hands to help me through the delivery. As I lay down resting my swollen feet and aching body, we waited. We had only the warmth, the smell of the animals and our love for each other to welcome God's son.
Soon the time came and after much pain the Savior, the long-awaited Messiah was born! Everything to that point melted away as I held my baby in my arms, tears of joy streaming down my cheeks. I wrapped him in some soft clothes as I rubbed my fingers across his 10 sweet little fingers and wondered what the future might hold for him. Will these little hands farm or build a house? Will they chisel with tools in a carpenter shop like his daddy? (Little did Mary know those hands would one day break bread, teach God's law, heal the sick and blind and forgive time and time again. Those hands would one day be clasped in tearful prayer in Gethsemane and then be nailed to a cross on Calvary's Hill, His blood shed to save us all. And then one day with outstretched hands bid us all to “Come to me” as the day of Salvation comes).
Yes, even among the filth, hay and odor, this little guy is perfect. My dear sweet Joseph knew I needed rest, so he took Jesus into his large, calloused carpenter hands, wrapped him sweetly and laid him in the manger with a few tears in his eyes too.
I wanted to savor these moments because I knew we only had a short time together. This was still God’s son and even now as he lay there swaddled in the only clothes we could find; he would have to leave us to do God's work. This baby was not only ours but the hope for the world. He is the good news, the blessing and glory for all.
So much more happened on this glorious night that makes me full of joy and hope, but it's not my story to tell. I can say, I never stop thanking God for choosing me to be part of this wonderful story but I will never get used to the fact that when God stepped into our world almost no one paid attention.
Monday we will continue our journey with Joseph.