LIFE GIVING » christmasstory
A girl who was brave enough to be herself
She leans over yet another garment to wash and wonders at the latest whisperings of her cousin Elizabeth’s condition… whispers of a child!
"Wouldn’t that be a miracle,” Mary thought to herself, “a blessing from our One True God!”
Elizabeth had reached far beyond the childbearing age and Mary had heard the rumors about her cousin…
“She must be living in sin not to be able to have a child…”
Mary just knew this simply was not true of her cousin. Both she and her priest husband Zachariah lived an upright life in front of people and behind closed doors. They chose to live their life for God and in doing so observed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. Mary simply did not believe the rumors for one second!
Mary also knew that her God, the One her mother and father had taught her about since she was little, would not punish a woman’s sin by withholding children from her…
No… that was not in His nature…
He is always at work for their good…
His ways are higher than theirs, and this new whisper of her cousin’s pregnancy is proof of His perfect timing and plan. People can see that God is at work! What a testimony to His greatness!
Mary’s heart was bursting with immense joy over the very thought of a possible miracle child. That was the very nature of their God; to bless, to perform the miraculous and to breathe life into the deep places of the heart where hopeful prayer resided daily.
As she lifted the next garment to be washed into the tub, her mind wandered to Joseph. Mary felt her cheeks blush. Closing her eyes, she smiled and thanked her God for this wonderful gift. Joseph was the man she was betrothed to, and she believed he had a heart of gold and would make a great husband and father. He was a carpenter and would provide them with what they needed to live a good life.
Suddenly, a voice startled Mary out of her daydreaming, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary looked up to see a glorious angel standing before her. His very presence felt as though God Himself was there. Then she was troubled. She couldn’t help but wonder what the appearance of this angel meant for her.
The angel, Gabriel, must have read the concern on Mary’s face and He continued to speak to her. Mary listened quietly in awe.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end,” said Gabriel.
Mary’s mind reeled with thoughts. She was so moved that God would choose her for such an incredible act of service for Him. Yet, she did not know how this would take place as she was not married to Joseph and had no way that she could be with child.
Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
It was true! Of course, it was true! God can do anything! Mary never doubted that and now He would work a miracle within her womb… one that the prophecies said would bring salvation and restoration between God and His children forever. Mary’s heart filled with deep joy.
As Mary looked up to Gabriel’s face the purity and true faith that resided within her heart spilled forth, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Then Gabriel left.
Mary felt compelled to leave at once to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She knew the journey would be long and arduous, but she also knew that God would give her the strength she needed.
As she hurried towards the hill country, Mary played the moment with Gabriel over and over again in her mind. Her heart stirred within, and she couldn’t keep the smile from her lips.
She kept thinking, “I can’t believe He would choose me! I am no one of wealth or importance, yet He stooped down and chose me!”
Without even realizing it, Mary had been resting her hand affectionately on her stomach. She had already begun to sense what it means to be a protective mother watching over her child. She giggled at the thought. How quickly her world had changed.
Then it hit her with such force. What would she tell Joseph? Her parents? What would people think of her? Mary swallowed hard. She closed her eyes and remembered the Lord’s goodness and love toward her. This was a gift, and the thoughts of no one but Him mattered to her. She knew the truth, and she knew God would watch over her and provide for her and His son, even if her family would not.
Mary then thought about Elizabeth… could she share this with her? What would she say? Would she kick her out or would she understand as she too had received the gift of a son from God? Despite the rampant questions that flooded her mind, Mary sensed the peace and sovereignty of God over this visit.
When Mary greeted Elizabeth upon her arrival at Zechariah’s house, Elizabeth’s response caused her to stop in her tracks.
Elizabeth gasped, and a delighted laugh spilled forth. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and in a loud voice, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Mary was overwhelmed by Elizabeth’s words. She knew things that no one other than God and His heavenly hosts knew! What a joy to have someone to share this with! What a gift from God!
Mary sensed the Spirit of God was very present; she couldn’t help but burst out words of praise and worship to their Creator.
She began to sing, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, 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 and 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, just as he promised our ancestors.”
The pair stayed up chatting about the goodness of God, dreaming of the days ahead with their heaven-breathed boys. They pondered over things like, who would they look like? What colored eyes would they have? What things would they teach them and how would they do this? Then they would fall to their knees and worship their Heavenly Father again.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
When the time came to tell Joseph about all that had happened, Mary prayed he would believe her… rehearsing what she’d say to him over and over again…every time she tried to explain it, it just seemed so untrue.
She had been right in her thinking though; Joseph did not believe her and had mentioned a quiet divorce because even though they were not married, they were betrothed.
Mary was initially disheartened. However, she ran straight to her God. She trusted Him and the plans He had for her. She had peace within her that somehow it would all be ok, even though the circumstances did not look that way.
The very next day Joseph showed up at Mary's home. He spoke of an angel that had visited him and explained everything to him. He asked Mary for forgiveness; she smiled at him… it was a hard truth to believe… she understood.
Soon enough it was time for the Census to take place, which meant a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown. Joseph was adamant that Mary would come with him. Though he did not say it, she knew deep down he wanted her to come so he could take her away from the emotional stress of the gossip that had spread now that she was showing. They had decided not to marry until after the birth of this son.
Although not of great wealth, Joseph surprised Mary with a donkey to help Mary endure what would be a very long and tiring passage for a woman with child. Mary was delighted and thanked Joseph; she knew this donkey came at a sacrifice to his finances.
While it was an arduous journey for the couple, the distance created a beautiful time of bonding with the child. He showed signs of his strength through kicks and movements in Mary’s womb. How they both would laugh and marvel at the joy and honor to raise the Lord’s very own son. What would he look like? What kind of man would he grow up to be? How precious the gift! They prayed for much wisdom in raising this boy.
Mary had been right about Joseph; he already was a doting husband and caring father to this unborn child. She could see how God had chosen him for her before her days had entered the world. Mary smiled to herself; she was a truly blessed woman.
One evening while they were staying in Bethlehem, Mary felt a tightening across her womb. Her eyes went wide, and an excited smile escaped her lips. She looked up to see Joseph staring at her wide-eyed. He tilted his head to say, “Now?” Mary nodded, then giggled as Joseph stumbled to his feet in excitement.
Joseph and Mary began to look for a quiet space for their baby to be born. The census was taking place in Bethlehem, and despite all their searching, every place was fully occupied. The only vacant space they could find was the animal shelter of an Inn. Joseph’s heart was saddened. He had wanted a special place for the son of God to be born, but he had to accept it straight away as he could tell Mary was just about ready to give birth.
As they entered into the shelter Mary’s eyes darted about, and at once she noticed a little manger, just big enough to be used as a cradle for the coming child. She smiled at Joseph and whispered, “It’s perfect.”
With the presence of heaven eagerly waiting, Mary gave one last push…
A beautiful baby boy was born; Mary sensed Heaven’s joy. He was perfectly pink and so very tiny. Mary looked at Joseph. He was slightly pale, and by the emotion on his face, she could see how overwhelmed he was with love and affection for this baby. He smiled at her. She smiled back as tears of pure joy spilled forth. She pulled the small child to her chest, closed her eyes, breathed him in and lifted one hand to the heavens.
“Thank you, Father… thank you… thank you for our baby Jesus,” she whispered.
After resting a while the child had his first visitors arrive, shepherds.
Joseph felt cautiously protective of his son as shepherds had been known to be a little untrustworthy at times. He couldn’t help but sense there was something incredibly significant about their visit. That somehow God had orchestrated this moment before the beginning of time. So he allowed them to come and look upon the child.
When Mary asked how they had known about their child, the shepherds began to share the most wonderful story with them both. They spoke of an angel of the Lord coming to tell them about this child whom they would find wrapped in cloths and be lying in a manger. The angel had said that the baby is Christ the Lord and then suddenly a great company of heavenly hosts appeared and began to praise God.
The shepherds recited the words the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Mary, still so young in her years, so young in her faith, sat there utterly amazed! What a gift it was to be chosen for such a task. She breathed in deeply the beauty of this moment and treasured all that had taken place in her heart like she somehow knew she would need these memories to help her in the days to come.
When all had gone, Mary sat with the tiny child cradled in her knees. She searched his face over and over again delighting in every little eye-lid flicker and every small sound. She wanted to stay like this forever. She kissed him gently on his forehead and whispered, “How greatly you are loved and how great you will love…”