Our Christmas series continues–click to read Parts One and Two.
Part Three: Mary
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” ~ Luke 1:49-52
The dirt road blurs and shifts through my tears as I hurry up it, my arms clasped across my front as if to protect the tiny One within me. I stumble on a root and catch myself against an olive tree, and my hand comes to my mouth to stifle a sob.
I would never, no never take back what I said to the glory of the angel—my “yes” to the Mighty One using me, simple me, in His mighty plan.
But still it hurts.
I duck out of sight of the road, behind the shielding silver-leafed branches of the tree. Leaning my forehead against the tree’s quiet trunk, I let the tears fall.
I am the handmaid of the LORD.
A few months ago, I wasn’t sure I was glad to be betrothed to Joseph. So quiet he is, not so tall or handsome as some young men in Nazareth, always working away in his carpenter’s shop. Now I know, partly, for a bride price for me.
But a girl has limited choice in these matters. A poor girl, even less. And in the weeks that followed our betrothal, I started to see him differently—to see the kindness in his eyes, the steadiness in his work, the earnest way he prays in synagogue and his laughter when he plays with the children in the street.
I started to imagine him with my children. Our children.
I draw a quivering breath and press my hand to my barely swelling abdomen. Only yesterday, on the journey home from Judea, I felt the first fluttering, my Child stirring within me. I thought my heart would leap from my breast for gladness, would have burst into song—had it not been for the other travelers on the road—as I did at that glorious meeting with Elizabeth.
It’s a bit early to feel a firstborn move, from what Elizabeth told me. But perhaps the Lord knew I would need it. For today.
I press my fingers to the rough bark before me. What now? If Joseph casts me off, I cannot think what will happen, though I know by the law what could. But surely the LORD’s plan will not be thwarted. However fear’s coldness might grip my heart, that promise is stronger.
I turn back on the road toward home. A gentle breeze teases damp tendrils of hair from my headcovering and cools my cheeks, seeming to whisper that somehow, the One who quickened this baby in my womb will care for us. For both of us.
The evening passes cold and dark at home, despite the warm air and fire on the hearth. My parents say little. Since their discovery when I arrived home from Elizabeth and Zachariah’s, I think they wait on Joseph’s verdict. Now and then my mother looks at me as if she wishes to speak, or to touch me. But she is afraid. They all are. I understand. I am too, until I remember, again.
Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God…
A strange thing, this favor…to be misunderstood, misjudged, cast out. Yet as I lie on my pallet in the darkness, empty with the fullness of surrender, a peace like none I’ve ever known enwraps me, and I truly am not afraid. Perhaps, somehow, it is in losing all to Him that we really begin to live.
May it be done to me according to your word.
I rise at dawn and go to the well. The twitter of birdsong lifts my heart, and the sky is bright with morning.
But the pointed glances and muttered words of the other women—even girls I called my friends—pierce deep, Nazareth’s gossip mill already grinding. They keep me from the circle till their jugs are filled, then leave in a huddle of united affront.
Left alone, I touch my middle to comfort the Child within. If only they knew, their response would be different. Or would it? Is Israel as ready to embrace her Messiah as she believes?
An ugly word from the retreating women sears my ears, and I grip the rough stones surrounding the well.
I am your handmaid, Lord. But this is not easy.
My heart skips. I turn.
He is sleep-tousled and breathless, yet a strange glow lights his dark eyes. He grasps my hands, and I shrink back against the well, afraid what he might say, might do.
“No—Mary, listen to me.” He draws a deep breath and clasps my hands tighter, his pulse thrumming against my palms.
Then he tells me, of his dream, of the angel, of the message given to him too. The confirmation of who this Baby is, of what God is doing…that He is coming, and we—not just I—are to name Him Jesus. And He will save His people from their sins.
And then I am in Joseph’s arms, his rough carpenter’s hands stroking my shoulders, my tears wetting his coarsely-woven tunic.
For the Lord is not only mighty, but merciful. He has taken away my dreams, but given them back shaped by His hand. He has given me my husband—a name, a family, a security to surround my little one as He grows.
He has given me Joseph.
And the song I sang at Elizabeth’s fills my heart once more.