I was sitting by the fire thinking about all that Jesus had been teaching us. Some of what he said made complete sense, but there were still things that baffled me, and other things that I outright disagreed with.
We were on our way to Nain and there was the usual group tagging along.
“Peter or would you prefer Simon?” Her voice was quiet, but it still made me jump. I thought everyone was asleep.
I turned toward the voice. “I’ve gotten used to Peter, so that’s fine.” It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the darkness after staring into the flames. “Mary?”
“You know that he’s not all that he appears to be right? You do realize how special my son is? And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother.”
“I wouldn’t have left my boat if I didn’t think he was special. When he’s teaching, it’s amazing.”
“I don’t mean special that way, there are any number of great teachers out there. Did Jesus ever tell you about his birth?
Now, that was a weird question. I don’t think anyone has ever told me about their birth. Nobody, ever, not once.
“No, I don’t recall ever having that conversation with him.”
She came closer to the fire. “Do you mind if I have a seat? You need to hear this story.” Without waiting for an invitation, she came in closer and joined me at the fire and told me her story:
I was just a teenager in love when it happened. Joseph and I were in the final stages of our betrothal and we were so excited about the big day. Our families had known each other forever it seemed, and it was always assumed that someday Joseph and I would be married.
We had our future planned out; he had always loved working with his hands so he would follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family carpentry business, and I’d raise a whole herd of kids.
I still remember the day it happened, as if it were yesterday.
I had been working on plans for the wedding banquet most of the day. Who would we would invite. What I would wear. What the menu would look like. There were a thousand details that had to be worked out and of course both mothers had to be involved.
That night, in the wee hours of the morning I woke up with the sensation that I wasn’t alone in the room.
It wasn’t scary at all, maybe just creepy, because I definitely knew that someone else was there, but there wasn’t. And then there was.
She just appeared, well from the topic I assumed that she was a she, but it was hard to tell. It was more of a glow and a presence.
And I’ll never forget the first words she spoke. ‘”Hello Mary, God is with you.”
I didn’t know what to think. Where had she come from? And how did she know my name?
“Who are you?” I asked, “And what are you doing in my room?”
“My name is Gabriel, and I’m God’s messenger. Because you have found favor with God, you will have a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be called God’s Son. He will be great and will take his place on the throne of David. His Kingdom will never end, and he will rule over God’s people forever.”
“Really? Because I’m not even married yet. When is this supposed to happen? I hope there’s some time after the wedding. I don’t want people talking.”
She just smiled and said, “It’s already happened Mary. Your son will be called the Son of the Most High. God will give him the throne of David and his Kingdom will last forever. His name will be Jesus.”
“No, that can’t happen. I’m still a virgin. Joseph and I agreed that it would be our gift to each other. I can’t be pregnant. I’ve never been with a man, not with Joseph not with anyone.”
But something had changed, I could feel it.
“Mary, your child is a miracle child. Your son was conceived by the Holy Spirit; his father will be God himself. God has done the impossible in your life.”
Pregnant? A son? Jesus? My mind was swirling with a million questions, but a peace settled over me. I had no idea how it would work out, I just knew it would.”
MARY MUST HAVE sensed my disbelief:
“I know. You wouldn’t be the first one to doubt what happened. How do you think Joseph felt?
“Within days I knew I was pregnant, that a life was growing inside of me, and I realized that Joseph would have to know.
“I still remember the look of shock and betrayal when I told him that I was pregnant, and then the anger. He asked me how I could do it and demanded to know who the father was. I kept telling him about my visit, and that I was still a virgin, that I hadn’t given that gift to anyone else.
“And he just shook his head and told me we were done, that first thing in the morning he’d talk to the Rabbi and arrange to have our engagement officially broken.
“That night I couldn’t sleep at all. My entire life had come unravelled. The wedding I dreamed of was in shambles. The man I loved hated me and how would I possibly raise a child by myself?
“I must have drifted to sleep because the next thing I knew, my mother was in my room telling me that Joseph wanted to see me. She couldn’t understand why he had woken everyone up, he wouldn’t tell her what he wanted, just insisted that he had to see me right away.
“I quickly got dressed, splashed some water on my face and prepared to face Joseph’s fury again. But that wasn’t what greeted me in the kitchen.
“Instead, when I came through the door Joseph rushed to meet me, wrapping me in his strong arms and whispering to me, “I love you so much, I don’t know why I ever doubted you, please forgive me.”
“Later that day he told me about the visit that he had from the angel. How he had been told that my child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that the Father was God himself. That we were to name him Jesus and raise him as our child, and how someday he would be the savior of the world.
“There was so much to take in and so much to do.”
I didn’t know what to say, if what Mary told me was true than that changed everything I thought and believed about Jesus.
I knew he was special, I knew God had a special plan for him and that he was the chosen one, but, the Son of God?
Mary smiled at me and said, “Well that’s enough to shake your world, I’ll tell you more later.” And with that she got up and walked into the darkness.
It was just like our last visit when Mary approached me to finish her story. The rest of the group had gone to bed, and I was sitting by the fire, waiting for it to burn itself out. I was in my nowhere place, not thinking of anything in particular when she joined me.
“May I?” she asked
“Sure, pull up a rock.”
“You know, it wasn’t easy for Joseph and I when it became obvious that I was pregnant. My parents didn’t believe me, and that hurt. First, they shipped me off to my mother’s cousin Elizabeth’s in Jerusalem. Even though she was old, she was pregnant with her first child. Her son was the one you knew as John the Baptizer. After John was born, things became a little hectic around the house. You can only imagine. Zechariah and Elizabeth had lived alone for over thirty years and now they had to cope with a newborn. John was an easy baby, but he was still a baby.
“I tried to help, but after Elizabeth was back on her feet, it seemed like I was just in the way. I went back to Nazareth, but my parents had turned their back on me. I ended up staying with Joseph’s parents and sleeping in his older sister’s room.
“Jacob and Ruth were good to me, but I’m not convinced that they completely believed Joseph and I. And to be truthful, I don’t know if I would have believed it, if it hadn’t happened to me. It was close to the end of my pregnancy that we discovered that a census had been called and everyone had to return to the city of their birth. I guess I knew that Joseph had been born in Bethlehem, but he had lived in Nazareth all his life, what a shock to discover that we would have to make the journey.
Luckily we didn’t have to make the trip alone, we travelled in a group, along with us, there were Joseph’s parents and siblings.
When we arrived in Bethlehem, the village was packed. There wasn’t a place to be found that had a spare bed. Finally, Jacob found a distant cousin who said that we could stay in the stable attached to his house. They moved the animals out and cleaned things up for us, it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t horrible. And that night, it happened. That was when Jesus was born. Joseph’s mother was there to help, which was good because Joseph was a basket case, like all men are when babies are born.
“I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep, Joseph and I took turns holding Jesus, counting his fingers and toes and marveling at how perfect he was. And while everybody was sleeping, except for the three of us, we had company.
“They were trying to be quiet, but we heard them long before they arrived. It was a group of shepherds, and from their apparel and aroma you could tell they had just come from the fields.
“They were so excited at the sight of Jesus they could hardly contain themselves. They told a story of angels in the sky, angels who told them where they could find us. And who told them that our son, was the messiah.
“By then everybody in the house was awake and heard the story of the angels. I will never forget that night.
“It was decided that since we were so close to Jerusalem that it would be a great opportunity to have our son dedicated in the temple.
“After we had presented Jesus at the temple, we returned to Bethlehem to rest before making the trip back to Nazareth. That night we had more visitors, but this time it wasn’t shepherds.
“These men arrived with an entire entourage. They told us they had been following the promise of a distant star for months. And talk about coincidences, they had been in Jerusalem at the same time as we were.
“They said they had been asking everyone where they could find the newborn king they had been told about, but nobody knew anything about it.
“Apparently their questions were heard in high places because they were called before King Herod. It was some of the King’s advisors who spoke about the old prophecy and pointed them to Bethlehem.
“Well, Jesus charmed them as only a baby can and before they left, they gave us gifts. There was a small chest of gold, some frankincense as well as myrrh. It seemed kind of strange at the time, little did we know how soon we’d need that gold.
“The visitors told us that Herod wanted them to bring him news of their visit, but they didn’t have a good feeling about it, so they were planning to bypass the capital on their way home.
“That night, Joseph had another visit from the angel. This time the angel warned him that King Herod had decided in one of his jealous rages, that our son was a threat to his throne, and that we needed to escape to Egypt until Herod was no longer a threat.
“That very night, Joseph packed us up, and we headed for the land our forefathers had escaped from all those years ago. I don’t know how we would have survived without the gift of gold that the strangers from the east had given us.”
I couldn’t contain myself and interrupted her story “Egypt? Jesus never said anything about spending time in Egypt.”
“I can’t imagine that he would, he was still a baby when Herod died and we returned to Nazareth.”