“Mary, come quickly!” I heard my mother calling me. Sensing her excitement, I put down the piece of cloth that I was sewing and hurried toward the sound of her voice. Entering the other room of our house, I saw my mother standing beside my father. Both of them were beaming with pleasure.
“Mother, Father, what is it?” I asked smiling at them both.
“Your father has wonderful news, Mary!” she exclaimed.
My mother’s sweet, beautiful face looked with love at my father. He smiled at her then took my hand. “Mary, I have found you a husband,” he said proudly. “I have talked to the matchmaker, and we both feel that this man will be perfect for you!”
I admit that I was stunned. Of course, I was of the age to get married, but I had not really let myself consider the possibility of leaving my mother and my father.
“Who is he, Father?” I asked curiously. “Joseph, the carpenter,” he replied.
My mother added, “He is a very kind man, my child. He will be very good to you.”
I nodded obediently as I thought about the man who was to be my husband. He seemed so old! My mother had begun to teach me the ways of a man and wife. I blushed as I thought about it. I quickly put that thought out of my mind, as I knew that I had at least a year of betrothal before this was expected of me.
“When will the ceremony be, Father?”
“I have talked to Joseph, and he hopes it will take place within the month,” my father explained.
There was so much to do to prepare for the ceremony, but we were betrothed in front of our family and friends three weeks later. We would now have a year to get to know each other
I found that Joseph was truly a kind and patient man. He was not a large man, but he was strong as an ox. I could not help but watch him, as he carried wood into his workshop, his muscles taut from the exertion.
We laughed a lot together, too. He had an exceptional sense of humor and kept me entertained as he worked by telling me stories. One story he loved to tell was about a rich lady from the village who hired him to build some new furniture. She had gone to Jerusalem and brought back the latest designs. As he worked, however, she kept changing her mind until the end product looked exactly like the furniture she had in the first place. He would laugh his huge laugh; enjoying the story more each time he told it.
Joseph also loved God. One day, we were walking together in a field outside of the village. We stopped underneath an ancient, gnarled olive tree.
“Mary, look at this tree, how gnarled and ugly it is,” he said.
I walked up to the tree and ran my fingers down its rough bark.
Joseph continued, “But, how blessed I am that God has given me the gift to turn this wood into something of beauty. Tomorrow I will return and cut it down and haul it back to the shop. I plan to craft this tree into a beautiful table for our new home.”
Gradually I began to love this sweet, funny man. I looked forward to the time we would become man and wife.
Several weeks later, the village rabbi and my father were talking together. The rabbi had come from Jerusalem with some interesting news. Father came home immediately and shared the incredible story with mother and me.
Father told us that his cousin, Zacharias, had seen a vision at the temple. The rabbi had told Father that he was praying with a group of men outside the temple during the hour of incense. Zacharias had gone inside to perform his duty and did not come out for a very long time. The men praying outside could not understand what was taking him so long.
When Zacharias finally appeared, the men perceived that he had seen a vision. He was as white as the pillars he stood beside, and his eyes were dilated as if he were in shock. He opened his mouth as if to speak and nothing came out! The rabbi told Father that Zacharias stayed in Jerusalem until the duration of his service was completed and then left immediately to return to his wife, Elizabeth, in the hills of Judah.
My mother and I listened raptly, wondering what God was doing in Zacharias’ life. Later, I shared the story with Joseph. He was as amazed and fascinated as we had been.
March was here, and with it the warm, fragrant winds of spring. I decided to take a walk early one morning. Spring was my favorite time of year. I enjoyed walking through the rocky fields, seeing the flowers pushing their way through the thin soil. I marveled that flowers so lovely could grow in such poor conditions.
This morning was especially beautiful. The sky fanned out in front of me in shades of pink and blue, bathing the field in hues of pastels. As I was walking, I paused because I thought I heard someone calling my name. Stopping, I looked around. Seeing nothing, I continued my walk. Once again, I heard the soft sound. Perhaps it was the wind.
I decided to rest for a moment on a hill overlooking Nazareth. Sitting down, I felt the wind begin to blow again, stronger this time. I reached up to grab the scarf that was around my head, holding it close beneath my chin. Closing my eyes, I heard someone call my name one more time.
“Mary, rejoice highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
Opening my eyes, I saw an angel standing in front of me. My first reaction was fear. Drawing back from the vision, I hid my eyes behind the scarf that I had wrapped close to my head.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
Peeking out from behind the scarf, I dared to look at the angel in front of me. He was beautiful, tall and straight, clothed in a robe that actually glistened. He was smiling at me.
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name, JESUS.”
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”
“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His Kingdom there will be no end.”
Forgetting my fear, I looked at the angel in disbelief. What was he saying? What did this mean?
“How can this be,” I objected. “I am a virgin!” I knew enough of my mother’s lessons to know this was impossible.
The angel explained with a patient and quiet voice. “Mary, the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Before I could think through what the angel had said, He said one more incredible thing. “Now indeed, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and she is in her sixth month of pregnancy.”
Elizabeth is pregnant? But she is barren! I was astounded at this news, also. This cannot be possible! She and Zacharias grieved over her barrenness.
As if reading my thoughts, the angel smiled once again and said, “Mary, with God, nothing is impossible.”
I closed my eyes one more time trying to sort out all that the angel had told me. Finally, I opened my eyes and asked, “What is your name?”
“I am Gabriel,” he said.
No longer afraid, I felt an incredible sense of peace and love. In a quiet yet firm voice, I looked up at him and said, “Gabriel, I am here to serve the Lord. I will carry His child.”
With a brilliant smile, he raised his wings and vanished as quickly and quietly as he had appeared.
I sat there for at least an hour. The early morning had turned into a beautiful day. What was I to do now? Should I tell my parents? What about Joseph? Would he understand? Fear began to creep in as I tried to think through all of the questions that were running through my mind.
“Lord, God, please lead me. Tell me what to do now!”
And then I remembered what the angel had said, “Elizabeth, your kinsmen, has also conceived and in her sixth month of pregnancy.” Elizabeth! Of course, I must go to Elizabeth. She will understand.
I walked slowly home, going over and over in my mind all the things that the angel had said to me. I sought out my mother as soon as I came into the house. I found her standing by the fire, beginning to prepare the noonday meal.
“Mother,” I said quietly.
“Mary, where have you been?” she answered. “I have been looking for you.”
My mother turned toward me and stopped. There was a look of surprise and concern on her face.
“Mary, child,” she said. “Are you feeling unwell?” My mother hurried over to me and placed her cool hand on my brow.
“Sit down,” she exclaimed. “You are so pale!”
I did as she said, grateful for the normalcy of her motherly concern. I was not sure what to tell my mother. Struggling to come up with the right words, I said, “Mother, something has happened to me that I cannot really explain. Please trust that what I am asking to do will some day make sense to you.”
“What is it, child?” my mother asked worriedly.
“I must go see Elizabeth and Zacharias,” I answered.
I have always been an obedient and trustworthy child, never giving my parents a moment of concern. My mother had no reason to doubt my sincerity or my words.
Trusting me and not understanding why, she said, “Mary, we will speak to your father and Joseph.”
That evening, I sat down with my mother and father and tried to explain what had happened to me. After I finished my story, my father stood up and walked to the door. He stood there for several minutes, looking out, but seeing nothing in the street. Finally, he turned around and looked at my mother and then at me. There were tears in his eyes as he said, “Mary, do you understand what all of this means to you?”
I bowed my head as he continued.
“There are many who will not believe your story. Joseph will probably choose to break your engagement.”
I nodded, understanding exactly what my father was saying. I had not yet taken the time to consider how this would impact Joseph.
“Father, what am I to do?” I asked tearfully.
“We will tell him that you would like to visit your kinswoman, Elizabeth, during this happy time in her life,” he answered. “This will give you time to think through all that has happened,” he said.
I nodded, grateful to my father for the trust he had in me.
When I missed my cycle later that month, I knew it was time to go and stay with Elizabeth and Zacharias. My mother helped me prepare for the journey.
Before I left, I went by Joseph’s shop to tell him good-bye. When I walked in the door, I heard him whistle that funny little tune that he liked so much. He was working intently on our beautiful table.
“Mary!” he exclaimed. His handsome face lit up as I walked into the room. “You are looking especially beautiful this morning!”
I blushed and smiled. “Joseph, it is time for me to go.”
He put down his tools and walked around the table to me. Putting his arm around my shoulders, he said, ‘I will miss you, Mary. When are you returning?”
“I am not sure how long that I will stay with Elizabeth.”
Joseph must have sensed hesitancy in my voice. He took me by both shoulders and turned me around to face him. “Mary, are you alright? I sense that something is troubling you.”
Tears sprang to my eyes as I looked into his face.
“Joseph, I will tell you everything when I return from Elizabeth’s.”
He looked intently at me for a moment as if to reassure himself that everything was alright. I smiled at him and gave him a quick hug.
“Joseph, I must go. Father is waiting for me.”
I left him standing there, still a look of confusion on his face.
Father was waiting outside the house, the donkey packed with things that we would need for our short journey.
The journey was pleasant enough. Father said very little to me, keeping his thoughts to himself. As for me, I thought again and again about what the angel had said to me.
We arrived at Zacharias’ house late into the evening on the following day. Zacharias met us at the door. He was beaming!
“Zacharias,” my father said. “You are looking well!”
Without a word, he embraced Father and me and motioned for us to come into the house. Exchanging curious glances with each other, Father and I followed him. Zacharias immediately began to move around the room, putting out chairs for us and gesturing for us to sit down. He pointed to the next room and then left us.
“Father, why is Zacharias not speaking?”
“I do not know, child. This is indeed strange.”
We waited quietly for a few minutes. Presently Zacharias returned with Elizabeth following close behind.
Father and I stood up when she entered. Seeing her smiling face, I called out to her, “Greetings, Elizabeth!”
At the moment of the greeting, Elizabeth froze, caught her breath and placed her hand on her abdomen. Her beautiful face now showed a mixture of awe and surprise.
Zacharias took hold of her arm in concern. She looked at him, smiled, and patted his hand on her arm. Looking back at me, tears filled her eyes and she said, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Mary, at the sound of your greeting, the babe leaped in my womb for joy!”
“Blessed are you because you believed what God has told you. And now it will be fulfilled within you.”
If ever I needed a confirmation of all that had happened, this was it. Elizabeth spoke to my heart through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I was overtaken by a sense of love that was so powerful that I had to sit down before I collapsed.
Sitting down, I bowed my head, my spirit feeling as if it would burst out of me in joy. I opened my mouth to speak and said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
He has regarded someone as small and insignificant as me
And from now on all generations will call me blessed!
He is mighty and has done great things for me.
Holy is His name.
His mercy is on those who fear and revere Him.
From generation to generation
He has shown strength with Hi arm
He has taken those who are proud of heart
Scattering them about.
He has pulled down the mighty
From the thrones
And lifted up the lowly.
He has fed the hungry with good things
And those who are rich and have no need,
He has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel
In remembering His mercy
As He spoke to our fathers
To Abraham’s seed forever.
There was silence for a while after I spoke these words. We all just sat there basking in the love of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, my father stood up and came over to me. “I will leave now, my child. It seems that you are in good hands here. May God take care of you.”
I looked up at my father. He softly laid his hand on my head. At his touch, I began to cry, huge wracking sobs coming from deep within my soul. At that moment, I was a child, my father’s little girl, truly overwhelmed by all that was about to happen to me.”
Gathering me in his arms, my father allowed me to cry it out. When nothing was left and my crying had ended, my father said,”Mary, God will protect and take care of you. You must be a very special girl for Him to have chosen you.”
Strengthened now, I stood back from my father and smiled. “Yes, Father, He will take care of me.”
I stayed with Elizabeth and Zecharias for three months. Each day was precious. Since Zecharias could not speak, Elizabeth enjoyed my company. We talked often of our sons and what their lives would be like.
At the end of three months, I knew it was time to go home and face Joseph. God had indeed strengthened me during my stay with Elizabeth.
My father came to get me soon after. I hugged Elizabeth good-bye, her huge belly getting in the way. We laughed and cried together one more time. Elizabeth looked at me, her kind face showing her love and concern.
“Mary, you will be constantly in my prayers. May God go with you.”
I hugged her one more time. “And may God be with you, Elizabeth.”
Returning home, I knew I must go immediately to Joseph’s shop to talk to him. I found him at work, whistling a favorite tune as he sanded a little child’s chair.
“Mary!” Joseph called when he spotted me standing at the door. He came toward me, wiping his hands on a rag. “You’re home! When did you come?”
Smiling at him, I said, “Father and I arrived yesterday evening.”
“Come and sit down!” He wiped off a bench with the rag that he held in his hand. After we both sat down, he asked about Elizabeth and Zacharias.
“She is soon to give birth, Joseph. Zacharias still can not speak, but he walks around beaming at everyone!”
Joseph laughed and said, “Yes, he must be very proud of himself!”
There was silence between us as we both thought about Elizabeth and Zacharias. Breaking the silence, I said, “Joseph, there is something I must tell you.”
Joseph looked at me seriously. “Yes, Mary, you mentioned something before you left to visit Elizabeth. I have wondered what it might be.”
I had rehearsed what I would say a hundred times in the last three months. Now, sitting here with Joseph, I had a difficult time even knowing how to begin.
Joseph reached out and took my hand. “What is it, Mary? You can tell me anything.” The love in his voice gave me courage. I took a deep breath and began my story, starting with my walk that day and the angel appearing to me.
“Joseph, I am three months pregnant.” I said softly.
Joseph looked at me with a look that I could not identify. He stood up and walked to the other side of the room, his back to me.
When he did not speak, I asked him fearfully, “Joseph, do you not believe me?” He still did not speak. I called his name one more time, “Joseph?”
He turned toward me. There was anguish in his voice when he spoke. “Mary, I do not know what to think.”
Tears welled up in my eyes when I realized that Joseph may not believe me. If he does not, it is his right to divorce me. I could not allow myself to even consider what would happen to me then.
I turned to go. The pain in my heart was so intense that I could not stay in that room one more minute. Joseph did not stop me as I walked out of the door. I did not know where I was going; I just had to get away from Joseph. I walked back to the place where the angel had spoken to me.
“Lord, God, where are you? Where are you Gabriel? God, what am I going to do now?” I cried out to God, but there was only silence. Doubt and fear began to creep over me. As the day began to fade, I walked home slowly.
My mother met me at the door. She knew by the look on my face that my conversation with Joseph had not gone well. Taking me in her arms, I cried. Finally, my mother said, “Child, your father and I will not desert you. We will be here for you.” Taking some assurance in that, I tried to smile at her.
Several days passed. Somehow I got through them by going about all of the mundane tasks that I must do –washing, cooking, and sewing. I moved leadenly through the days, not allowing myself to think beyond the next hour.
One evening, three days later, I was sitting outside the house trying to make use of the last little bit of light as I mended one of my father’s shirts. I heard someone approach. Looking up from my task, I saw Joseph walking towards me. Not wanting to speak to him, I quickly gathered my sewing to go inside.
“Mary, don’t go.” There was a pleading in his voice that caused me to pause. “Mary, I must speak to you,” he insisted. “Please, put your sewing down and come with me.”
I hesitated, but the look that he gave me encouraged me to do as he said. We walked together out of the village to the olive grove where we had gone so many times before to talk.
I remember being so aware of the fragrant and warm summer air. It was early evening, and the summer sun was just now settling down in the sky.
I did not speak to him. I’d said it all. We sat down on a boulder still warm from the day. Joseph wasted no time, but began by saying, “Mary, I am sorry that I did not believe you.”
I looked at him in surprise, still not speaking.
“After you told me that you were pregnant, I did not know what to do. I did not want to make you a public example, so I decided that I would secretly divorce you. I thought perhaps you could go back to Elizabeth’s to have the baby.”
“Last night I went to sleep with all of this on my mind. Mary, God sent an angel to speak to me in a dream. Perhaps it was the same angel who spoke to you. The angel told me, ‘Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” Matthew 1:20, 21
Joseph stopped speaking, overwhelmed by his emotions. By this time we were both crying.
“And the angel told me that you would bring forth a son, and I will name him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.”
In an amazed voice, Joseph looked at me in awe and said, “Mary, God has chosen us to raise his child!” He gathered me in his arms and just held me. How grateful I was that God had not asked me to do this all by myself. He has given me a man who will walk this amazing road by my side. It will take both of us to raise God’s son.
We walked hand in hand back to the village, making plans, talking about the future.
We were legally married two days later. I left my mother and father’s house to live with Joseph as his wife. There were questions around the village, but Joseph was such a respected man that the gossip soon died down.
My pregnancy went well. I was not troubled by some of the sickness that other women have when they are pregnant. The angel did not visit us again, but Joseph and I were very aware of God’s presence in our lives.
We had heard that Elizabeth and Zecharias had delivered a son. Joseph came home one day to tell me the strange story. He said that on the eighth day, Zacharias (who still could not speak) went to the synagogue to circumcise the baby. The priest was going to call the child, Zecharias.
Elizabeth answered and said that the child’s name was John. The priest looked at her strangely and said there was no one in the family by that name.
Shaking his head and frowning, the priest made signs to Zecharias. Surely, Zecharias would straighten this out. Zecharias called for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.”
Immediately, Zecharias’ tongue was loosed, and he spoke praising God and prophesying that this child would be called “the Prophet of the Highest, and he would go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way.”
Later that evening, Joseph and I spoke of Elizabeth and Zecharias’ child. It was still so difficult for us to understand the enormity of all that was happening. Joseph and I wondered what our blessed child would be like. What would he look like? All parents have these thoughts before a child is born, but this child was God’s very own Son!
The next few months were very quiet and peaceful for Joseph and me. We had settled in together, comfortable in our life with each other. The baby was very active within me. He would move vigorously at night, and I would wake up thinking of Him and praying to His Father. My baby’s father was God, Himself. As I lay in bed, feeling the baby move, I would be so aware of an enormous out flowing of love in and around me.
One evening, Joseph came home with unsettling news. A decree had gone out from Caesar Augustus that all of Israel would be taxed. The Romans ask what they will with no concern for the people. They always need more money to build their armies and their roads. Now it seems that we were to go from Nazareth to the City of David, Bethlehem, because that was where Joseph was born and registered.
“Mary, you must stay here with your mother and father,” Joseph told me. I could tell that he had thought through this plan carefully. “The journey would be too difficult for you. It is soon time for the baby to arrive. You must be with your mother so that she can help with the birth.” His kind eyes looked at me with love and concern.
I shook my head. “No, Joseph,” I said firmly. “I must go with you.” I guess my firmness surprised him.
“But, Mary, what if the babe arrives while we are on the journey?”
“Then God will help us, Joseph. I feel very strongly that I must be with you when the baby comes.”
We left two weeks later. Joseph had packed our donkey with the needed provisions, including those things we might need for the birth of the baby.
I did not realize how difficult this journey would be for me. We progressed very slowly, Joseph walking and leading our little donkey with me riding. I tried not to complain, but would have to stop often to rest and stretch my legs. At times I would walk beside Joseph in a comfortable silence, neither of us feeling the need to talk.
At night I would try to rest, curled on my side on a pallet on the ground, secure in knowing that Joseph was watching out for our safety.
We encountered many travelers along the way. There was a lot of grumbling and complaining toward the Roman government. People were angry that they had to make this journey. As always, in difficult time like this, people would wish for the promised Messiah to come. “He” would save them from the Roman oppressors.
In the evening around a small fire, Joseph and I would sit and talk.
“Joseph?” I said quietly staring at the warm flames.
“Will our child be the Messiah? Will he be the one that will overthrow the Roman oppressors? I cannot bear to think of him in this role as a warrior or conqueror.”
Joseph did not answer me for a while. He, too, stared in to the fire. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “The angel told me that his name is Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins. The angel did not tell me that he will save us from the Romans.”
The next morning, we rose early. I was so stiff and sore that I could barely walk. Joseph smiled at me in sympathy. “It will not be long, Mary,” he said kindly. “Can you make it one more day? Surely, we will be able to find a nice inn with a soft, comfortable pallet for you to rest on.”
I nodded, praying that God would give me the strength I needed for the rest of the journey.
We arrived in Bethlehem late that evening. The little town was bursting with activity, full of travelers that had come from all over the area in order to be counted in the census.
Joseph found a quiet place by the well for me to rest.
“Mary, stay here while I go and see if I can find a place for us to stay tonight.” I smiled gratefully at him and sat down on the well holding tightly to the reins of our little donkey. On his back were all of our precious possessions.
Joseph was gone for over an hour. I began to worry about him, wondering what was keeping him so long. He finally appeared, shaking his head. “Mary, I have gone from inn to inn. They are all full. The only thing I could find was a little stable down the street. The innkeeper said that we could bed down there.”
I was so tired at that point that I honestly didn’t care where I lay my head. I just wanted to rest. The baby had been very quiet all day, but my back was beginning to hurt.
I tried to smile bravely at him and said, “Joseph, that will be fine. Perhaps we can find some place in a few days when the crowds clear out.”
We made our way slowly to the stable. When we got there, I peeked in through the door to take a look at our “home” for the next few days. It was dark and very dusty. There were animals already bedded down for the night. Luckily, the innkeeper had brought in a fresh pile of hay in anticipation of the guest for the night. Joseph began to make a little nest for us. We had brought a blanket from home, which we laid on top of the bed. We both lay down on the soft bed and closed our eyes, too tired to talk or even eat.
Later that night, I dreamed that I was still riding on our donkey. My back was hurting so bad. I woke up sweating in spite of the cool night air. I turned on my side, hoping to relieve the pain. It eased up for a while, and then started hurting again. I sat up, hoping this new position would help me feel better. When I did, I experienced a huge amount of wetness between my legs. Alarmed for a moment, I sat still trying to understand what was happening. Then it came to me, a knowing that was as old as time it’s self. I was in labor! The baby was soon to be born.
Joseph stirred beside me. “Joseph,” I whispered. “The baby is coming.” He rolled over toward me.
“What did you say?” He asked sleepily.
“The baby ---------I’m in labor!”
Joseph sat up immediately. “Lord, Jehovah, help us!
“Yes, Joseph. He will!”
Surprisingly, I did not panic, even though there was no mid-wife to help me through my labors. Joseph never left my side. He talked me through the difficult pains, reassuring me that everything would be all right. He prayed to God that I might deliver my son easily and quickly.
Early in the morning hours of the night, my son was born. With Joseph holding my shoulders, I pushed my beautiful baby boy into the world. He came out crying, drawing in great gulps of life giving air.
Joseph and I cried with him, cries of joy. We experienced the most incredible feeling of love and well-being.
Joseph gently washed the baby off from water that he had drawn from the nearby well. Jesus squalled lustily through the entire process. Finally, wrapped tight in a warm blanket, Joseph handed the precious bundle to me. I held him to my breast where nature took over, and he began to nurse.
He was beautiful! He had a head full of black hair and soft olive colored skin, tinted a rosy pink. I could not take my eyes from him. He did not nurse long, but soon fell asleep in my arms. Joseph had cleaned out a small feeding trough and filled it with clean, sweet smelling hay. He took Jesus from me and laid him gently on the rough little bed. He drew the bed close by my side so that I could easily reach out to him when he cried.
We slept. I was so tired from the journey and the birth of my son. Joseph and I curled up together in the hay, our beautiful baby asleep close by.
Several hours later, a commotion outside the manger woke Joseph with a start. Alerted for possible danger, he grabbed a staff near by and went quickly to the door. Unbelievably, outside the manger, a ragtag group of dirty and smelly shepherds were standing quietly, almost apologetically. When they saw Joseph, the leader of the group stepped forward.
Respectfully, he said, “Sir, please excuse the intrusion, but we had to know if a babe was born to you and your wife tonight.”
Astonished, Joseph looked at each one of the men. He saw wonder, awe----even reverence in their faces. Without speaking, Joseph nodded his head. The men let out almost a collective sigh, their dark faces wreathed in smiles.
The leader of the group spoke. “My brothers and I were out in the fields, keeping watch over our flocks. We were wrapped in our blankets, gathered around a dying fire. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood in front of us, and we were surrounded by a glorious light. At first we were terrified, not understanding what was happening. The angel spoke to us and told us not to be afraid, for he had brought good news to us and all people.”
“For there is born to you this day in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you. You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
“Suddenly, we heard the most beautiful music. Looking up, the sky was full of angels singing and praising God.”
“Glory to God in the highest
And on earth, peace
Toward men.” Matthew 2:11-14
“We were on our feet by this time, totally unafraid. The sight was too glorious to behold. There were thousands of angels. Wherever we turned to look, there were angels ---------a symphony of angels!”
“We don’t know how long we stood there, our hearts pounding and our mouths gaped open in awe. But, the angels disappeared as quickly as they appeared. When we looked from the sky back to the messenger angel, he was gone, also.”
“We stood there silently, not speaking for a long time. Finally, we dared to look at each other. I spoke first. “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass which the Lord has made known to us.”
“My brothers agreed, so we left our flocks with our little brother and hurried here to Bethlehem as quickly as we could.”
Convinced of the story and believing these men meant the baby and me no harm, Joseph invited the shepherds to come in to the stable.
He gently woke me and explained that a marvelous thing had happened to these men. The story of the angels was recounted for me.
I tenderly lifted the baby out of his warm little bed and gave him to Joseph. With pride, Joseph carried Jesus in his arms over to the group of shepherds.
They smiled and nodded, praising God for this beautiful male child, still in awe of all that had happened. The leader requested from Joseph that he might hold the babe. Joseph looked at me, and I nodded. As Joseph placed the child in the shepherd’s arms, tears streamed down his weathered, leathery cheeks. The others gathered around him, touched as well.
I sat there quietly, watching the men worship my son. He was so tiny and vulnerable. This baby, my baby, was the Savior -----the Christ. Angels proclaimed his birth to these lowly shepherds. I held my thoughts close to my heart, sealed with the first of many prayers for my son. “Lord, God, help me to be a good mother to your son. Help me to be worthy of your trust.”
The shepherds left the stable calling out in the night, “Praise God! Glory to God!” I am surprised that they did not wake up the entire neighborhood.
After they left, Joseph brought Jesus back to me. I held him close to nurse one more time until I found myself nodding off. Joseph took the baby gently from me and laid him back in the manger.
We woke up early in the morning to the sound of the baby rooting around in his crib and the animals beginning to stir. A traveler came in to get his donkey to begin his day’s journey. Surprised when he saw us, he quickly bridled his animal and left.
“Mary, we must find another place to stay tonight. I will go out one more time to look. Will you be all right?
I assured him that the baby and I would be fine.
Joseph came back several hours later, smiling and quite pleased with himself. He had run into a gentleman who needed the services of a carpenter. The man also knew of a small house that we could rent that was close by.
Thrilled to leave the dusty and grimy stable, we gathered our belongings and moved to the little house. Praising God for our good fortune, we settled in. It was small, but at least it did not have the smell of a stable.
Eight days after his birth, Joseph took the baby to the temple in Bethlehem to be circumcised. I, of course, could not yet leave the house. I could only pace and worry as women over the centuries have done, knowing and understanding the necessity of the ancient rite, yet hating it also.
Joseph brought the baby back to me several hours later. He was smiling and said, “He is fine, Mary, just very hungry!” He carefully placed Jesus in my arms. I smiled up at Joseph, grateful to have my baby safe in my arms again.
My 33 days of purification went by quickly. I blissfully worked around the house, enjoying this quiet time with Joseph and the baby. Jesus was a good baby, only crying when he was hungry or wet. Since Joseph was working close by, he would often stop in during the day to check on us.
All too soon, it was time to leave the house and take Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. We had saved our money so that we could purchase two pigeons for my purification sacrifice and five shekels to redeem our little son.
We walked reverently into the temple courtyard. I was carrying Jesus, and Joseph was carrying the cage with the two pigeons. Since we had never done this before, Joseph was not really sure what we were to do or where we were to go. He spotted a man sitting on the temple steps and said to me, “Mary, I will go and ask that man where we are to go.” He looks as if he is waiting for someone. Perhaps he can tell us what we are to do.”
I smiled at Joseph and waited. Jesus had awakened by that time. His beautiful little dark eyes were open, and he began looking around. As a mother would do, I began talking to him. “Jesus, you are in your Father’s house. Isn’t it beautiful?” I held him up as if to see.
At that moment, Joseph walked back to us with the man following close behind. The man had a strange look on his face as he glanced at me and then at Jesus.
“Mary, this is Simeon.” Simeon had eyes only for the baby. In a trembling voice, he asked if he might hold Jesus. I looked at Joseph. He smiled his consent. Looking back at the old man, I carefully placed Jesus in his arms. Tears ran down his face as he looked at the child. Jesus looked back at Simeon with the solemn stare of a baby.
Simeon blessed God and said,
“Lord, now You are letting
Your servant depart in
For my eyes have seen Your
Which You have prepared
Before the face of all peoples.
A light to bring to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people
Israel.” Luke 2:29-32
Joseph and I marveled at what he said. The three of us continued to stand and look at the beautiful baby nestled in Simeon’s arms. Simeon’s words, “a light to the gentile” continued to ring in my ears. How many people have now spoken of this little baby ------ Gabriel, Martha, the angels in the field, the shepherds, and now this dear old man?
Simeon tenderly placed the baby in my arms, his face now wreathed in a smile. He raised his gnarled hand and blessed Joseph and me. Then Simeon’s voice changed, and he did an unusual and uncomfortable thing, especially for a Jewish man. He looked directly at me and said very gently, “Behold this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Matthew 2:34, 35
Suddenly, the happiness of the day disappeared. What did this old man mean? Fearfully, I hugged Jesus closer to me. All the words and prophecies spoken about my baby up to now have been joyous and uplifting!
Instinctively I began backing away from the old man and his fearful words. As I turned away, I found myself face to face with an old lady, bent over with age. Her sweet wrinkled face and kind eyes comforted my soul as if my mother were standing there. She must have walked up as we were speaking to Simeon. She gently put her arm around me, sensing my fear. In a beautiful, melodious voice, she began singing and praising God. The music touched my soul and eased my fear. I smiled at her. She told me that her name was Anna. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, but worshipped there night and day. Her face reflected the joy that was in her soul. Like a balm, her joy replaced the fear that was in my heart.
Listening to her life story, one of sorrow and joy, I knew that God would be with me and give me the strength, courage, and wisdom that I would need to raise His Son.
We returned to Bethlehem for two more years. Joseph continued his carpentry work, and I settled in, loving my role as wife and mother. Jesus was a delightful baby. His smiles melted me, and I would sit for hours on the floor and just play with him. Jesus adored Joseph. His eyes would light up when Joseph came through the door each evening. Jesus would laugh, throw up his arms, and babble until Joseph picked him up and swung him around the room. We were so happy.
Little did I know that our idyllic life was about to change. One day when Jesus was close to two years old, Joseph came home from work early. We were all sitting in front of the house enjoying the ending of the day. Much to our surprise, a caravan of camels and pack animals came down our street and stopped in front of our house. The men in the caravan were obviously of great wealth and importance. Thinking perhaps that they had lost their way, Joseph rose to meet them. I took the baby into the house. Joseph bowed respectfully and said, “Greetings, may I be of help to you?”
Three men slid from their camels and walked toward Joseph. They looked tired and dusty as if they had traveled a long distance. One of the men spoke to Joseph. “Greetings, to you sir. We have come a long way in search of a king that was born in Bethlehem. We have seen his star and have followed it to this place. We have inquired of your King Herod. He told us of the prophecy:
“It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land
No longer bringing up the rear
From you will come the leader
Who will shepherd – rule my people,
my Israel.” Matthew 2:6
“Herod instructed us to come and find the newborn King of the Jews so that he could come and worship him. Last evening we saw the star again, and it hovered over this house.”
From my place behind the door, I heard Joseph invite the men inside. They entered the house quietly and reverently. When they saw Jesus in my arms, they were so overcome that they actually knelt down and worshipped him.
Unafraid, Jesus looked solemnly at these strange men in his house; then he laughed and clapped his hands!
Smiling, the men rose. One of them went outside and came back into the house followed by three servants baring gifts. Each man presented a gift to Jesus. One man gave gold, the other gave frankincense, and the last gave him myrrh. We were overwhelmed by the value of these precious offerings.
After a short time, they reluctantly said that they must go. One of the men came over and knelt down on one knee in front of me. Jesus was sitting on my lap. As a baby will do, Jesus reached out and touched his face. Smiling, the man took Jesus’ little hand in his own and said, “Good bye, my King. We will meet again.”
The men and their entourage left soon after. With Jesus asleep in my arms, Joseph and I sat for a while and just admired the beautiful gifts that the men had given Jesus.
Several nights later, Joseph woke me up, urgently calling my name. “Mary, wake up! Wake up! Frightened and not knowing the cause of his concern, I instinctively reached for Jesus who was sleeping nearby in his little bed.
“What is the matter, Joseph?” I asked fearfully.
“We must leave, Mary. We must leave immediately. Jesus’ life is in danger. An angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the young child and his mother and flee to Egypt. And stay there until I bring you word, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.’” Matthew 2:13
Not stopping to even question this dream, I started gathering the necessities for our journey. A short time later we were packed and ready to leave. Joseph had gone to the stable and retrieved our little donkey. Placing the bags on his back, we were soon on our way. Luckily, Jesus never woke up during this time.
We did not know until some time later what had happened after we left. We had settled in a small town just over the Israel/Egyptian border. It was on the trade route from Israel to Egypt. Joseph had quickly found work as the town was growing and in great need of carpenters.
One evening, he came home and as was his usual habit, picked up Jesus. Instead of swinging him around until he squealed, Joseph held him close, not saying a word. Concerned, I asked, “Joseph, what is wrong?”
“Mary, I have heard terrible news.”
Alarmed, I asked again, “What is it, Joseph?”
Jesus began to squirm in his arms, so Joseph gently put him down to play.
“A caravan came through town today. I was at the well, taking a break when I heard two of the travelers talking. From their conversation, I knew they had traveled from Jerusalem. I introduced myself and began asking questions about what was going on in Jerusalem and Judea. They said that Herod was still alive, but seemed to be losing his sanity. They explained that Herod had heard that a king had been born in Bethlehem. A caravan of wise men had come through town following some star looking for this new born king. Herod told them to find the little king and report back to him, so that he could come and worship the king.
Joseph stopped his story and looked at me. I reached out and put my hand on Joseph’s arm. “Joseph?” Placing his hand on top of mine, Joseph said, “Mary, for some reason the wise men did not go back and report to Herod after they left us. Perhaps God warned them as he did us. Herod was so angry at this, that he ordered the death of all male children from the age of two to birth.
I caught my breath in horror. “Oh, no, Joseph!” I felt fear grip me, making me sick to my stomach. “No, Joseph, no!” Joseph wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly against him as I cried. I cried for all those mothers who mourned the death of their precious babies. I cried in fear for the evil that caused this awful thing to happen. I cried in relief that we had escaped this terrible holocaust.
Hearing my cries, Jesus waddled over and stood by our side. Sensing that his mother was upset, he patted my leg with his little hand. Looking down and seeing him standing there beside me, I pulled myself from Joseph’s arms and reached down to pick him up. Holding him now between us, we realized even more the sweet privilege of having this child in our lives.
It was over a year later that we were able to return to Israel. One morning, Joseph shook me. “Mary, wake up!” I opened my eyes to see him pacing around the room, already dressed.
“What is it, Joseph?” I asked sleepily.
With a huge smile on his face, Joseph sat down on the pallet beside me and gave me a quick kiss.
“Mary, we’re going home!”
“Joseph, are you sure?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes, God has sent another angel to speak with me last night. He said, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young child’s life are dead.” Matthew 2:20
We packed our belongings and left the next day. Home, we were going home! I was so anxious to see my family. How sweet it would be to put Jesus in my mother’s arms and see her smile. Also, I was pregnant again and could not wait to share the news of the new baby with my family.
At first, we were not sure where God would have us settle in Israel, but it did not take long for Him to give us an answer. We heard from travelers along the way that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father, Herod, so we were afraid to go into Judea. God warned Joseph one more time in a dream, and we turned aside into the region of Galilee. God guided us home! We were back in Nazareth with our family and friends. Our Jesus would be raised a Nazarene.
“And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with Him.” Luke 2:40.
Copyright © 2001, Cindy Hamilton