Mary, Did You Know?

11:21 AM

She was so full of joy, even at a young age. She was a beautiful soul. And from the day of her betrothal, her whole life lit up in a brand new way. She spent an evening in her room, treasuring all these things; and I told her father I thought her a little odd for a young woman.

"That is Mary," he said. "She always makes sure that news reaches her heart before her mouth."

And with every tear that was shed, a laugh escaped her. She talked little of Joseph and her marriage, though the smile and the blush of every mention of those two words made her glow.

"Aren't you happy, Mary?"

She looked me, smiling. Her eyes flashed. "Joyful." And she laughed.

But eventually the girls came into our home, sitting in twosomes and trios and giggling about the upcoming wedding and the many babies that would be sure to follow.

"Oh, Mary, you're so lucky!"

"Oh, silly, I am just as blessed as any other girl with a dream."

She was blessed. I was blessed. Over all her childhood she had been good as gold - with the normal exceptions, of course. But her temperament made her sweet and the times when she did rub up against us the wrong way, she was so sensitive to her sin. She said to me once, after a long day in which she never smiled or said anything, she said, "I wish there was a lamb just for me, to take away this dirty feeling forever. I can't - I can't know Him like this."

I loved her, but perhaps not as much as I should have. Her father loved her younger sister more - she was happier and louder and more willing to get up and get dirty. Mary was content to be by herself. I would try to reach her - "What do you do all by yourself, Mary?"

"Oh, I've been thinking about what was read last Sabbath."

"Oh, I was just wondering why I am loved so much."

And lately, "Oh, I've just been thinking about how perfect Joseph is for me. He hardly ever smiles but he never looks sad." She looked at me. "I love him so much, sometimes, that it hurts."

"Wait a little while longer," I said with a smile, "and you will be married."

I thought I understood her. I thought - with all her history of obedience and goodness, with her heart full of love for Joseph and for God - but she turned back. She turned back upon all of it. And she sat with her father and me in the corner, arms clinging to her legs, swallowing the hurt and the shame deeper with every inflection of her father's voice. I watched her small stomach heave and thought of the child growing inside. Why was she granted a child, while my child was taken from me? I did not know this daughter, this girl, this sinner.

We were devastated.

***

If there is a downside of Christmas, it is that we have read and re-read the account of Christ's birth so many times that it's lost its potency. It's lost its narrative thrust, if you will. We sentimentalize and trivialize and miss so many great truths.

I've been thinking of Mary, mother of Christ. What kind of woman was she, to be chosen, among all other women, to bear her deliverance? She was not much older than I am. Maybe younger. She had such a pure, beautifully quiet spirit - you never hear her murmuring in her heart against her purpose but only the quietness of her pondering wonder - yet she must have been human. She must have been overflowing with excitement to be betrothed to Joseph - and with the man he was, how much more excited. She must have had dreams - about her home, about her children, about her married life.

I think of how excited I am, though far away from those things right now, and how impatient I am for those times - and Mary. Mary laid everything down.

She didn't celebrate Christmas. She didn't know that she was chosen. She didn't know that Joseph wouldn't divorce her, that angels would herald her Son's birth, that wise men would worship at her doorstep. I wonder what sort of day it was for her when Gabriel appeared. Sleeping restlessly. Coming back from giggling with friends. Seeing Joseph pass by on the street and trying not to laugh for joy. Hearing a friend was ill. Comforting a crying sibling. A good day. A normal day. A bad day.

And then an angel shows up before her and basically signs her death warrant to happiness. She would be pregnant, alone and divorced (there was no reason to expect Joseph to stay), abandoned by her former friends and family who thought her immoral, quite probably killed. And she doesn't ask why. She doesn't disbelieve it. She just asks, "How?" And having been told how, she accepts. Just like that. Without a murmur. Without a question.

What was that first conversation with her parents? Who told Joseph? How did she endure the cold distance of her community?

How big must she have believed God to be, to subject herself to His sheer mercy and plan? A plan that deviated completely from her own?

And think how willingly her Son did the same - "not My will, but Thine." May we all learn that the lowest of slaves is the highest position of glory.

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2 impressions

  1. Oh, what a great topic. I could never tell you haw much I love this part in the Bible! Mary's yes to become the mother of God, so beautiful! Have you ever seen " The Nativity Story"? They do a great job of this scene! Merry Christmas!

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  2. I was reading some verses about this the other day... :)

    It's easy for things to become common - especially if they always happen the same way and the same time. It's good to think deeper into the story, and imagine what it really must have been like - what the reasons were.

    Good job!

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