She was young, probably no more than seventeen. Betrothed…more than engaged, so deep was this commitment that it was viewed much more like a marriage contract than today’s ring-and-announcement engagements. Mary, that Christmas figure of loving, downcast eyes and wispy hair and robes of baby-blue. How must she have felt? What was it like?
The announcement, unbelievable, awe-inspiring, overwhelming. Glowing moment of clarity and wholeness, understanding and submission. For that moment, when the angel stood before her, telling her of God’s amazing plan…it must have been so clear and perfect. Glory on the mountaintop, communion with the Mighty One, overwhelming joy mixed with breaking fear. Yes. Do with me as you would do. Use me. I am yours.
And then, walking the path.
How well did she know Joseph? Surely they knew each other fairly well, surely their families had spent some time together. And yet, in Mary’s day…this would not have been a marriage following years of getting to know one another, spending time together, plotting a life-course over cups of coffee in the evening. How well? She had no shame, had done no wrong…only bowed her head and whispered yes to God himself, submitted to His unknowable plan.
To go to Joseph with the news…
The Good News growing beneath her heart, how could she explain? He knew he had nothing to do with this baby, Joseph. To tell him…what must have gone through Mary’s mind? She must have been afraid. To be in her position meant scandal, accusation, defamation, death. To break this promise she had made was punishable by public stoning. What would he say? Could he accept this? Joseph, after all, had not been there that shining moment. To fumble for the words, try to catch the glory with such crude implements as words and gestures, to try to convey the truth with all her heart, putting all sincerity and hope into this incomprehensible story…to try to let all the truth of this pour forth from her lips and shine through her eyes as she told him. Pleaded with him. I know it’s hard to understand. Please, believe me. Please walk this road with me.
How could he understand?
The Bible tells us Joseph was a righteous man. He could have had her stoned, could have cried his outrage aloud in the streets, brought down wrath on Mary’s head in no less than public execution. Joseph must have loved her, already. Known her character, been unable to believe completely the worst. Not wanting to disgrace her, heartbroken and shocked at what must have seemed so incomprehensible, Joseph planned to quietly divorce her. Mary…how must she have felt? Helpless, alone, afraid. Divorce, while better than death, was a life sentence of shame. How could God let her go through this?
And yet, she must have trusted. She had that moment before the angel to lean on, but now things looked so different! How dark and hopeless those days must have been, how confusing and frightening, how lost she must have felt. How long? Days? Weeks?
And then the angel came to Joseph, too. He understood! I can only imagine the relief. Both of them, the relief….and now, how much closer they must have felt. No longer were they acquaintances, waiting for their marriage to begin to know each other. Mary had poured her heart out to Joseph, he had laid his bare to her. There had been tears and anger, words and silence, grief and joy. There had been hopelessness and helplessness, misunderstanding and disbelief, heartbreak and tenderness. And then, Oh! Then….such a joined understanding! Such relief, such purpose, such joy. Together…joined not just by a promise but by a work prepared for them by God himself. They were tempered, somehow, by this…made so much stronger as a couple by these days of heartbreak and misunderstanding. God’s furnace, burning off the dross and refining them into the couple that would raise His Son. Now, they were walking this path together. Preparing the way, hand in hand.
Lord, help me to stay the path even when I don’t understand why You’re taking me down it. Help me know that Your plan, Your path…though often difficult, takes me through the places I need to go to be the person You need me to be. Amen!
Keep the vigil with me…the first in a series of posts about Christmas
Photos: From our Playmobil manger scene