Friday, December 23, 2011

Mary's Story revisited, Part Two.

Just as I want to reach out to family and friends at this joyful season with the Christmas cards I still haven't managed to send, I also want to reach out to my (oft-neglected) blog-readers.  As Christmas speeds closer, I thought you might like to reflect for a minute or two on Mary.  Two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon in the first person as Mary, costume and all!  What follows is the text from that talk (reposted from 2009, I know, totally blog-cheating)--written as if Mary was speaking.   I hope you enjoy reflecting on the birth of our Savior!  Merry Christmas!

(continued--the story starts here)

I knew what all this meant in my life. When my pregnancy was discovered it would appear as adultery. I would be labeled a sotah and as was our way, be asked to drink the bitter waters to determine if I was guilty or not. I had seen it happen to others—their clothes ripped to expose their skin, publicy scorned and made to be an example to others. If when she drank the bitter waters made her sick, she would be found guilty—and she would be condemned to death by stoning. Even if I was spared death, at the very least, Joseph would be legally bound to divorce me. My child would be an outsider and scorned by the villagers He would not be permitted in public assemblies. My reputation would never recover—I knew well the wagging tongues of the women in my village--and I would never marry. My child and I would be alone in the world. I would be breaking my parents hearts if they didn’t believe me…and I would be destroying Joseph’s reputation as well. If I was to defend myself and share that the child was God’s and not a man’s…I would be labeled blasphemous—perhaps the worst accusation of all.

I remember the weight of the realization that this would be costly. But when Almighty God asks you to do something…you say yes. I knew God’s faithfulness to our people in years gone by…and knew He was good. He had a plan and had somehow chosen me to play a big part in it. And I believed that He would be faithful to me.

And then came the waiting. There would be months til the child came. Days until I could know for sure this was really happening in my body. Weeks until I knew how Joseph and my family would respond.

We were no strangers to waiting—my people. We were God’s chosen people, awaiting a messiah, yet we lived under Roman rule. We were taught early on to fear the soldiers…my mom told me that whenever I heard the yells or hoofprints of Roman soldiers, I was to run and hide…cause it wasn’t unheard of for them to take a young women as their own. They did whatever they wanted and we were the ones to pay. We were oppressed and we were waiting for the messiah. Some had given up hope…it had been 400 years since God had made contact with His people and we waited to hear from Him again.I often dreamed of being one of those freed from Egypt—able to see God in the pillar of smoke and fire. At least they could see Him, and knew He was leading them and doing something. My people were waiting in silence—and nothing around us pointed to the long-awaited messiah. So we waited.

You see, waiting sounds passive. Yet it isn’t. Have you had to wait for something? Are you waiting now? Then you know…It’s active. It takes energy and perserverance. I was on a journey that I needed to be actively engaged in. I have even heard it said that waiting on God is the very work of the people of God.

So the question came to my heart—how will I wait? I remember my father quoting the scriptures. “Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord. So that’s how I wait…be strong and take heart. I asked God to give me strength for the journey ahead, and Hope that He was in control. I asked Him over and over again in coming months…and He was faithful. My hope was in Him.

After the initial shock wore off—I knew I needed to see my cousin Elizabeth. She is the only person who would understand what it was to be pregnant with a miracle baby. It was a five day journey. I hoped she would receive me and I would find her well. It was hard to wait to reach her and see that she truly was with child as the messenger said she was.

When I arrived… I saw her. My old, tender-hearted cousin, obviously with child!  What the messenger said was true! I happily called to her and before I even had a chance to tell her what had happened… she grasped her belly and gasped. I was afraid, “ohno! Elizabeth are you OK?” And she said with a huge smile on her weathered face, “When you greeted me, the baby in my womb leaped with joy!” She went on to proclaim that I was blessed among women and so was the baby I bore. She asked why she should be so favored that the mother of her Lord would come to her. She said I was blessed because I believed that what the Lord said to me would be accomplished. Oh Lord, thank you for this sign that nothing is impossible! My heart rejoiced and I sang out in praise to God. Elizabeth was such an encouragement to me, I decided to stay with her for the remainder of her pregnancy—about three months--to help until her baby was born. Then, I’d return to Nazareth.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious to me I was pregnant. I was so very tired, and my stomach was unsettled all the time. It was true. God had given me a baby.

to be continued tomorrow...

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