continued...to read from the beginning, start here.
When I returned to Nazareth I knew it was time to tell my parents and Joseph (aah, good, kind Joseph...) what God had done in me. The signs of pregnancy were beginning to show. Oh Lord, how would they ever believe me?
My parents did their best to be supportive, but I am not sure if they believed me. If this baby was not God’s own (and who ever heard of that?) then their daughter (who was betrothed!) had committed a wicked sin and dishonored the entire family. Yet, they wondered how I could ever make up such a story. They summoned Joseph and when I told him—he was disgusted and heartbroken. He didn’t say so…but I could see it on his face. He left without a word. That night I cried myself into a fitful sleep. I knew Joseph would likely divorce me…oh what would I do? I waited for word from him. I tried to be strong and take heart. God was in this. He gave me the strength to cooperate with his plans.
I was so relieved when a few days later Joseph returned to say that He believed me. He had thought to divorce me quietly without accusation (such a dear man), but God revealed to him that I was telling the truth. He took me as his wife and promised to care for this holy child as his own.
I remember the day that Joseph and I went to my parents and told them we needed to go to Bethlehem, the city of our ancestor David, for the census. My mother strongly objected. She said my time was near. She was right. I knew it too. But, it was law. God would sustain me. He hadn’t forgotten the baby inside of me. And now I see that God was fulfilling the words of the prophet Micah that said the messiah would come out of Bethlehem…. God was working through the Emperor of Rome to fulfill his prophecy. There’s something to ponder, huh?
Joseph didn’t have much in the way of travel comforts—but he put me and a few belongings, and food for the journey on a donkey and we set off after a tearful goodbye with my family.
It was a journey that took over a week. It felt like a year. I was SO uncomfortable, and had to stop often to stretch my cramping muscles and rest my aching back. Any of you who have been heavy with child can relate to how I was feeling. Joseph was kind to me…but also was hurrying us along. He wanted to get there—I think it’s something about the way God created man—always wanting to get there. So, I did my best not to slow us down too much.
It seemed like the longest journey ever. Not just physically, but emotionally. I battled thoughts of inadequacy, and worries about what would happen when we arrived. How was this all going to work out? I felt like these were crazy circumstances. I asked God once again to help me be strong and take heart and wait on him. The pains were coming on and off…and I began to pray we would at least make it to town to find the services of a midwife and a place to have this child. Would Joseph be delivering this baby on the side of the road to Bethlehem? “Oh God, rescue me!” I prayed.
We did make it in time…but we weren’t in town long when my water broke and the pains came quicker. The place was swarming with people, every last corner of folks homes were taken with relatives and travelers, and we had to bed down in a stable-- the place where animals were kept at night. At that point I didn’t care…I just wanted to have a place off the street to have this baby. A midwife was found and some distant female relatives attended me. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy—ah, you should have seen him—right there in the stable. Without my mother at my side. Without the comfort of home and the celebration of my family.
It wasn’t how I thought my first child’s birth would be. Certainly not. I had dreamed, as most girls did, of marrying a kind man and having lots of children. I never dreamed of this. I have to confess that I wondered if God had forgotten--in all of his Messiah-plans--to secure us a proper place for His arrival. Nothing is impossible with God. The messenger told me that. Why didn’t He remember to take care of securing someone’s guest room for us? A stable? Really? Is that where a king should be born??
But God granted me peace and my heart was filled with joy. He was here. My baby. The Messiah. God with us. And somehow that was more than enough. And He was born in a stable.
I have since come to know that there was a purpose in the stable. God wanted the world to see that this was a very different Messiah than the political king they expected. A messiah who would hang out with the lowly of society. (In fact, some of Jesus’s first visitors where a stinky, dirty group of shepherds—who weren’t intimidated to come visit us in the stable. Their story encouraged us so.) No this Messiah was not going to fit their expectations, but instead cause them to rethink most things they thought they knew. The stable was part of God’s plan from the beginning—regardless of whether I understood at the time.
I wonder if any of you are in your own stable of sorts. Circumstances that are unexpected, don’t make sense and make you wonder if God Almighty has forgotten about you? Maybe He seems silent. Your stable might be a season of heartache, or of discontent or of pain. How will you wait on the Lord? Will you trust that He is Good? That there is purpose in the stable?That there is something bigger going on? Will you ask God what it looks like in your life to be strong and take heart and wait on him?
Remember, God came to earth. As a baby. My baby. For all of us. He is with us. God with us. Immanuel. Praise be to God!
I hope this reflection on Mary encouraged you. Special thanks to Missy at It's Almost Naptime for her influence on this part of my talk.