A Reading for Worship

Luke 2:1-20

Mary’s Story

By Mary Sanders

Welcome!  I am so glad you came by to visit a widow lady.
It is generous of you to spend time with me
when I know you have so much else to do.
It has been a bit lonely since Joseph died…I do miss him a lot.
James and the others are good boys,
but they spend quite a bit of time at the carpentry shop.

Would you like a bite to eat?
No? well, I hope you’ll sit a while & visit anyway.
I like a bit of company now and again.
In spite of it all, Life is good right now:
I have friends & dutiful children—
I am at peace with God,
but I’ve got to tell you,
this is not quite the life I had planned growing up:

My family wasn’t real wealthy,
But like most young girls,
but I still dreamed of a big wedding,
where friends & family would feast with us
before we settled down to married life.

But then that angel came and turned my life upside down:

He said:  Greetings Favored one, God is with you!
And I thought: What about those others God has favored?
Abraham & Sarah had to leave their home.
Jonah ended up in the belly of a fish.
What would God want with me?
Maybe being invisible would be better?

But the angel said: FEAR NOT!  You are going to have a baby!
And I thought: FEAR YES! A BABY Before Marriage?
Is he kidding?
What would my father say?  What would Joseph say?
I could end up being stoned to death!

And the angel said my baby would be a great king.
But I did not hear, my mind was racing:
Who would believe HOW I got pregnant with this child?
But the Angel said: God is with you: Nothing is impossible for God
And I said: Let it be with me according to God’s word.

(You know, people often see me as an example of patience and obedience.  But , I Ask you: what other choice did I have? I was 15, and God said I was going to have a baby. What else was there to say, but “so be it”  If I had known, would I have argued more?)

I had NO idea of the difficulty involved
with being God’s HIGHLY FAVORED.

Instead of being home in familiar surroundings during
the early part of my pregnancy,
I found I needed to hastily leave my village
to stay with my cousin Elizabeth.

At her house, I was able to avoid the hard stares and
wagging tongues of the villagers in Nazareth.

It was an anxious three months with Elizabeth
while I waited Joseph’s decision about
whether to marry me, divorce me, or accuse me of adultery.

But I returned home:
out of his love for God and love for me, Joseph sent for me.

Because he accepted me
slowly the others in the village came around again.
Old friends began to speak to me once more.

My parents seemed less embarrassed.

But it was still an anxious time.
I was only about 15, and so much was happening:
my body was changing.
I was still getting acquainted with Joseph
and learning how to run a house myself.

So, when the decree about the census came out,
rather than stay home alone,
I chose to accompany Joseph to Bethlehem, the city of David.

Looking back,
I can see that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea!

The 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem
through Samaria’s hostile territory was a 4-5 day trek
for someone in wonderful shape.

And my shape was less than wonderful.
Regardless of the stories you may have heard,
Joseph & I had no donkey for me to ride,  although
once or twice, a kind farmer let me ride a short way in his cart.  Even so, 15 years old and 8 and a half months pregnant
does not a good traveler make.
My back hurt, my feet were sore, and
there wasn’t room inside for food and a baby
—I had indigestion most of the time.

When fuel was available,
I had to cook our meals over an open fire,
and we slept either on the hard ground,
or in strange beds infested with heaven knows
what kind of itchy creatures.

I was ready to take back those words, “I am the lord’s servant”!

I don’t know if I would have gone to Bethlehem if
I had really believed the baby was coming so soon.

I had planned on having this baby in my own home,
surrounded by people I knew and a trusted midwife.
Maybe, I counted the moons wrong,
or maybe the stress of the long journey brought the baby early.

Whatever the case, by the time we arrived in Bethlehem,
labor had started—in earnest.
When we got to the inn where we had hoped to stay,
the innkeeper claimed to have no room for us.
Maybe he thought we looked too poor to pay.
Maybe he didn’t want his clients disturbed
by the cries of a woman working to give birth.

Regardless, my son
–for whom the angel had promised great glory—
came into the world in the most inglorious of all ways possible:
in a stable: cold & dirty;
smelly & noisy
with buzzing flies and snorting livestock.

But the animals lent their warmth and the feeding trough,
filled with new hay
provided a semi-clean place to lay
the baby away
from the dung & the danger of the animals’ hooves.

So, after nursing my son for the first time,
Joseph & I, exhausted,
found a place for ourselves in the hay, and fell into a deep sleep.

Well, you wouldn’t think the trip could have gotten worse.
But, it sure felt like it when we were rudely awakened
by a bunch of smelly, dirty shepherds,
babbling something about visiting angels
telling them about the birth of a Savior & Messiah.

If I hadn’t remembered my own angel visitation,
I would have sworn they had been drinking.

But they were so sincere, and they approached
my son with such reverence!

When they left, I found myself gazing at my precious boy,
pondering the words of the shepherds,
and thinking about how good god truly is.

Joseph & I named my son Yeshua, Jesus: God saves….

So that is how my 1st son came to be born.
And life after that was far from normal, by any standards.

After Jesus’ birth,
when we went to dedicate him at the temple,
a prophet named Anna and
an old Priest named Simeon blessed him
and sang wonderful things
about my child.

Wise men from the Far East were guests in OUR home,
bringing wondrous gifts.

We were forced to flee our homeland and
live as exiles in Egypt because of
a cruel, corrupt and paranoid king
who ordered the slaughtering of all
of the boy babies in the district.

We did finally return to Nazareth,
and life developed a sort of routine.

Jesus played with the children in the village,
studied with the town rabbi, and
learned from Joseph an honorable trade.

But there was always in the background
that angel’s strange promise—that my son would be a king.

I did have my doubts at times:
when Joseph died.
When Jesus left home to do his ministry.
When I was left alone to face criticism and rumors,
people viewing me with a mixture of pity and disgust.

And then there was my worst nightmare,
when I saw my own son, hanging from a cross,
the life bleeding from his body, drop by drop.

Then, it was as if God had abandoned the whole world.

But you know, the pain I had in my life was not unique.
Everyone faces death,
has money problems, relationship troubles.

I am older now,
and I can look back and see God present
at every step of the way:
from my marriage,         the lives of my children,
and even my son’s death.
And of course, God was present in the joy of the first Easter.
That was when I knew what sort of King
My son really was to be!

After giving his message, the angel left.
But God never leaves.

I see now that the message of the angel was for all:
God’s son is for all,
and the Promise, “God is with you” is for all.
So  Fear not.
Rejoice!   God is with you.
Let it be to each of us according to God’s loving Word.”

Copyright 2004 Mary Sanders.  Used by permission.