Hope is Born

The young girl Mary couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The tall golden being in front of her looked like a flame with a body. Breathtakingly beautiful, she knew it was a man or was it? Simply obeying orders, unattached to earth or her people, dispassionate. A being of fire. Something so powerful it looked like it could wipe out a world, yet all that power contained in a fierce obedience to the Creator of all. Is this an angel?

‘I am Gabriel’. The living flame talked! It tumbled words from eternity. ‘You’re about to have a son’. Mary’s thoughts collected and unbelievingly she exclaimed her doubts.

‘How could this happen? I have no husband!’

‘The power of God, the Holy Spirit shall do this. You’ll bear the Son of God’. Faith finally came into her mind with these words. All that remained was for her to agree. To consent. To yield. She could feel this pull. She knew she could refuse. But her heart had always wanted God. How many times had she told him she was his? How many times had she yielded herself again to the will of Yahweh? Fearful thoughts flooded her young mind, but the peace of another world evaporated them in a second.

‘I’m yours Lord. Let it be just as you say’. The very next morning, as Mary awakened to a new day, a light brighter than the sun filled the room, her mind swam with visions of creation, then earth, then heaven itself. The most gentle breeze blew across her face and she knew eternity had been placed in her womb.

How to tell anyone? Joseph? There was no way. But she had to tell. She did. His reaction was not good. Telling him it was a God thing wouldn’t work. Mary prayed the prayer, ‘tell him, Lord’. But it seemed God wasn’t listening.

Joseph is broken-hearted, angry, shamed. He plans to break the engagement. The entire community becomes aware of why. Her parents are shamed to the bone. Bewildered, Mary wonders why God seems so far away, yet so near. Some of the younger zealots in town want to stone her, feeling the shame of their friend, Joseph. She has been told there are some old women in a neighboring town who can ‘fix’ her. It would all be over in a day she’s assured. But she has vowed her life to Yahweh. To do this thing, this strange thing. Mary can’t stay. ‘With haste’, she leaves town mystified that the most wonderful thing that could happen to anyone could become the worst thing that could happen to her. Joseph had finally seemed to understand, but the feeling in town was overwhelmingly hatred and shame.

She runs to her aged cousin Elizabeth, once thought barren, but now in her old age has become pregnant to the amazement of everyone. She will understand. The angel had referred to her as another who has had a similar miracle. When Mary arrives, immediately, her cousin breaks into song, singing over Mary the prophecies of heaven. Young Mary cries and cries and cries. She hasn’t seen a smiling face for so long. All she has known is rejection, threats, anger, hatred. Now, finally, someone who understands.

As the weeks pass, Mary grows. Within she is so happy. She of all knows this is God. Yet the paradox of all blessing is that there is always a price, sometimes even as much pain as there is joy bundled with the blessing of God. She is isolated, yet with a friend who understands. The love of her life, Joseph, still with consternation, had dismissed her as divorced, even though privately, but now rejoining with her in the journey, both of them feeling rejection from friends and family.

The mystery of what she carries within floods her mind. She knows she has never been ‘with a man’. She remembers vividly, every detail of the visit of the angel. What will this child be? She wakes with sweat pouring from her brow. Peering into the dark, she prays and the overwhelming peace returns. Excitement about the future rises within her. She can’t understand why, but it’s there. Joyful expectation. Hope!

A national census is called, and so Joseph and his bride journey to Bethlehem. She is full term. Contractions begin. They fail to find a place for the young mother to give birth. No-one opens their door. Finally, they find a barn for shelter from the weather. Mary’s breathing is fast and heavy. She screams and wails with childbirth. It’s unstoppable. The child is born. Joseph holds the little life to his mother. It could almost be his, but he knows it is not. Wonder fills their eyes as they see a child like no other. Peaceful. So perfectly formed, almost glowing. Giggling, the weepy parents, look at each laughing now out loud. Jesus has been born! Hope for the world!