Monday, December 09, 2013

Through the Eyes of Mary  by Deitra Shoemaker

[Most teenagers have a diary where they record their feelings, thoughts and significant events going on in their lives. Mary might have been no different from those of us today who do the same.  The following is my interpretation of what she might have written as she journeyed through her days as an young teenage girl blossoming into womanhood.]

Journal entry 1:
I am so excited about getting married. Joseph is such a fine man, a real “catch,” one whom all the girls would have liked to be chosen by . . . and he chose me! I hope I will be worthy of his choice. We’ve already had our betrothal ceremony so we are as good as married now. I wonder what it will be like to be one with my husband. I hope we have children right away. I would love to be a mom.

Journal entry 2:
Last night the strangest but most wonderful thing happened. It seems like a dream but I was fully awake! I was spending time with the Lord, talking to Him and an angel appeared to me! I was disturbed at first and a bit confused because he called me “favored one.” Why would I be favored – I’m only a young girl and haven’t done anything for God to pour His favor upon ne. Then the angel (who even knew my name) told me not to be afraid but that I had found favor with God and because of that, I would conceive and bring forth a son and name him Jesus. He would be very great and be called the Son of the Most High.  He told me Jesus, my son, would be a King and would reign over Israel an sit on David’s throne and that His kingdom would reign forever! I couldn’t even understand how this could be? I am a virgin. The angel explained and somehow, even though it sounded totally impossible, I knew it was true: the Holy Spirit would come upon me and the power of El Shaddai, God the Almighty One, would overshadow me, even in that moment I felt something unusual inside me, in my heart and in my womb and knew, just knew, that life was formed in that moment by God. Even though I could not logically comprehend how this could be,  I knew that with God all things are possible and so I told him I was willing to be whoever God wanted me to be and do whatever He was calling me to do. Oh I forgot to say that  the angel told me some other great news too: my cousin Elizabeth, I call her Beth, is pregnant too! Another miracle of God. They’ve always tried to have children but nothing. Beth has lived under the judgment of many, thinking that God was punishing them. But now they won’t be able to judge her any longer. I’m so excited that our God is a God of the impossible. Isn’t that kind of God to show me through another that He is a God of miracles, so that my faith is bolstered to believe. I think I’ll go see her and rejoice with her. Maybe I’ll get up the courage to even tell her what God’s doing in me. I hope she doesn’t think I’m crazy!

Journal Entry 3:
My trip to Beth’s was more than I could have dreamed or imagined! I never even had to make the decision about whether or not to share my secret with her. The moment I stepped in the door and said “hello,”  Beth squealed with excitement and exclaimed that God had blessed me to be the mother of her Lord! Then she told me the minute she heard my voice, her baby boy John jumped for joy in her womb and she was immediately filled to overflowing with God’s Spirit. She explained that I was blessed because I believed that God would do what He said. What a confirmation from God that I’m not imagining all of this! Isn’t He so good to know just when I need a word of encouragement to keep going in this crazy God-adventure I’m committed to? I can hardly believe it myself and yet I know more than I’ve ever known anything, that this is really happening to me! Oh God, it makes me want to shout out how incredibly amazing You are! I can’t believe (and yet I DO) that You chose me to be the mother of Your Son! I am so young and only a lowly servant girl. And yet You have done this amazing thing in and through and for me. And not just for me but for all Your people, for your beloved Jerusalem and Israel and even for the Gentiles! You’ve kept Your promise to Abraham and I know You’ll keep Your promise to me! You are amazing and I love You oh so much! I am humbled by Your favor toward me and through me to the world. I’ve been kissed by Heaven! What a wonderful husband You are to me God: Provider, Protector and Priest. How could I not fall totally in love with You?

Journal entry 4:
It’s been a long nine months, exhilarating at times as my baby within me grows, proving what I heard so many months ago was really You, God. But also, a burden to bear when others avoid me because they think I’ve been unfaithful to Joseph. Telling my parents was the hardest. Of course at first they didn’t believe me but then when they thought about it, they realized I would never make us such a crazy story and think they would believe it. Plus they really do love me and know my character, that I would never do something like that. What was amazing was that God sent an angel to Joseph too, to tell him the truth about my pregnancy. When Joe first heard through the grapevine that I was pregnant, rather than be upset with me and think of himself, he did not want me to be disgraced and was going to just quietly divorce me. When I heard that I almost freaked out! But then I remembered God was with me no matter what happened. Then the angel came to Joe in a dream and told him I was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and I would have a son who would save the world . . . and be payment for the people’s sins. He gave both of us the same name  -Jesus_ which was another God-moment for both of us when we shared that, confirming once again it really was God we heard!
Then the angel reminded Joe of Isaiah’s prophecy about a virgin conceiving a son and calling him Immanuel, God with us. So we’ve decided to name him Jesus Immmanuel BarJoseph. God is come down from Heaven to be with us as a man on earth. I know I cannot begin to fathom what this means – it is too wonderful for my comprehension. And yet I trust in my God that His intentions toward me are deeply good, always. I really want to treasure all of these things that are happening in my heart because I sense one day they will all truly make total sense.

And now we have to journey away from our home here in Nazareth because of some decree that says everyone must journey to their original forefathers birthplace. Since our lineage is from King David, we have to journey to Bethlehem. That trip would usually take about four days but since I am almost due, it will take about a week. But once again this was a confirmation from God because as I was reading the Law and the Prophets the other day, I came upon Micah 5:2 which said God’s ruler would come from Bethlehem! Pretty amazing of God to get Caesar to call for a census right now when I’m full term so we would be in Bethlehem for the birth. It will be a hard journey being full term; Joe has secured a donkey for me to ride on so I don’t have to walk the full 80 miles on my already swollen feet. Bless him! He’s such a great husband! I will miss having Mom there to help me though. I hope we find a nice hotel to stay in.

Journal entry 5:
So we get to Bethlehem and didn’t even think that there would be so many out of towners there for the census that we might not find a decent place to stay.  Joe went to so many inns but all were full to overflowing already. Finally one really nice innkeeper took pity on us (he saw me already enduring contractions and the tears in my eyes) and quickly made a place for us in his stable. It was pretty cold in that cave but thankfully we were out of the wind at least. Joe gathered some hay together to make a soft bed for me to lay on and then the innkeepers wife, God bless her, showed up to help birth our baby. Since Joe had no idea what to do, she was a God-send! Even though I was cold and scared, I knew God was with me, helping me through every step of this journey, this calling, to birth His Son. He is a faithful God and husband. I knew He would never leave me and that gave me courage to endure the labor and gave me peace in my heart as well. Finally after many hours, I heard a cry and lo and behold, the most beautiful baby boy I’ve ever seen was staring at me and entered immediately into my heart. I know it was probably just my imagination but I could have sworn he smiled at me – or was I just seeing the face of the Father smiling at me saying “Well done, my good and faithful servant?” (or was it both?)
I only know my baby is destined for greatness and I have a sense it is beyond any greatness the world has ever known. Joe was so proud too, as if this child were from his own loins. He has totally accepted his role as father of Jesus . . . he will be such a fine, gentle but strong dad to our boy, teaching him to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength . . .  I wonder what Jesus will teach us?

Joe found an old feeding trough that wasn’t being used. I swaddled the baby in some clean cloths the innkeeper’s wife brought. I couldn’t stop holding my precious boy but Joe told me I needed to rest and he would hold him for a while until he fell asleep. The night was so dark and clear and perfectly silent. It was almost holy. 

When I awoke a few hours later, there was Jesus, asleep on the hay in the manger. I sang a little lullaby about my boy, the manger and the hay, a simple song but so sweet just like my baby.

The strangest thing happened a few short hours after the birth. All of a sudden, several rough-looking shepherds showed up unexpectedly at the entrance to our cave. They were so excited, like they knew who we were and who Jesus was. They asked if they could come in for a few moments and just lay their eyes on our baby. I was nervous at first, not sure of their motives. But even though their reputation was generally pretty sketchy, I could see in their eyes something sweet, a sense of godly wonder, so we let them in.  After they wiped the tears from their eyes, the oldest one told us their story. They were minding their own business in the fields that night, just watching their flocks, when all of a sudden they were struck to the ground by a blinding light. An angel of the Lord, at least ten feet tall, stood before them. They were terribly frightened and thought “This is it! We’re done for!” when the angel spoke and told them not to be afraid for he was there not to harm them but to tell them some amazingly great news. Then he announced the long awaited Messiah had just been born, right inside the city limits. He even gave them directions as to where to find us: just look for the baby swaddled in cloths and lying in a manger. It wasn’t hard to spot this newborn: not many babies in a feeding trough that night, only one in fact. What a humble beginning for our son – a King- and yet somehow it seemed to fit who God created him to be – his essence.

As the shepherds left, I could hear them stopping people on the street, exuberantly telling them of their experience and what the angel said about our baby.  Many people heard from them that night for they could not hold in their excitement and wonder about the newborn Messiah. I could hear their astonishment, but it wasn’t clear whether it was belief or disbelief. I imagine most did not believe  for who would believe a disreputable shepherd who was probably full of drink? I wondered why God chose such a group to announce the birth of His son. None of this makes much logical sense … but I figure God is God; He has a plan, he knows what He’s doing. I keep thinking over and over about all of these amazing, miraculous events and yet how they are happening in such an obscure way, hidden and concealed for the most part. Maybe one day I will truly understand how all of this will come together and it will make total sense. Until then I will just hide all these beautiful, special memories in my heart. I’m sure I’ll think back on this special birthing day often. Isn’t God so sweet to send a greeting party to Joe, Jesus and me?

Journal entry 6:
So much has happened so quickly I haven’t even had time to journal it all. We stayed in Bethlehem for a few days, knowing on the eighth day we would take Jesus to be circumcised in the Temple. As an obedient Jewish family, this sign of our covenant with God is of utmost importance to us. That is also where he would officially receive his given (by God) name, “Jesus.” It was a sweet ceremony and Jesus didn’t even cry when he was circumcised -  he is such a sweet baby boy. After 33 days we traveled to Jerusalem (which was only a short six miles away) to the Temple for my purification after childbirth ceremony. We brought a pair of birds as our sacrifice: one for the burnt offering, one for the purification offering. WE couldn’t afford a lamb, thus the turtledoves. I held our precious little lamb in my arms as the priest performed the ceremony.

Then something out of the ordinary occurred. An older man came up to us. He excitedly told us that this morning the Holy Spirit spoke to him and told him to go to the Temple today for he would see the Messiah he had been waiting his whole life to see.  He asked if he could have the privilege of holding our baby for a moment . . . then he broke out in all smiles and praised God saying he could now die in peace because he had seen God’s provision in our baby boy’s eyes for all people everywhere to be saved! He called our boy, Jesus, a light to reveal God to the nations and said that Jesus was the glory of God’s people Israel! That amazed me, how did he know? Then he said a blessing over us. The last thing he told me with tears in his eyes, stunned me. He said that Jesus was destined to cause many in Israel to fall. But he would be a joy to many as well. Because he has been sent as a sign from God, many would come against him and as a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. But the hardest part to hear were these words: “A sword will pierce your very soul.” This is the first inkling I’ve had that this journey with our son will bring me heartache. I wonder what it all means?

Then just as Simeon (that was his name) turned to leave, a very old woman walked up. Her name was Anna. Apparently (we found out later) she was a prophet and had lived in the temple, worshipping God with prayers and fasting for 84 years after her husband died and left her a widow. They had only been married for seven years. She too exclaimed Jesus was the Messiah (a double confirmation for us from God, isn’t He good?) and began praising God loudly for this miracle. As we left she scurried around telling everyone she saw this good news!  I had to laugh, such joy filled my heart . . . and yet that feeling was clouded as I recalled Simeon’s parting words . . . a sword . . .

We returned to Bethlehem the next day.

Journal entry 7:
After the crowds left Bethlehem, we found some of Joe’s relatives who now had room for us to stay with them, so we decided to stay here for a while. The days turned to months and the months into a couple of years. Joe was helping his relative with his carpenter business and business was good. Jesus was a toddler by now, still the sweetest child I could ever imagine. He brought incredible joy to our hearts. There were days that I felt he could see deeply into my heart and knew me almost better than I knew myself. I cannot explain it but I truly felt this unusual love from my child, a love that went way beyond our mother-son bond. There were many days I felt like the child and he, the “parent.” I know it makes no sense . . . I wish I had better words to describe what I am experiencing with our boy.  Anyway, I diverge . . .

One night we noticed this extremely brilliant star in the night sky. It seemed to hang directly over our home! It was so lustrous and intense, almost like a “sign” from God. But what could it mean? Then the strangest thing happened! (You would think by now I would be used to strange things happening, but they still took me by surprise!) Several men arrived at our door. They introduced themselves as Magi, wise men from the East. I guessed they were probably from Persia or Arabia by the way they were dressed. They told us they studied the stars and had been led to follow “our” star all along their journey until it stopped right over our home! They felt this was a sign from God (who often spoke through the heavenly bodies) The sign was that they would find a great King under that start and they came to pay homage to him.  Once they saw Jesus, they fell to their knees and didn’t just pay their respects but began worshipping him! Then they presented him with some beautiful and extravagant gifts. They opened what appeared to be a treasure chest and it was filled with gold as well as costly incense of myrrh and frankincense. I wonder if those gifts are meant to just be a symbol of the “gift that God is giving to all people” in His Son? For I so see our son as that – a gift from God – to me and Joe ... to all the world!  As we looked at the incense, they could tell by the puzzlement on our faces they need to explain why they chose those gifts for Jesus. They told us that frankincense comes from Arabia and is used in temple rituals in adoration of the one worshipped there. This confirmed to me that the Magi were more than just paying homage to an earthly King, but worshipping a Divine King, one whose kingdom will never end! They also explained the myrrh came from Ethiopia and is a highly prized and expensive perfume that once hardens into a gum, has healing properties and is also used in preparing deceased bodies for burial. Could this mean that our boy will have healing powers? Or does this relate somehow to that sword that will pierce my heart? We recognized the gold, although we had never own even one piece. We knew it was the most precious metal that only royalty have in their possession. Our son … royalty!

After these men left, we looked at each other in amazement and joy at the confirmation the Lord had brought to us through these men and their gifts. But our joy quickly turned to fear. That night after we went to sleep, Joe had a dream (this was his second). An angel told him we need to leave immediately because King Herod was going to look for us and meant to kill Jesus! Instantly Joe awoke from the dream and without delay prepared us to leave as quickly as possible. We went to Egypt because that is where the angel directed us to go. We made our home there until Joe had a third dream. This time the angel told us Herod had died and we could safely leave Egypt. WE headed back to Bethlehem but on the way we were told that right after we left Bethlehem at the angels warning, indeed Herod came into the city and even the surrounding areas and killed all the boys two years old and younger. My heart broke into a million pieces for the extreme grief those parents experienced because of our son’s birth . . . is this the sword Simeon spoke of?  Was Herod “those who would come against him?” Were those baby boys “those that Jesus was destined to cause to fall?” After hearing this fearful and devastating news, and that Herod’s son was ruling now, we didn’t know what to do next. That night Joe had a fourth dream, what I now call a “directional” dream. We went directly back to Nazareth in Galilee, back “home.” It felt so good to once again feel the loving embrace of my mom and dad and to share all the miraculous events of the past two years with them. I’m sure my parents have been on pins and needles wondering about us since communication is so poor here in this region. They had heard bits and pieces from travelers but were astonished at the way God has so miraculously provided for us and protected us.
Jesus continues to be a delight to all who know him. He is a healthy boy and so strong, like his dad. It is obvious to all that he is full of wisdom and God’s favor rests upon him all the time. I am so very blessed to be his mother. I wonder what the next chapter of our lives will look like? All I know is God is a good God, a gracious God, a God who can be trusted. And I can see God in our little boy’s eyes . . . and they are beautiful.

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