As The Season is almost upon us again I wanted to take a moment and share my thoughts and feelings concerning a certain Nazarene girl, without whom our ENTIRE FAITH would NEVER have been realized nor fulfilled….
Now I am sure that EVERYONE knows The Nativity story….and everyone knows how it ends…but does anyone take time to actually THINK about how much of a HERO Mary was..?
Let’s look at the “cleaned” version of the story straight from The Bible, shall we?
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” -Luke 2:1-21
Now then, that is what The Bible says concerning the events that happened…seems a bit neat and tidy, straight to the point, eh?
But I think that we need to look DEEPER into the facts and put a more ‘personal’ light onto the history of this small woman who stood to lose so much than just her place in history as a footnote…
Think about it CAREFULLY…here you have a VIRGIN BRIDE in a small town called Nazareth…unable to consummate the ‘final act’ of marriage because of her age (somewhere around 14-16 years old!) as the Hebrew Law decreed.
So there she was, living in a small town and mysteriously gets PREGNANT. WOW.
Right?!?! Joseph, her betrothed, would have been SHOCKED and OUTRAGED…ANGRY as all git-go!…I mean come on…a story about an angel, and her bearing THE child of God?? Really….how gullible do you think he was.
If some virgin woman today came to her husband, and said that she was pregnant by God, how do you think a MODERN man would take it?
Now then…IMAGINE THE TIMES THEY LIVED IN WHEN SHE DID TELL HER HUSBAND TO BE JUST THAT!
Imagine how SCARED she was!
Firstly, she is a child bride who is almost ‘completely’ married to a man she hardly knows,living in a small hamlet (for that is all Nazareth really was back then…about 20 families or so) then one day this Angel Gabriel appears and tells her “congrats, you are chosen by God to bear His Son”…
Now, bear in mind that The Hebrew laws of the time were HARSH….harsher than you can imagine about something of this kind. Should a virgin, let alone a BETROTHED BRIDE break her vow, and should Joseph choose to decry her for becoming pregnant with it not being HIS son, then they had every right to STONE HER right there in the street…yep…pregnant and all…stone her to DEATH for violating vows and Laws of God and her husband to be.
Imagine her fear!
Imagine Joseph’s SHAME…a man of his standing…a carpenter (probably the only one in the hamlet!) ..his bride to be PREGNANT by someone OTHER than him!
And yet, did she flinch?
Did she try to lie, or back out of it…run away? NOPE.
She told them the truth, and left it all in God’s hands.
God was not immune to her fear…He sent Gabriel to tell Joseph in a dream whose child it was, and the child’s destiny.
But think about this as well..THE CENSUS.
Back then they did not have mass transportation…nor many roads…and Nazareth was over a hundred miles from Bethlehem, the city from where Joseph’s family came from and the place they had to travel to for the edict of Caesar to be fulfilled.
So, a hundred plus miles, no roads, bad inhospitable landscape, mountains, deserts, and then there are the problems of food and water. Remember, all they had was ONE DONKEY to get there, for they were not rich and could not afford horses…and a VERY pregnant woman.
The trip alone on foot would take WEEKS to cross and there was not a motel or an eatery ANYWHERE along the way…no Burger king, no restaurants..nothing.
All the while this child bride, VIRGIN, scared out of her wits… they did not have the knowledge we impart our children with in schools today…they did not have biology, nor media even relating to this subject, so all she had to go on was her cousin Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) giving birth, and her hearing the screams of pain, the blood, the sweat…yeah, pretty scary stuff when you consider there was no such thing as a doctor back then…only women who had already given birth.
So they FINALLY get to Bethlehem, and here she is going into labor, and NOWHERE for them to go…no clean accommodations….no motel 6, no holiday inn…nothing…not even a roof and bed…a STABLE (which back then was only a small cave where shepherds would herd their sheep into for holding! Not some wooden barn!)
So there they are, expecting mother, SCARED father…(I mean, after all, what did a MAN know of giving, let alone aiding in , a CHILD birth…and to know that this was THE Son of God?? Joseph was probably dropping a Miata in his tunic every time he thought of who the father REALLY was…) and HIS inexperience in ANYTHING other than how to make a chest or table…
Top it all off, SHE WAS A VIRGIN…so..throw in her age, her location, her surroundings, her inexperience in such things,her physical limitations and barriers, and her husband’s fear…and the fact that this child was GOING to come out through her…pretty darned scary, eh?
And yet she did it…without complaint…without ‘losing it’ as some women might…
Enough to make even a MODERN woman blanch with fear…could a woman TODAY do any better even with all the information and knowledge we have nowadays? …nope.. there, in a small cave that housed sheep, she gave birth through her virginity and conceived a bouncing baby boy…who would one day be THE MESSIAH…WITHOUT PAIN KILLERS OR A DOCTOR.
NOW tell me how she deserves only a footnote in most religious mentions…how she was simply a ‘small contributor’ to the whole of the story…without her remaining steadfast in her faith, BELIEVING what God had told her, and giving it all into His hands..NONE of this would have happened.
How can she NOT be considered one of (if not THE) most heroic women of all time?
I would LOVE to see a MODERN woman deal with what she had to deal with… and yet, without her the entire story that followed…His rearing, His upbringing, His LIFE, and His eventual Sacrifice for ALL of humanity would not have happened….
So, this Season while you gaze at the Nativity Scene in your home, or in the Churchyard, take a moment to think about that scared little woman who pretty much went through PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, and PSYCHOLOGICAL HELL to deliver Our Savior …how much STRENGTH she had, how much TRUST she had…how much FAITH she had… and let’s see if you can appreciate her the way I do as a cleric….
This is not merely a story of how a child was born…nor of the beginnings of The Christ…this is an EPIC TALE of the endurance, faith, love, devotion, and DEDICATION of not only a Saviour, but of the woman who gave birth to Him.