As we celebrate Christmas, here’s a little reminder of why we do.
Mary stomps out of her house angrily and sits on the little stone just by the door. She calls it her ‘thinking stone’ but there is no thinking being done at that moment. She is so angry, she can’t think straight and she has nowhere else to go. Joseph is out of town for a job and she doesn’t feel like seeing Rebecca, her best friend, just now.
How can her mum insist she is pregnant? She cannot be pregnant as no man has ever touched her including Joseph, her fiancé. She has not as much as kissed him not to mention doing any other thing. She can’t even think about it.
She who has insisted to Joseph she would like to keep her virginity till marriage. Although they are technically married, bless his soul, he has agreed and has told her he had never intended to touch her before the final marriage rites anyway, and that her decision is fine with him. She still thanks God for blessing her with a man such as Joseph.
Although many of their friends are having sex, and the ladies certainly know of a way to avoid pregnancy or unplanned children would be the norm, she has decided right from when she was twelve that she would never indulge in such acts, she has resolved to keep her body for the man she is going to marry. Thankfully, that man is Joseph, who never pressures her for sex.
Now, her mum thinks she’s pregnant? What kind of talk is that? She laughs out loud. Her mum could be very paranoid. She has insisted Mary is pregnant and has demanded she lay down for a test making Mary storm out of the little room. Her mother can carry out the test on herself for all she cares. She, Mary knows without a shred of doubt that she isn’t pregnant. Except her mum has lied to her about the way pregnancy comes about, otherwise, she has nothing to worry about. She decides to go visit Rebecca after all, just to get out of the funk her mother has put her in.
She makes short order of the walk to Rebecca’s house, her long robe sweeping the floor as she goes along. “I don’t know why we have to wear such long gowns, can’t we just make do with ankle length and be done with it? Then, we wouldn’t have to worry about washing clothes with filthy ends every other day. Oh well, nothing can be done about fashion.” She thinks to herself.
She looks up just then and sees Rebecca waving to her from the fields to the right of their property. Mary skips to meet her.
“What are you doing here? I thought we weren’t meeting today?” Rebecca asks.
“Plans changed. I had to see you.”
Rebecca looks closely at Mary and sees she looks a bit peeved. “What’s wrong?” she asks, and moves closer.
“You wouldn’t believe what my mother did this afternoon.” Mary begins.
Rebecca rolls her eyes. “What did she do again? You are always getting into little arguments with your mother. You have to remember the law of Moses that says we should honour our parents, Mary.”
“Oh well, that’s neither here nor there.” Mary says with a dismissive wave. “When I tell you what she did, you’ll definitely take sides with me.”
“Okay, let’s hear it then.”
Mary puts on a dramatic look and moves nearer to Rebecca as if to whisper a secret. “She said I am pregnant.”
Rebecca’s hand flies to her mouth. “Noooooooo” she says, her eyes wide with disbelief.
“Yes.” Mary affirms, nodding her head enthusiastically.
“Why did she say that?”
Mary shrugs. “I don’t know.”
“Do you feel pregnant?” Rebecca asks peering at her.
“What sort of question is that? Of course, I don’t feel pregnant. You have to have sex to get pregnant
and I didn’t, so, end of discussion.”
“Okay, okay. I just had to ask.”
Mary suddenly remembers a certain dream/vision she has had just a little while ago where an angel appears to her and tells her she will be made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She has dozed off one afternoon while helping her mother sort some barley and she has had a dream where an angel appears to her and tells her these things.
She can’t really classify it as a dream because she is semi-aware of her surroundings when it happens but she wakes up as if she has been dreaming. In the dream, the angel also tells her that Elisabeth, her cousin is expecting a baby. This is astonishing because Elisabeth is an old woman and they have lost all hope that she would ever have any child with Zachariah. Maybe I’ll pay them a visit just to be absolutely sure. Mary decides.
Can it be that this is how it would happen? She has assumed God would at least wait until she is properly married before carrying out his plan. Has it happened already? Mary pushes these thoughts to the back burner of her mind. She’d rather not think about the implications of getting pregnant out of wedlock.
“Please, let’s talk about something else. I have heard enough of pregnancies for one day.”
They stroll arm in arm through the field and talk all the way; about parents, boys and their friends who are being naughty.
So, it has finally happened. How can God do this to her when he knows what happens to women presumed to have committed adultery? Here she is, pregnant, without a husband, still living with her parents and all because of a dream she is not sure is not a figment of her imagination.
All these thoughts war in Mary’s mind as she lays on the palette staring at the ceiling. Her eyes are shut tightly. She does not dare look at her mother,she doesn’t want to see the knowing look on her face. She has finally succumbed to her mother and allows her do the test just to shut her up. She has thought she has nothing to hide, apparently she is wrong.
She has just come back from a three month visit with her cousin and it was absolutely exhilarating. Elisabeth is filled with such joy as Mary has never seen before. She even says her baby kicks in her womb immediately Mary comes into the house and speaks. Mary is overwhelmed with gladness and praises God for minutes on end. The visit with her cousin gives her hope and the fortitude to face whatever God has in store for her.
Suddenly, she jumps up from where she lays and bounds to the door. Her mother grabs her arm before she can move further.
“And where do you think you are going, you wayward child?” Anne asks.
Mary winces. She feels she deserves that. After all, here she is with a pregnancy that is difficult to explain and about to bring shame on her family. Who would believe her when she says an angel appeared to her and told her she would get pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Everyone will just assume she is promiscuous and she will be stoned to death for adultery. Even Joseph would not believe her. How do you explain the impossible?
“I just want some air, mother.”
“No, no, no. You are going nowhere until your father gets back.”
“Okay mother.” Mary agrees and goes to sit dejectedly at the corner. She supposes it’s bye-bye to freedom of movement from that point on. Now, she has to account for every moment of her day.
“Jehovah, you have to take control. Save me from this, teach me, and above all, let your will be done.” she prays.
Joseph is confused. He has just come from Mary’s house and he has heard the most baffling news. Mary is pregnant and naturally, the blame falls on him. After all, he is her betrothed. Definitely, they think he’s responsible hence, the summons. A messenger has come to him just this evening asking him to come down to Mary’s house. He has rushed along, hoping nothing has happened to Mary, only to be told this.
It is clear to both Mary and Joseph that nothing untoward happened between them. Then, how do they explain the pregnancy? Can it be that Mary has been unfaithful? Joseph doesn’t want to think that. Mary is a good woman with the fear of God. It is hard to imagine her being cunning enough to string along two different men.
There must be a logical explanation to this and not the laughable one Mary tells them this evening. A pregnancy by the Holy Spirit? It is quite obvious she is just looking for an explanation to the mess she finds herself in. The thought is as far-fetched as it is impossible.
Nothing can be done about it though. They’d have to break their engagement but it will be done quietly so as not to bring ridicule on her. He knows what happens to women caught in this situation and he loves Mary too much to allow such happen to her. According to the law, women caught in adultery are stoned to death and this situation is dead on. An unexplainable pregnancy and a betrothed who knows he is not responsible. Maybe they can pull it off, maybe it can be done without dire consequences. Maybe, just maybe.
That night, Joseph has a dream that totally changes the tide of things. In the dream, an angel appears to him and confirms everything Mary says. According to the angel, she is indeed pregnant by the Holy Spirit and it is for the fulfillment of God’s words.
Somehow, he has been chosen to be the father to the son of the Most High God. He, a sinner, who tries
to love God and walk according to his precepts but falls short often, has been chosen to do this all important task. Joseph is filled with awe at the power of God. Nothing is impossible for God, even getting a virgin pregnant without intercourse.
He is glad he doesn’t have to break his engagement with Mary because a good woman like that, who loves God and is ready to obey him, is hard to find.
What remains to be done now is to make arrangements to have the marriage rites completed so Mary can come to his home as his wife.
Few months later
Mary can’t believe she is married. The latest events in her life have been very trying and she has all but ruled out thoughts of marriage. What man wants to marry a woman who is pregnant with a baby that’s not his? It just shows how good a man she has in Joseph; God-fearing and just in his dealings with everyone. Mary is ecstatic.
They are in Bethlehem for the census and Mary is excited to see Joseph’s home town. Although she is heavy and will soon put to bed, she knows they can still make it back in time before the baby comes. Little does she know that she is in for a big surprise.
By the time they come into Bethlehem, everywhere is packed full with people. They can’t get a room in any inn as they were all full. After searching and searching with no result, they see a manger by the road and decide to manage it, just for the night.
Joseph gathers some straw and makes it into a bed for Mary to lie on. The straw is not enough for two beds so he lies on the floor beside her and they go to sleep.
A few hours later, Mary goes into labor and Joseph is terrified, he has no idea what to do. He has always assumed that when the time comes, there will be women around to help his wife through the labor, but alas, the task falls to him and he doesn’t’t know the first thing about childbirth.
“Mary, can you hold on till morning? So I can get help?” he asks while pacing around watching her pant.
“I don’t think this baby will wait till morning Joseph. The pain is too much.”
“Oh. So sorry.” He keeps pacing, frantically wishing for daybreak.
He rushes to her side as her screams rent the air. He is watching her face intently when he hears a faint cry underneath her whimpers. He searches for the source of the sound and sees the tiny human just between her legs.
“He’s here. He’s here. Mary, Jesus is here.” He shouts, jumping up for joy and laughing joyously.
He carries the child, cleans him up and wraps him in some clothes to keep him warm before attending to his wife.
After Mary is cleaned up, she cradles her son in her arms and looks into his eyes. “The son of God is here to bring salvation to the world.” She declares
And thus, it begins.