Mary, Did You Know?
Her hand rested unconsciously on the swell of abdomen, her brow creased deeply, her face a reflection of deep thought. Joseph should’ve been home by now, she thought as she stood in the doorway, her gaze scanning the dirt path in front of their dwelling. Two women, carrying water jugs, stared scornfully in response to her feeble greeting. She sighed and stepped back inside.
“Lord, You knew how hard this path would be for me; I trust You for the strength to get through,” Mary breathed the prayer as naturally as she drew breath. She leaned against the smooth table crafted by Joseph’s strong hands. Strong, capable, dependable. All words used to describe Joseph by others. Until recently. She knew her husband saw the looks, heard the gossip spoken in low voices. But he remained staunchly immoveable, feeling no need to justify himself or his wife. They were justified in God’s eyes, and that was enough. After those first few sleepless nights, when he’d been sure his betrothed had betrayed him, the angel had come and given him peace. Given him affirmation. And that had been enough.
Mary wrestled with that dynamic more. She was still as willingly surrendered to the will of her heavenly Father as she’d been in the beginning. But she felt the isolation from others keenly. She missed the companionship of the other women. Some were forbidden from speaking to her, and others needed no such direction or encouragement to shun her.
She sighed deeply and stretched, the Baby within her rhythmically moving, as if to comfort her. A shadow fell over the floor as Joseph stepped into their home, setting the water jug down as he entered. She quickly glanced away. Carrying the water was her chore, but when Joseph saw the pain the other women’s ostracism caused her, he had begun making the treks for water before and after his work day. He bore it with dignity, but it pained Mary’s heart each time she saw her strong husband bearing the jug of water.
The seriousness of his tone caused Mary to look up sharply and move to his side.
“Joseph, what is it?” she inquired anxiously.
“Caesar has requested a census.” He wearily massaged his temples with his work worn fingers.
Mary looked at him puzzled.
“I have to go to Bethlehem to register.”
He gazed at her compassionately as he waited for his words to sink in. A look of horror briefly splayed across her pretty features as she sank to a chair.
“Oh. Oh no, Joseph, this can’t be right. The Baby is to be born soon.”
“I can talk to Sarah, see if she could stay with you…” Joseph’s words trailed off weakly.
The two stayed that way for some time as the shadows deepened outside. Mary sat, shoulders slumped. Joseph moved to her side and placed his strong hands on her shoulders, both of them in silent contemplation. As if strengthened by his touch, Mary suddenly straightened and placed a hand over Joseph’s.
“No. I will go. We will take what we need. I must be with you when the time comes.”
Too weary to argue and knowing no reasonable solution himself, Joseph patted her hand and moved away.
“I will gather what we need tonight. We’ll need to leave tomorrow.”
Mary nodded, and smiled bravely as her husband left to gather supplies. But when he’d left, she buried her face in her hands.
“Oh Lord, what are you doing here?”
It surely must have seemed that God was forsaking them. Weren’t they carrying His Son? Why would He allow this to happen? But all was not lost. As Micah had prophesied:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)
He knew exactly what He was doing…and He was working all things according to His good plan.
And we don’t know for sure that the trip to Bethlehem took Mary by surprise. Maybe Mary knew the Scriptures in great detail. Maybe she knew the prophesy about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. Instead of being confused by the census, it might have been an affirmation of what she knew to be true. Instead, the months leading up to the census might have been confusing for her, knowing the Child was to be born elsewhere. Did she wonder as her time drew near, how the prophesy would be fulfilled? Was she tempted to take matters into her own hands and demand that Joseph take her on a honeymoon to Bethlehem so the Scriptures could be fulfilled? We simply don’t know for sure all the intricate details in the unfolding of the greatest story ever told.
But we can guess, however events played out, that there was uncertainty. We can conclude that Mary and Joseph might have felt alone and isolated. Unsure and confused. Overwhelmed by the wonder of it all…and unable to share their deep joy, for themselves…and for all of mankind. We can conclude that in this, the most epic story in history, there was a time of waiting and wondering, so much temptation for the heart to be anxious.
Yet, God had a plan in all of it. In the most minute details, He was weaving a tapestry of indescribable beauty. Threads of saving grace.
And He still has a plan. No matter how dark things appear, He is still light.
This child – born of Mary…born of God – He grew to be a man who would accept death on a cross, redeeming man’s sins, if man would only accept Him. But so many didn’t. They expected a knight in shining armor, a prince, a king to swoop in and save them from the evil of the Roman empire.
And so they rejected Him because His salvation didn’t look like they thought it should.
Might we do the same thing?
In the deepest ash heap, in the darkest night, there is still light. Because God is always light. Our world might grow exceedingly dark, but He is unchanging when the world around us shakes and crumbles. When the diagnosis comes unbidden. When the job is taken. When a loved one passes. When those meant to love us, betray us. When the paycheck won’t stretch another inch. When the child strays. When wars break out, when nature strikes, God is still on His throne.
Jesus was born into dark. He knows. After He sent the prophets with messages, calling His people back to Himself, He finally allowed a season of silence.
No more prophecies. Just silence. Stillness. Waiting.
The darkness continued. Oppression hung heavy over the Jewish people. And still silence. Darkness.
But it was into this blackness, that God on high wrapped Himself in the flesh of a newborn babe.
And pierced the darkness.
Your world might be black right now. Your future might seem bleak. You might feel like the silence is deafening and your prayers are hitting the ceiling.
But God hasn’t moved, and we just don’t know what He might do with the worst of circumstances if we’ll only surrender our everything and tell Him, as Mary did, to have His way in our lives. When all we can do is lay it down at His feet, weary and broken.
And wait for the pinpricks of light in the darkest night, the smallest glimpses of beauty in the ugliest ash heap.
Did Mary know what God was doing when she realized that she would be making a long, arduous journey with her time to deliver upon her?
Did Mary truly understand that the baby boy she delivered from her womb would save mankind? Save her?
Did Mary know what that salvation would cost him? Cost her?
As Mary held that warm little body snug against her chest, did she know she would watch it hang from a cross?
And in those darkest hours, did she know that He would bring the most holy beauty from the deepest of anguish and pain?
Did Mary know that the journey from the manger to the cross would change all of eternity?
And couldn’t it change us too?