Diary of a Pregnant Virgin

This story was originally published on during Advent 2010.

#1

Dear Diary,

I’m engaged! I’m only fourteen and I’m engaged! I can hardly believe it. Dad has finally given his permission for Joseph to marry me. I’ve imagined this moment for so long, and now that it’s here… I hardly know how to describe it. I feel like just sitting and looking at the ring one minute, and turning cartwheels the next.

So here’s how it happened. This morning, I was just finishing washing the dishes when Joseph somehow snuck in behind me and put his arm around my waist. He gave up knocking at the front door months ago. He asked me how long it would take me to get ready, and I asked him ready for what. He just winked and said it was a surprise. (Tee-hee, I love it when he winks at me! I get butterflies every single time.) I had to remember to tell him I couldn’t be gone long because I had chores to do. He said that he’d already cleared it with my mom and she’d given him permission to steal me for a few hours.

By this time I was definitely curious and excited, so I told him to give me five minutes, and I ran upstairs to brush my hair and change my dress. I know, I know—the other one was fine, but I wanted to feel a bit prettier than normal today. It was closer to ten minutes before I was back downstairs. I couldn’t decide how I wanted to do my hair. I ended up just twisting it back on one side a little bit.

Joseph took me on a long walk up a hill around to our favorite spot, overlooking the valley. You can see for miles, and at night you can see every single star. There was a picnic basket waiting for us under a tree.

I can honestly say it was the most perfect afternoon ever. We ate sandwiches and talked and lay in the shade looking up at the sunlight through the leaves. After a while I was leaning against the tree trying to count the sheep in the valley. That was when Joseph looked at me with a strange kind of expression, very serious and a little nervous. I remember being about to ask if it was almost time to be heading back…

Then he got down on one knee and my heart began to pound.

He took my left hand in his and said, “Mary, you are the most incredible girl I have ever met. You’re beautiful, and thoughtful, and whimsical, and so kind and wonderful that I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you, but God has given me one whole blessed year to call you my beloved, and—I hope it’s not selfish to say that I never want that to end. I love you, Mary. I hope you already know that, but I need to say it again. I love you, and I want you to be mine for all of forever.”

I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I was smiling like an idiot and trying not to cry and squeezing his hand and not wanting to interrupt but at the same time just wanting to throw my arms around his neck.

Finally, he said it. “Mary… will you marry me?”

And then I did throw my arms around him. And I did squeal and sob all at once and say “yes, yes, I love you, I love you,” over and over.

He slipped a ring on my finger, and it just looked so right, like my hand was made for it. I was made to wear this ring and hold his hand in mine.

Somehow we got home and my parents were already in on the secret, so we celebrated and my mom cried and my dad made a beautiful toast, but I don’t remember any of it. The only thing I remember is wrapping my arm through Joseph’s and thinking that I would never have to let go.

This is the happiest day of my life. I love him so much. Let the happily ever after begin!

#2

Dear Diary,

I don’t even know how to start. Two months ago when Joseph proposed, I thought I could never get happier. I was wrong. Something incredible has happened, and I hardly know how to handle it.

Today when I was out in the garden doing my chores, I saw an angel. I mean I really saw a REAL angel. He was huge and fierce and shone with the brightest light I have ever seen. It reminded me of the angel with a “face like lightening” in the book of Daniel. I was terrified. I thought my life was over, but then he said the last thing in the world I expected to hear. He said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I wondered if I was dreaming.

Then it got even weirder. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

I was still confused, but it sounded like he was talking about the Messiah. I’ve heard all my life that someday God will send a great king to set everything right in the world.

Then I thought, “Did he say a son? I may be only fourteen, but I know a few things, and I know for a fact that there’s no way I could be pregnant right now.” So I asked the angel how that could be possible. His reply blew my mind.

“The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God.”

Wow. So I’m going to get pregnant… by God. The baby will be his son. My baby will be God’s son.

Then the angel also told me that Elizabeth is pregnant too. That’s truly a miracle, because Elizabeth is my cousin, but she could be my grandma. She gave up on having kids years and years ago. And now, she’s going to have a baby in three months.

I said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” I was completely overwhelmed, but agreeing and submitting seemed like the only smart thing to do. This is GOD we’re talking about.

Excited, terrified, awed, confused… I don’t even know what I’m feeling now. I’ll write more later when I’ve had more time to think.

Daniel 10:5-6
Luke 1:26-38

#3

Dear Diary,

Needless to say, I’m thrilled and honored that God chose me for this, but there are two things that are worrying me. One is… I’m fourteen. I’m pregnant. And I only just got engaged.

Anna down the street got pregnant last year. She was hardly older than me, and definitely not married. Everyone whispered for days, and then… she disappeared. I haven’t seen her since. Some people say they stoned her to death.

I can kind of understand that, actually. It is in God’s law. God told Moses that if an engaged woman is caught having sex outside of marriage, “Take them both to the town gate and stone them to death. You must get rid of the evil they brought into your community.”

That isn’t exactly what happened to me, of course, but when my belly starts showing, what are they supposed to think? I notice that nowhere does it say, “unless the woman got pregnant without having sex.” Yeah, that would have been helpful.

Listen to me. My life is hanging in the balance—not to mention the whole future of the world—and here I am making jokes. It’s a miracle I’m still holding it together at all.

Then there’s the other thing. I’m engaged to a wonderful man who loves me like I’ve always wanted to be loved. I love him too, with all my heart and soul. If I tell him about this, it will break his heart. When I accepted that ring, it was as if I was marrying him already. I made a promise. I said that I would be only his till death do us part. He believed me. What will he think when he finds out? He’ll think I lied, that I was just playing with his feelings. He’ll think I never loved him as much as he loves me. He’ll think the whole time we’ve been together was just a big lie.

It will crush him.

People have killed themselves over less.

But it’s not like that. I do love him. I meant all the things I said. I have never lied to him once, not once. He gave me his heart, and now I’m about to break it. But what else can I do?

God, I hope it’s not selfish for me to pray for myself when you’re busy arranging the salvation of Israel here. But please, let Joseph understand. Let him still love me. And please, don’t let my parents stone me to death. Remember your promises to Israel. Help me to stay faithful to you no matter what happens. Amen.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24

#4

Dear Diary,

I found a verse in Isaiah that I think is talking about me. Now there’s a crazy thought. Hundreds of years ago, God’s prophet was telling Israel about me.

“But the LORD will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel.”

Immanuel – I looked it up and apparently it means “God with us.” Wow. I’ve always seen God as pretty distant. I mean, I know he loves his people and hears our prayers, but he’s… God. In heaven, far away. Or in the temple, in Jerusalem. And we’re just lowly humans. We’re not even allowed to speak his true name. If God could be really with us… I mean really really really WITH us… that would be something new altogether.

Why me? Why out of all the girls in Israel did God choose me to carry his chosen one? What did I ever do to deserve this?

I still haven’t told anyone yet. I don’t know when or how. I’ll have to sooner or later. Gulp.

God, help me.

Isaiah 7:14

#5

Dear Diary,

God met me again today. Twice in one lifetime… this is more than I ever dreamed. I feel like I’m living in the Scriptures.

I was out in the field just taking a walk, and when I was sure that no one was looking, I started rubbing my hand on my stomach. I know it’s way too early to feel anything yet, but just the thought that there was a tiny life growing inside me brought butterflies. Then when I imagined who this baby is, the Messiah, the son of God, Immanuel, the prophesied king of Israel, I started having a royal freak-out session. I sat in the dirt hugging my knees and hyperventilating, just shaking all over. All I could do was rock, cry, gasp—and pray. I prayed harder than I ever thought I could. I begged God to help me. I begged him to let my family understand. I begged him to tell me why. I almost begged him to just take this away. I cried out to him like David not to leave me alone in this—to help me have faith.

And then something happened. It came like a warm breeze, caressing my shoulders and wrapping around my body. It was peace, comfort, and so much love, more love than I had ever felt in my life. I felt held and protected. I felt like the hand of God was holding me, like his arms were wrapped around me and his voice was whispering in my ear. All the promises of Scripture I had ever learned came flooding back into my mind. It was as if he were saying to me personally, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not for evil, plans to bring you a hope and a future. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Slowly I felt the trembling melt away. Instead of fear I felt only peace and trust. Faith. Assurance. I still don’t know why on earth God chose me, and I still have no idea what’s going to happen. I have no more answers than before, but now I know that I am not alone. Whatever happens, my God will be with me. He promised to be.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

Jeremiah 29:11
Isaiah 41:10

#6

Dear Diary,

The angel said that my son will be a great king. That’s got to mean the Messiah. I’ve heard the prophecies a million times. He will be a descendant of King David, just like the angel told me. That makes sense; my dad always said our family is descended from King David. The Messiah will rule the world and make all people fear God. We have been waiting for him for centuries upon centuries.

What would it mean for me to be the mother of a great king? Will I have a special position in his court? Will he be too busy saving the world to spend time with me? I will have to leave Nazareth, of course. There’s no room for a palace around here. I wonder if he’ll be embarrassed to come from such a humble family? When the newspapers interview him and ask about his background, I wonder if he’ll be ashamed to say his mother was a poor girl from Nazareth, and that his whole birth was a total scandal?

It boggles my mind to imagine it, my son as a great king. I don’t know the first thing about royalty. I know even less about this kind of royalty, the kind sent from God to rescue Israel and set up a kingdom that will never end!

We’re in all new territory now. I guess all I can do is trust one day at a time. This baby inside me and his whole life are in God’s hands.

Isaiah 11:1-10
Daniel 7:13-14

#7

Dear Diary,

I couldn’t wait any longer. It wouldn’t be long before Mom suspected something was up, and I’d much rather tell her than let her draw her own conclusions.

Yesterday we were in the kitchen together, and I guess I was smiling and humming as we chopped vegetables. I could hardly help it; I’ve been in such a good mood ever since what happened in the field last week. It’s as if I see God everywhere I look, and I’m so aware of him all the time. I still can’t believe what’s happening to me—that God reached down from heaven and touched me! It’s like David wrote: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Anyway, Mom saw me randomly smiling at the carrots and she started teasing me, “Can’t you even make dinner without daydreaming about that fiancé of yours?” I laughed, but I had to admit to myself that I hadn’t even been thinking about Joseph right then. Then I started thinking, It’s not fair that I don’t tell her about this. She’s my mother, she deserves to know. But—what if she doesn’t believe me? I’m going to look like the most wacked-out liar… God, help me. Let her trust me. She’s my mom, I can’t bear for her to condemn me.

I felt again the echo of what God had told me in the field, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I took a deep breath and said, “Actually, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about.”

Mom looked sideways at me, still chopping. “Oh?”

“Yeah… I was working in the garden last month… and I saw something.”

“Like an animal?”

“No… more like an angel.”

I gave that one a moment. Mom’s hands hesitated on the knife, but she asked casually, “And what did the angel say?”

“He said that God was pleased with me and I will bear a son.”

Long pause. Chop, chop, chop. Finally Mom said, “Well, God willing, maybe you will someday—”

“I’m pregnant now, Mom.”

Oops. I’d planned to ease into that a little more.

Mom stopped chopping and turned to look at me. Her eyes were the biggest I’d ever seen them.

“You’re pregnant.”

“It’s not what you think, Mom, I didn’t—”

“You’re pregnant?!

“Yes, but I didn’t do anything!”

“What do you mean, you didn’t do anything? You went and got yourself pregnant, Mary, what were you thinking? You’re an engaged woman, you couldn’t wait a few more months? Does Joseph know?”

“No—”

“Your father’s going to kill him.”

A shock of fear bolted through me. “It’s not Joseph’s fault, I swear!”

Mom hissed something under her breath. I was terrified to think what it was. “Then who—”

“Nobody!”

“Mary, you have to tell us—”

“I told you, I didn’t do anything!”

I stood there trembling, clenching the knife to keep my hands from shaking. Mom stood in front of me, her neck and lips tight as a bowstring.

I sighed and put one hand protectively over my stomach. “The angel said my son would be the King of Israel. I’m supposed to name him Jesus. The power of God came over me; I don’t even know how it happened, but Mom, my baby is the son of… of God.”

There it was. I’d said it. Now not only would I be stoned for adultery, but I would also be dragged before the priest for blasphemy, or shipped off to a mental hospital. Or all three.

Even as I imagined that future, though, I couldn’t be scared. As I told my Mom what the angel had told me, I realized that I really, really do believe it. God has his hand on me. He has chosen me. The baby inside me, this boy that I will name Jesus, will be the salvation of Israel. God won’t let anything happen to him, or to me. He is God’s appointed Messiah. God’s own son.

Mom just stared at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. I realized that nothing in Mom School had ever prepared her for this.

So she just turned back to the vegetables—chop, chop, chop—and said, “We’ll see what your father has to say.” I noticed that her hands were shaking.

Mine weren’t anymore.

Psalm 8:3-4
Matthew 10:32-37

#8

Dear Diary,

I still don’t know what Dad has to say. I think he and Mom must have talked, because now he stares at me in the weirdest way, as though he expects me to either sprout wings or horns and he hasn’t decided which.

I want my parents to believe me. They’re my parents; they’ve always believed in me. I hate the thought of going through this alone. But even if they don’t… I’m going to be okay. I have God on my side. He won’t leave me hanging.

And then there’s Joseph. I’ve been avoiding him. That was probably a really bad idea, but I don’t know how to tell him about any of this, the pregnancy thing or the Messiah thing, and I can’t stand the idea of hanging out with him while acting like nothing was wrong. After talking with Mom, though, I realized I couldn’t put it off any longer. God was with me when I talked to her, and he will be with me when I talk to Joseph, too.

I’m going to go over to his house right after dinner.

LATER—

I don’t know how I’m going to get through writing this. I just used up a whole box of tissues. This is, without a doubt, the worst day of my life.

So here’s what happened. I bumped into Joseph about half way. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and for a second he kind of took my breath away. Those strong, tan woodworker’s arms, the quick smile, those sparkly eyes that always make my heart light up… I remember thinking, Is it bad to say that my fiancé is freaking hot?!

As soon as Joseph saw me, he wrapped me up in a big hug. He smelled like Old Spice and sawdust. He mumbled into my hair something about how worried he’s been, and he missed me, and is everything okay… and all I could do was hug him tighter, because I didn’t know if he was ever going to speak to me again after I told him the truth.

I finally pulled back and said, “Joseph, we need to talk.”

He said, “Is it about the honeymoon? I know I said we couldn’t afford the beach, but I know how much it means to you so I worked something out so we can spend the whole week there—”

How sweet is that?! That’s so much just like him. Always trying to go above and beyond to make me happy.

“No, it’s not about the honeymoon, but I have something I have to tell you, and I’m afraid it’ll make you hate me, but it’s not what it sounds like so I need you to hear me out all the way through, because I love you, I love you so much, do you believe me?”

I realized I was crying and babbling, which were two things I had definitely not planned on doing, but at least it had gotten his attention. Joseph took my face in his hands and said, “Of course I believe you. I love you, Mary, and nothing you can say will ever, EVER make me hate you.”

So of course I kept crying and hugging him some more, clinging to him while he stroked my hair and I gulped for breath. Then finally, I whispered into his shoulder, “I’m pregnant.”

Immediately, I felt him tense. He froze with his hand in mid-stroke. He slowly pulled backwards and looked at me with a face I had never seen before. It was like stone, and it scared me. When he finally spoke, his voice was hoarse.

“Who?”

“God.”

Joseph blinked. He stared at the ground, a heavy frown engraved on his brow. I closed my eyes, feeling the weight of every second.

“Please say something,” I whispered.

“Mary.” At his whisper I opened my eyes. “What was it about me that wasn’t enough?”

“Nothing!” I took a step forward. “I love you, Joseph, and I swear by the God of our fathers that I have been faithful to you. An angel appeared to me, and at first I could hardly believe it myself, but it’s true. This baby is sent straight from God. He will be the Messiah to save all of Israel. I have been chosen, Joseph.” I felt the tears leaking out again.

“Hundreds of years of waiting and you expect me to believe the Messiah has come to you?” Joseph shook his head.

My heart fell. You’d think my own husband-to-be would believe me!

“I’m sorry, I know how it sounds, I just—” I was babbling again

Abruptly, he took my face in his hands. They were warm and rough. “No no no, listen, listen—I love you, Mary, and we can work through this if you only tell me the truth. I promise, it will all be okay. So please, just tell me—what happened?”

Oh, Joseph! My heart melted and I thought about giving in. I could just tell him it was a boy from school, or a soldier passing through town. I could confess to betraying the man I love in order to keep him mine. It would be so easy. Joseph had promised to forgive me. He would protect me, and marry me, and raise the baby as his own. Maybe that’s what God intended all along.

But—no. NO! I could not betray the God who had so blessed me. I could not deny what he had done. I could not bring this holy baby into the world under a lie!

Even if it meant losing my fiancé.

I lifted my head and looked him in the eye. “I just told you what happened.”

Joseph took his hands down and turned away from me. My face suddenly felt cold. He stood with his back to me, his strong hands clasped behind him. “Is that your final answer?”

“Yes.” I could hardly get the word out.

He nodded, and his voice turned formal, but he couldn’t hide from me the shaking underneath. “I’ll keep my promise, Mary. I could never hate you. But I can’t marry someone who will betray me and then lie to me.”

I stood staring at the ground. “I understand.”

He hesitated, said, “I’m sorry,” and then he was gone.

I don’t know how long I stood there. All I know is that by the time I turned around to walk back home, the sun had fallen behind the hills.

God, why?? Why must the greatest miracle the world has ever known cost me so much? Before all this happened, it was like Joseph was my own personal miracle. I didn’t ask for anything more. Why did you give me Joseph only to take him away? He was the best thing in my life, and now I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped out. Are you really going to leave me to raise your son alone, as a single mother? God? I trusted you, and I stayed true to you, and this is how you repay me?

Matthew 10:38-39

#9

Dear Diary,

The past week has been horrible. It feels like God broke my heart and then abandoned me. I don’t know how to trust him right now, but I know it my gut that I have to. It’s the only thing I can do. Joseph’s gone, my parents are half-convinced I’m crazy… the only one I have left is God. Except it feels like he has also deserted me.

GOD! You can’t do this to me. You have no right. Aren’t you supposed to be taking care of me here? What about all that “plans to bring you a hope and a future” stuff? How is this bringing anyone a hope and a future? This isn’t what I signed up for. As a matter of fact, I didn’t sign up at all!

I wanted to just marry Joseph, live in Nazareth close to my parents, have kids someday, and basically live a normal life with the man I love. Then that first day when you chose me, I knew it would change everything, but… not like this. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

I just don’t understand. I know that you have a plan, but I feel so lost not knowing what it is. Can you at least promise me—and I mean PROMISE ME—that it will all be okay?

Can I still trust you? Can you heal my broken heart? Can you still use this mess?

I keep saying I trust you, but I’ve reached a breaking point, and I’m not sure anymore. I do want to trust you, though. I really do. If anyone in the universe deserves my trust, it’s you.

The honest truth is: I am scared, confused, and just plain lonely. God, I need you again. I need you like I did that day in the field. I need you to help me trust you. Give me faith.

I don’t know how to do this right now… but maybe trust is a choice, not a feeling.

So right now, God, this is me making my decision. I choose to trust you because I believe you know what you’re doing. I don’t get it, but I trust that your plan is better than mine.

God, you are good. No matter what, you are always God and you are always good. I love you.

#10

Dear Diary,

I started throwing up this morning. Oh, joy.

In other news, apparently I’m going on a little adventure tomorrow…

Dad finally talked to me last night. He came in while I was getting ready for bed. He asked me what happened, so I told him the same story I told Mom. He gave me a long look, and then asked me if I was sure that was the absolute truth. I said yes. He reminded me that I’d been in danger of stoning, and even short of that, my engagement would also be in danger.

I told him, “Believe me, I know all that. I remember what happened to Anna. And… Joseph already broke up with me.”

My dad is such a dad. He didn’t say “I told you so,” he just gave me a big hug. I let him hold me tight as I rested my face against his chest. I needed that.

After a while, he pulled back and said, “Mary, you know I love you and don’t want to see anything hurt you. But you need to understand, this is not just going to go away. When people find out… things are going to get ugly. Even if they don’t stone you, you’ll likely be completely shunned.”

I tried again to make him understand. “And I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. But Dad… This is the Messiah we’re talking about. This has to happen. It won’t be easy, but God’s going to protect me. I mean, I’m part of his plan now.”

He shook his head. “My baby girl, the mother of the salvation of Israel… I’m still not sure if I can believe it.”

“I hope you can,” I said quietly. “He’s your grandson.”

Dad grinned in his lopsided way and stared out at the wall. “My grandson. That’s quite a thought.”

After a moment, he looked back at me and said, “Anyway, I talked to your mom about it, and we want to make this as easy as possible for you. We think it’s time you paid a visit to your cousin Elizabeth. Her husband Zacharias is a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. They’ll be able to take care of you for a little while.”

I was startled. I hadn’t told anyone yet what the angel had said about her, that she was pregnant after years of not having kids.

“For how long?” I asked.

“Well… would you be okay with having your baby there?”

I blinked. Nine whole months?

“But, Dad… I want to have the baby here, in our own home. I want Mom to be with me.”

“We might be able to send her up when your time comes. But, sweetie, think about it… the town isn’t exactly going to be on your side here. Those nine months are going to be very difficult for you. Best to come back once you’re… looking more yourself.”

Meaning, once you no longer have the scarlet letter expanding your belly like a balloon.

So I’m leaving. Tomorrow. Dad gave my one day to pack while he makes the travel plans, and then tomorrow I hitch a ride with some friends up to Elizabeth’s house, near Jerusalem. Her husband is a priest in the temple there.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I know my parents mean well, but I can’t help feeling like an exile. I didn’t even do anything wrong! Must I be punished for obeying God?

I’m excited to see Elizabeth, but I’ll be sad to leave my family, and of course Joseph… but maybe it doesn’t matter now. It’s not like I’ll be seeing much of him anyway.

Maybe it’s for the best. I could use a change of scenery.

Luke 1:35

#11

Dear Diary,

I’m at Zacharias and Elizabeth’s house now. It was a long four days’ travel, but what happened when I got here totally made up for all that. First the angel, then the field, now this… I feel like I’m drowning in God-amazingness.

I got to Elizabeth’s house and knocked. I stood there waiting for someone to come to the door, and I started to get nervous and wondered if I had the right address. I was fumbling around in my bag for the directions Dad gave me when the door opened and Elizabeth stood there, looking very pregnant. She looked a little confused, and I realized she didn’t recognize me. I smiled and said, “Hello, Elizabeth? I’m Mary, your cousin from Nazareth.”

All at once her face lit up, and she grabbed her stomach. She laughed out loud and pulled me into a huge hug. “Mary, Mary, I can’t believe it!” she said over and over. Then she pulled back, grabbed my hands and announced very excitedly, “God has blessed you more than any other woman! He has also blessed the child you will have. Why should the mother of my Lord come to me?”

I kid you not, that’s what she said, as though I was doing her a favor by showing up at her house completely uninvited! How did she know I was pregnant, anyway?

Then she put my hand on her stomach and said, “As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby became happy and moved within me. The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.”

I could feel it wriggling and kicking inside of her. I grabbed her hand and put it on mine. The baby is of course too small to feel yet, but it didn’t matter. We both knew it was there.

Then something—I don’t really know what—came over me. I was suddenly just so aware of God’s goodness and glory. It was almost like what I felt in the field, except instead of words going into me, there were words coming out of me! And they came out as a song! Out of nowhere, I started singing this song that was like a Psalm of David, right there on Elizabeth’s doorstep! It went something like this:

“My heart praises the Lord;
My soul rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has remembered me, his lowly servant!
From now on all people will call me blessed,
Because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me.
His name is holy;
From one generation to another
he shows mercy to those who honor him.
He has stretched out his mighty arm
and scattered the proud with all their plans.
He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has kept the promise he made to our ancestors,
and has come to the help of his servant Israel.
He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham
and to all his descendants forever!”

Even right now as I’m writing this, I’m overwhelmed all over again. God is so good. I am completely humbled by the way he honors me and remembers his people.

Thank you. You are absolutely wonderful and I love you.

Luke 1:36-59

Magnificat (Mary’s Song) by Todd Agnew

#12

Dear Diary,

The first thing Elizabeth did when we got inside after my little spontaneous Psalm was sit me down on a chair with a cushion and bustle around to get me some food and a drink. We sat down together and over bread and fruit I explained the whole story, about the angel and the Messiah and the virgin in Isaiah. When I said that the angel said my baby is the “holy Son of God,” Elizabeth startled me by laughing out loud and tilting her head back with her eyes closed. I couldn’t help laughing with her. She rested like that for a few moments with a little smile, then looked back at me and said, “Well, go on, dear.” I told her about what happened in the field. She just smiled softly, and I realized I didn’t have to explain what it was like… somehow, she already knew.

I told her about how my parents reacted. I got choked up when I told her about Joseph. She moved over next to me and gave me a big, long hug. I started crying for real. Surprisingly, it wasn’t even awkward. She just held me until the tears stopped.

Then she brought me a tissue box, and as I blew my nose, she told me her story. It’s almost as crazy as mine.

About seven months ago, it was Zacharias’ turn to burn incense in the temple, in the Holy Place—the room just outside the Holy of Holies, the most sacred room of all. He went inside to perform the ritual, and he didn’t come out for a long time. The other priests were getting worried. They were debating over how illegal it would be to send someone in after him, when he finally came out. He seemed to be in shock. He was gesturing and moving his mouth, but no sound was coming out. The other priests eventually realized that he had seen a vision.

When Zacharias came home, he gave Elizabeth a kiss, then immediately sat down and wrote a long note explaining what had happened. He said that he had seen an angel and that Elizabeth was going to have a baby, with some sort of special mission from God. His voice had been taken away because he didn’t believe the angel at first. He hasn’t said a word since.

Sure enough, Elizabeth got pregnant soon after that. She was well past fifty but had never had a baby before. All the other women used to feel sorry for her, to be so old and never a mother. She laughed when she told me that now she loves to parade her fat, round belly around town! What a pair we make, the two impossible mothers-to-be! It’s so good to be able to talk to someone who understands, who will be able to share pregnancy with me and also help me sort through some of my spiritual questions.

Luke 1:5-25

#13

Dear Diary,

I think Elizabeth is the wisest person I have ever met. All these years married to a priest, and without kids to keep her busy, she’s pretty much made God the focus of her entire life. My favorite times during the couple months I’ve been here have been just sitting with her and talking. The other day I asked her about the Messiah.

Elizabeth explained to me that the prophecies show two different pictures of the Messiah. The first is the “warrior king” idea. Daniel had a vision of the Messiah being crowned king and all the nations of the earth serving him. He will rule forever and his kingdom will never be destroyed. David wrote in the Psalms that he will rule over his enemies, crush kings and judge nations. It’s a pretty violent passage.

This is the picture I hear talked about the most in the synagogue. Israel is really hurting right now. We’ve been under the thumb of the Romans for so long that we are desperate for the Messiah to come and save us, now more than ever. My dad talks about the Messiah overthrowing tyrants like Caesar and Herod. He gets that fire in his eyes like every Jew does when we talk about the Messiah’s never-ending kingdom.

The prophets also talk about another picture of the Messiah, the “suffering servant.” Zechariah talks about him being gentle and humble. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole chapter in Isaiah that is just weird. Honestly… it kind of scares me. I spent all afternoon yesterday reading it over and over. I hope I’m missing something, because I can tell you right now that I’d rather die than let my baby go through this stuff. It says that he will be “despised and rejected,” and “oppressed and afflicted,” and then it goes on to talk about him being killed—it looks like willingly. How is this the same person as the “warrior king”?

Even Elizabeth didn’t have an answer for that. She did tell me one thing, though.

“God has promised to rescue his people through the Messiah. You can bet that he will keep his promise. Whether this Messiah that you carry will be born with a sword in his hand to defeat the Romans and set up a palace in Jerusalem, or whether he will be killed like a helpless lamb, God’s salvation will be accomplished through it.” She reached out and put her hand on my knee. I was gripping my stomach and fighting back tears. “There will be pain, my precious Mary, for you in a very special way, but it will all be for the best in the end. God’s glory will shine through.”

I love Elizabeth. She helps me believe that I’m not crazy and God is really doing something big here, bigger than he’s ever done before. Her faith helps my faith stay strong.

Daniel 7:14
Psalm 110:1-7
Zechariah 9:9
Isaiah 53:1-12

#14

Dear Diary,

Guess what I’m doing right now? I’m packing! I’m going home! Joseph—MY Joseph—has come to take me home!

This afternoon I was sitting with Elizabeth. She was just starting to tell me again about that passage in Isaiah when Joseph showed up. We’d left the door open for a breeze, and as soon as I saw him coming I jumped up and started to run to him, but then stopped myself. What was he doing here?

As soon as he saw me, though, he started running. His whole face lit up and he charged into Elizabeth’s house and grabbed me and swung me around. I couldn’t believe it. I was laughing, and he was laughing, and Elizabeth was laughing, and he swung me around at least four times before putting me down. (Thank goodness, because I was starting to feel nauseous. This morning sickness thing has been so much fun.)

I introduced Joseph to Elizabeth and her eyes twinkled as she shook his hand. Then he grabbed my hands and looked me in the face. His eyes were so intense, even more than the day he proposed.

“Mary, I have come to ask your forgiveness for not believing you. I never should have doubted your word; walking away was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. But God has revealed the truth to me, and now I’ve just come to say this: If you’ll let me, I will love you and take care of you for the rest of my life, and I will try my best to be the father this baby deserves. I wouldn’t blame you if you just sent me home alone, after all I’ve put you through… but I really do want to take you back to Nazareth with me, as my betrothed. If you can find it in your heart to give me a second chance… Mary, will you marry me?”

I hugged him tight. “I love you, Joseph,” I whispered. “I never stopped.”

We stood there gripping each other. My throat got tight and I silently thanked God for this new miracle.

Elizabeth announced, “Well, this calls for a celebration! I’ll get the cake I’ve been saving for Sabbath. I don’t think God will mind.”

So we sat around Elizabeth’s living room eating cake and Joseph told us how God had revealed the truth to him. He said that after he had broken off our engagement, he was heartbroken and angry—at me, at the other guy, and most of all at God. He did a lot of yelling at God, out in the same field where I had encountered that crazy peace. Then he started thinking about what to do. Breaking off the relationship with me was only step one. He still had to go to my father in private and formally end the engagement. People take betrothal so seriously that breaking it off is pretty much the same as divorce. But still, divorcing me quietly was kinder than exposing me to public humiliation and maybe even stoning. How about that—even in breaking my heart Joseph tries to be honorable!

“Then one night—I had a dream,” Joseph said. “At least I was asleep, so it must have been a dream, but I’ve never had a dream so real in all my life… I saw you, Mary, with your stomach big all around. You were dressed in white and had a veil over your face. I saw you smile at me through the veil, and I saw myself standing next to you with our hands resting on your stomach. We both looked so happy. There was something just right about it.

“I heard a voice behind me saying my name. I turned around, and I swear—it was an angel, just like you saw! I can’t even describe it. The light was so bright! He said, ‘Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

I almost started crying all over again. Elizabeth quietly handed me a tissue, but I just held it in my fist, determined not to need it. Joseph continued.

“I woke up with this total confidence that everything was going to be okay. Then all of a sudden I had this rush of joy as I realized—I could marry you! I was so excited I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier. I wanted to take you home right away, but your dad convinced me that we needed to have the wedding as soon as you came back, so of course I needed to have a house to take you to. So… I’ve spent the last two and a half months building us a house,” he announced proudly.

I was flabbergasted. “You built us a house? In just two and a half months?”

“Well, I found a fixer-upper that just needed some work,” he amended. “And it needed a nursery added on. I finished early this week, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Your mom’s been making all the wedding plans, and we’re getting married in two weeks!”

“She’s been planning the wedding all this time? How did you know I would say yes?” I asked.

He winked. “The angel was a big hint.”

I couldn’t help it—I threw my arms around him and laughed.

So now Joseph is sleeping in Elizabeth’s front room and I’m finishing packing. We’re leaving early tomorrow, so I really should sleep, but I’m way too excited to sleep. I’m going home—and I’m going to marry Joseph in just two short weeks!

Matthew 1:18-23

#15

Dear Diary,

I’M MARRIED! Mary, daughter of Aaron, has become Mary, wife of Joseph. It all happened so fast, I can hardly believe it!

Mom had been going crazy with planning the past couple of months. Luckily we’d been talking about plans ever since Joseph proposed, so she already mostly knew what I wanted. I only wanted one bridesmaid, my cousin Rebekah, who has been my best friend since we were little. Her gown was light blue with a deep purple sash, and the cake was large enough but not enormous, trimmed with purple frosting roses. The day before the wedding Mom had all the younger cousins in our family run around Nazareth picking flowers, and they made beautiful bouquets for me and Rebekah and garlands to decorate the synagogue.

The most important part, though, was of course my dress. Every since I was little I’ve wanted to wear my mom’s dress on my wedding day. I used to play dress-up in it, but we hadn’t pulled it out of its box in years. So as soon as I got home, Mom pulled me into her room and got it out. We were both so nervous it wouldn’t fit, but, thank the Lord, it did! We only needed to hem it a little bit, and it was perfect. It’s the most exquisite thing ever, with tiny flowers embroidered all around the sleeves and neckline.

Yesterday morning was the big day. I woke up early, as soon as the sun came in my window and made me squint. Mom made breakfast cakes with sweet syrup for my last meal in their house. Then she helped me brush my hair and twist it back on the sides, with a few little wisps falling around my face. I pulled the dress over my head and let Mom tie the sash around my waist. Then I tucked fresh flowers in my hair and put on my veil. It was long and gauzy and fell down almost to my waist in front and to my knees in back. It felt like I was wrapped in mist.

Surprisingly enough, we all held it together just fine all morning. I was actually doing just fine until I started walking down the aisle clutching my dad’s arm. I saw Joseph standing at the other end, looking like he could hardly breathe. I saw his eyes sparkling at me, and although we hadn’t said one word to each other yet, it was as if I could read all his vows there already. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health… At that moment, it didn’t even matter that I was specially favored by God and pregnant with the Messiah and all that. I was just a girl marrying the man of her dreams.

And then again, God was so there. I could almost feel him smiling down on us. There was so much love in that room—from God, from me and Joseph, from all our family and friends—I swear I thought my heart would burst right there in the aisle.

It felt like the ceremony had barely started, when I realized we were at the end and I heard the words, “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

So Joseph kissed the bride. For the first time ever, in front of everybody. The carpenter and his pregnant virgin bride. It was absolutely surreal, and beautiful, and perfect, and strange, and magical, all at once. We’ve kissed since then, of course, but there can only be one First Kiss. That’s something I’m going to remember forever.

Joseph and I went home after that. Since we kind of had to get married so quickly, there wasn’t any budget for a proper honeymoon, so we just went straight home to the house Joseph built. I honestly don’t mind, though. Who needs a beach, really? We’ve got each other. No matter what weirdness happens next, or what people say, Joseph and I have got each other. And just by that simple fact, I feel like I’m flying.

There’s only one downside. Joseph and I talked about it, and we decided that the Messiah being born of a virgin like it says in Isaiah means he has to actually be born from someone who’s still a virgin. So… we’re going to hold off for a while. It’s going to be difficult, but we don’t want to take the chance of messing anything up. You know what, though, we’re still together. Forever and ever, till death do us part. And tonight I get to fall asleep tucked under my husband’s arm!

Isaiah 7:14
Matthew 1:24-25

#16

Dear Diary,

I’m eight months pregnant now. I can barely move. I’m always tired but have a hard time sleeping, I’m eating the weirdest things, and I’ve got an entire map of stretch marks on me. I feel like I’m going to pop any day, but I still have a month to go.

Joseph’s been so amazing, though. He’s absolutely babied me—gotten me every pillow I want, rubbed my feet in the middle of the night, and let me eat bowl after bowl of olives. I don’t know why, but I’m craving olives almost every waking moment. Olives and chocolate.

Even better, Joseph keeps saying “our baby.” He hasn’t forgotten that this is a miracle baby in every way, but he told me that he feels like God’s entrusted the role of earthly father to him, and he intends to live up to that. He even made a beautiful wooden cradle. He says as soon as the baby’s born, he’s going to fall asleep right there on a bed of soft wool, and he’s not going to cry once. I’m not so sure about that, but who knows? Would the son of God cry like normal babies? Or is he too righteous for that?

He’s not too righteous to kick, that’s for sure. He’s quite an active little bugger. (I hope that’s not blasphemy—sorry, God!) I have to tell him sometimes, “I’m not your war horse, and I’m not going to gallop for you!” I think he’s just getting impatient to come out and get on with it already.

It seems like most of the scandal has pretty much blown over now, thank God. These women are just so excited bring the baby into the world, they don’t even mention how it all started. They’ve been giving me all sorts of advice on herbs things to make me more comfortable, and at least four of them have offered to be my midwife. I told them all I want my mom to do it.

Everyone keeps asking what we’re going to name the child if it’s a boy or if it’s a girl. We haven’t told them we already know it’s a boy and we already picked a name. I just feel like we should keep it to ourselves for a while. I know, it’s silly… I mean, it’s a common enough name; it was the name of Moses’ successor, the one who marched around the walls of Jericho. The name literally means “Jehovah saves,” or just “savior.” That’s not so unusual; a lot of people name their kids after some part of God’s character, but it feels different this time. This isn’t any ordinary baby named after a Scripture hero. This is the one who is going to be the greatest hero of all time.

Jesus.

Matthew 1:21

#17

Dear Diary,

I’m pretty sure this is the most inconvenient thing that could possibly happen right now. Apparently the Roman Emperor got up one day and decided it was a beautiful day for some new taxes. He’s taxing pretty much everyone in the known world. So can we just stroll down to our neighborhood Roman outpost and pay our taxes? No, of course not, because this is our beloved Caesar Augustus, and that would be way too easy. So we have to go all the way to wherever our ancestors are originally from. In our case, that happens to be Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s a week’s journey away, through rough terrain.

Joseph fumed for a while, then started making plans. He talked about everything he would need to pack, and then he said he would leave me with my parents while he was gone. That’s when I stopped him.

“I’m coming too,” I said.

“No, you’re not,” he said.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not—Mary, you’re nine months pregnant, for heaven’s sake!”

“Joseph, I’m stubborn and I’m going.”

So the next day he packed up the donkey for both of us.

It’s been four days on the road now. It’s going to be another two at least before we get to Bethlehem. It’s ridiculously cold, even during the daytime. We have to constantly keep an eye out for robbers. I’m riding on the donkey, which is way better than walking, but all this jostling is pretty painful. I’m enormous now. I’d hardly be comfortable at home on the couch, let alone riding a donkey through the mountains for a week straight.

Still, it’s been so nice to have this time together just to talk. We mostly talk about the baby, of course. What he’s going to look like, what his first words will be, whether he will know who he is, whether he’ll have to struggle to learn the Law like other boys. And we talk about our own story. This morning I asked Joseph to tell me again what the angel said to him.

“He—well, at least it might have been a he—said to me, ‘Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

“What do you think that last part means, that he will save his people from their sins?”

“The Messiah will defeat Israel’s enemies and establish a kingdom that will never end. Maybe it means it will save us from the punishment of our sins, like when God brought us back from the exile.”

“But we aren’t in exile now, Joseph. This is Israel.”

“It’s an Israel ruled by the Romans. Hardly Israel as she was meant to be.”

“Maybe… but what if it means more?” I told him about the passage in Isaiah. I’ve been thinking about this ever since Elizabeth’s, and I still have it memorized.

“‘Surely he has borne our greifs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken.
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.’

“It says he actually takes the punishment for our sins. That can only mean one thing, Joseph.”

Joseph was quiet. I saw him thinking with me. He said it before I did. I don’t think I could actually bring myself to say the word.

“Sacrifice.”

I nodded, my throat tight. I pressed my hand against my stomach. “Just like the sheep in the temple.”

Joseph shook his head. “Beaten bloody and killed… your child, Mary…”

“I know he’s my child!” I shouted suddenly. “I know! I have born him for nine months, and I loathe the thought of any pain coming to him, much less torture and death. I wish it was me! I wish Isaiah wrote that the virgin would be afflicted, not this innocent baby! I hate it! I hate it!” The donkey had stopped, and I was shaking now. My throat hurt from the tears and the shouting. A tear landed on my belly. Joseph gave me his hand, and I gripped it hard to steady myself.

Then I said, “But he was God’s son before he was ours, and I’m sure God wouldn’t let this happen if there was any other way. If this is what has to happen… then what can we say, Joseph? What can we say?”

Joseph held me against his shoulder and let me cry. I felt his tears falling on my neck too. I felt the baby pressed between us, ignorant of what was coming.

It was just the two of us with the baby and the donkey in the middle of nowhere, but it didn’t feel like we were alone. It was as if all of heaven was heavy with sorrow. I knew God was there, and he was crying with us. We stayed there for a long time, three parents weeping for our son.

I heard Joseph start to pray. “Holy God, we’re just two people, and we don’t understand what you’re doing, but we know you have a plan. We trust that if pain has to come for your plan to be accomplished, then that’s what has to happen. We trust that you will be with us, and with your son, all the days of his life. Thank you that you have promised to bring us peace. Thank you for giving humanity this miracle, and for letting us be a part of it. Be with us now, God. Give us strength for the days ahead.”

I whispered along with him. “Help us, God. I’m scared. I’m not ready to give birth and be a mother. I’m not ready to do what you’ve called me to. I don’t know how to be the mother of the messiah, to raise him up right and then to let him go when the time comes. I don’t know how I’m going to bear all those things happening, and I don’t even know how I’m going to get through the next few days, but I trust you. God, we trust you. We can’t do any of this without you. Thank you for choosing me—for choosing both of us. I praise you for that. Now help us. Help me. Be with me, and help me be strong.”

Joseph stroked my hair. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

I joined him, and we finished the Psalm together.

“He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

So I’m still annoyed at Caesar, still cold and sore and tired, but God will be with us. Bethlehem’s only two days away. We’ll find a nice quiet room where I can rest. This little messiahling isn’t going to wait much longer!

Micah 5:2
Luke 2:1-5
Isaiah 53:4-5
Psalm 23:1-6

#18

Dear Diary,

It finally happened. All those months of waiting, worrying, praying, trusting, and it finally happened.

The closer we got to Bethlehem, the more I could feel that it was almost time. I felt my insides clenching and twisting, sharp pains all through my belly. It would come and then subside, and then come again, harder. Joseph was hurrying as fast as he could. Poor guy, he was trying to hold it all together, but he looked frantic. There were so many people! Carts and donkeys and people with bundles and walking sticks, all bumping into each other and shouting. We pushed through the crowd and waited in a line, and Joseph must have paid the taxes, but I don’t really remember that part. I was just trying to remember to breathe and hold my insides in place and not fall off the donkey all at once.

It was dark by the time we started looking for a place to stay. Joseph made our way to the town inn, and we knocked on the door. Then again, louder. Finally, a big burly man opened the door. He had this “what now?” look on his face that made me feel bad for bothering him, but we had no choice.

Joseph said, “I’m sorry to bother you so late, but we’re looking for a room. Do you have anything available?”

The man laughed. “In this crowd? We’ve been full up for days. Seems everyone and his uncle is related to ol’ King David, and they’ve all come here.”

“But don’t you have anything at all?” Joseph pressed. “My wife’s about to have a baby, we just need some place for her to lie down.”

The man looked at me. I was pale and sweating and breathing hard, and I think he felt sorry for me, because he softened a little and said, “Look, I wish I could help you, but we got people in the closets and in the kitchen and every place they can find a few square feet to lay out their blankets. We just don’t have any room left.”

Joseph wasn’t giving up. “Is there another inn in town, or anywhere we can—”

The man shook his head firmly. “Nope, and I’m real sorry, but that’s the fact of it. You’ll just have to figure something out.”

A woman who must have been the man’s wife came to join him at the door. She saw me and instantly her eyes got wide. “Jacob, can’t you see—” she started.

“Of course I see, Ruth, but that don’t change facts,” he insisted.

She turned to Joseph. “We do have the stable—it’s just a cave where we keep the animals, but it should be warm and private.”

Joseph grinned up at me and nodded to her. “Thanks so much, that will be perfect.”

“Jacob will show you the way.” She nudged him. He nodded and grabbed two lamps and handed one to Joseph.

The cave smelled like animals. There is no nice way to say it; this place stank. There were several goats and a cow staring at us, and I think there was a pig asleep in the corner too. But it was out of the wind, and there was plenty of fresh hay which Joseph quickly smoothed out and lay his coat over to make a bed for me. He helped me lay down and then sat next to me, wide eyed and fidgety.

“How are you doing? Are you okay?” he asked, when clearly I was not. The pains were sharper now, and I kept forcing myself to relax when I really just wanted to double over and scream.

He helped me drink some water and then asked, “Should I get a midwife?”

“There’s no time,” I gasped. “We’re going to—have to do this—ourselves.”

I told him to have water and blankets ready, and a knife for the umbilical cord. Then he helped me get into the right position and held my hand.

I knew it would hurt, but I had no idea how much. I felt like I was ripping in half. I remember screaming and clenching and yelling, “Oh, God!” and struggling to breathe while Joseph was saying, “Push, push!”

Then finally, after what felt like hours—it was over. I collapsed in a sweaty mess back on the hay. Then I held my breath and waited.

I heard it. A baby’s cry—loud, and so young, the newest sound on the face of the earth.

Joseph cleaned him up and wrapped him in the cloths I had brought. Then he handed him to me, and I got to hold my son in my arms for the first time.

He was all red and wrinkly, and still screaming, so I shushed him softly while I ran my fingers over his skin. I touched his little nose and ears and the tiny wet hairs. I touched his tiny fingers and tiny curled toes. He was perfect. Red, loud, and perfect. Beautiful.

A sense of awe flooded me. This was the baby that was planted in me by the Spirit of God. He was fathered not by any human, but by God. This was the child the prophets foretold, the king who would bring peace.

“Jesus,” I whispered. I bent down to kiss his tiny forehead. His screams eventually quieted and those tiny brown eyes slowly focused on mine.

This is our Emmanuel. God with us.

Joseph made him a bed of fresh hay in the manger. I spread out a blanket and lay our tiny son in it, asleep now. I lay my head on Joseph’s shoulder, and he wrapped his arms around me.

“Can you believe it, Joseph?” I whispered.

Joseph started to say something but then couldn’t, so he just held me closer and rubbed my arm slowly. He put out his hand to touch the manger and sat still like that, with his head bowed.

I wish that moment could have lasted forever, but after a minute we heard footsteps pounding outside the cave. Joseph jumped up just as a young face burst around the corner. The intruder leaned on the wall gasping for air and staring at us with huge eyes.

In a matter of seconds he was joined by at least half a dozen more, from young boys to old men. They thundered up and then fell abruptly still and silent, staring.

“Can I help you?” Joseph ventured. I saw his hand close over his walking stick.

The oldest of the group stepped forward. “Is this the child? Is this the one who will be the Messiah?”

Joseph looked at them warily. “What makes you say that?”

The old man spoke as if he could hardly believe what he was saying. “We have seen angels. We were just watching our sheep, when all of a sudden—huge angels, lighting up the sky, singing praises to God. They told us we would find the newborn Messiah here, lying in a manger.”

(I have to admit, at this point I was hardly surprised. Compared to the miracle that had just come out of me, more angels was nothing. Joseph and I had certainly seen our share.)

Joseph looked back at me. I looked at the sleeping baby. If God wanted to invite others to share our miracle, then why not? I nodded to my husband.

He stepped aside and let them in. They came forward slowly, eyes locked on the manger. They stopped a few feet away, then one by one they dropped to their knees.

My eyes filled with tears. Out of all the people in the world God could have told. It should have been King Herod or priests or noblemen showing up at the cave to worship, but it was this ragtag little group of shepherds instead, come to see the peasant couple and their baby. In the stinky cave.

Isn’t that so just like him?

I picked up my tiny Jesus and asked the shepherds if they would like to hold him. One by one, with total reverence, they cradled him in their rough hands. I saw leathered faces stream with tears, and I heard boys my own age whispering words of worship as they touched the tiny hands in awe.

The old man looked at me, and recited a verse that I recognized immediately but had somehow forgotten. “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 of Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.”

I gasped and reached for Joseph’s hand. All this time, all that stupid long trip, and everything before, it was for God’s plan all along.

The shepherds eventually left and woke up the whole town to tell them what had happened. Everyone came crowding into the stable, and Jesus woke up and started screaming again. Then lo and behold, someone realized they did have a spare room after all, so Joseph and I traveled back into town to sleep in a real bed for the rest of the night.

Wow. Even after writing all that, it still seems so unreal. God chose me—me, Mary from Nazareth!—to give birth to his son. Joseph and I traveled to Bethlehem, and there the Messiah was born on a pile of straw. It sounds crazy, but there it is. It all happened.

God proved everything he has ever told us by sending his own son to be born tonight. He was born naked and red and screaming like any other newborn, but this is no ordinary baby. This is the son of God.

But this whole thing is so much bigger than what happened tonight. The world is about to change. God has started the ball rolling for something bigger than he’s ever done before.

And it’s only just beginning.

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:51


Luke 2:6-20
Micah 5:2

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As I finish up this series, I would like to thank Marjorie Holmes for writing the book that inspired this journey, “Two From Galilee.” I would also like to thank all of you who have encouraged me along the way. I hope you have been as blessed to read it as I have to write it. I feel like experiencing this with Mary has pushed me to consider the miracle of Christmas in a whole new depth, to think and pray and trust and worship more truly. One of my most beloved inspirations once characterized writing thus: “Write to discover. There is no greater discovery than love. All love comes from the Creator. Write what you will.” That’s exactly what happened to me. I rediscovered love while writing this, and it drew me closer to the Creator who created himself into the form of a helpless infant who would grow up to change everything. I can only pray it has, on some level, done the same for you.

I’ve been rather surprised to discover as I write that Mary is me. Really, she is all of us. She is the ordinary person chosen for extraordinary things. Her blessings didn’t always look like blessings, but she kept trusting because she realized that God was all she had and his plan is always good. Mary’s trust in God’s promise paved the way for the greatest miracle of all time: God becoming human to show us what love looks like, to rescue us from utter darkness, at the cost of his own life. He chose to be with us, to live life with us, and he died and rose so that he can still live life with us today.

This is our Emmanuel. God with us.

God bless you and merry Christmas.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Merry Christmas From California! | Fragrance Arise
  2. Amanda
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 15:39:14

    Haven’t finished reading all of it, but I love this! So often we read this portion of the Gospels and we don’t even think deeply about what Mary (and Joseph and their family) must have felt and gone through. I myself have pondered it some, but not as deeply as you did through your writing. Wow, I relate, and it shows God’s heart toward us when we don’t understand our own circumstances too.

    Reply

    • Caitlyn
      Jan 24, 2016 @ 17:12:09

      Thanks, Amanda! It feels like I wrote this a really long time ago, lol, but it was really fun and eye-opening to write. I really love stepping into the story and trying to live it through the eyes of the people who were really in the middle of it, and it’s so amazing to find how their journeys can parallel our own!

      Reply

  3. Mariza Ivey
    Dec 12, 2016 @ 02:27:36

    Caitlyn, I read the Marjorie Holmes series a long time ago…it was wonderful…
    Darlin’, this was truly inspired! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Reply

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