1st Sunday of Advent 2019
I still cannot believe poppa managed to arrange it. Joseph the carpenter was to become my husband. The girls in our community often whispered of Joseph’s kind, gentle nature and his hard work in the community. His pure heart was evident as he aided others. He would rebuild doors of the widow’s homes as they decayed with time. He even assisted strangers that passed through our village on their way to and from Jerusalem for worship at the Temple. He would offer safe shelter and food for their journey. I never thought he knew I existed. Then poppa secured Joseph’s commitment to consider a betrothal to me. We were preparing for engagement. To say I was in shock would be a great understatement! My young life was changing so quickly. But this was nothing compared to what was to happen next. Nothing would be the same.
Deep in the early morning hours of the new moon, my life made an unexpected turn. Something stirred me from my slumber that early morning. One minute I was sleeping and the next I was wide awake, alert. My dreams ending as I stirred in the darkness. My eyes struggled to see but I immediately heard a wind blowing softly.
Pop, mom, and the others had traveled to the next village to visit extended family. I am sure it had something to do with the upcoming event and preparations. I had not wanted to go. I was excited but to have the place to myself was an uncommon luxury. I sat up slowly on my sleep mat. I sensed the environment of the room beginning to change as the soft wind outside stirred. Something seemed to be in the wind; something was moving in the darkness. My heart pounded. I strained hard to see. I completely forgot the oil lamp beside my mat. I was afraid and alert, but I could not make myself move any further. I was mesmerized as I sat there in the corner of the room. The incongruities of the moment stilled my body and seemed to force my mind to race with a heightened awareness. Then the darkness transformed.
I saw a thin stream of light pierce the palm fronds of the old, tattered thatch roof. The hairs on my neck and arms stood on end. My eyes were so wide I could feel the dryness overtaking them, but I refused to blink. My heart felt like it would bound out of my chest. I could not move; I was overcome by fear. I can remember how each thump, thump in the center of my chest seemed to sway my small frame back and forth tenderly like a mother lovingly rocking a newborn infant after a day of hard work. Lovingly, but with an expectant force.
My body was overcome with fear, but I also sensed a presence with me in the dark. It felt like loving adoration. I still struggle to explain it. I was afraid and I was captivated by an opposing sensation of complete adoration hinting of the purest tenderness imaginable. There was a loving calm but the chaos of my senses and impending doom enhanced my fear. It was this and it was much more than can be spoken. My mind raced from one thought to another.
Then, the thin stream of light began to expand slowly. Then quickly a pure white light engulfed the whole room. I was bathed in light and the light was full of love. My body wanted to run, but my mind and heart were not agreeing with it any longer. The fear screamed in my body as it struggled to just be in this love-light. Then the presence of a person manifested before me. It was in and of the light. He was just there. The fear shook my body. There were no shadows. He just stood there, out of nowhere, in the blinding light. Just as I thought I would faint, he spoke,
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and be called Son of the Highest, he will take David’s throne and rule Jacob’s house, forever, there will be no end to his rule.”
His voice was like thunder from a distant mountain, but the sound brought an immediate peace to everything; my mind, my body, my spirit – all in unity. All was calm in this love power. All fear was gone. In the depths of my being a confirmation I cannot explain was felt. I sensed his truth. I just knew he spoke truth; however, my mind and mouth still mumbled in disbelief,
“Certainly, you have the wrong person, I am a young and simple Nazarene girl. You couldn’t possibly want me. Besides, I have never been with a man, what you say is impossible.”
The messenger continued, “The Holy Spirit will cover and come upon you, the very power of the Most High will cause you to be pregnant. Then, the child you birth will be called Holy, a Son of God. Also, Elizabeth your cousin will conceive, she is six months pregnant now. Nothing is impossible with God!”
And then I spoke to this messenger with a new-found faith and hopeful expectation, “Yes, so be it. I am ready to serve the Lord's will. Let it be with me just as you say.”
The next thing I remember, I opened my eyes. My cousin Elizabeth was on my mind. The mid-morning sunlight streamed through the palm fronds above. My consciousness struggled to comprehend it all. But I recall the words spoken as if they had been seared into my being
– you will have a son and his name is to be Jesus.
The days that followed were to become increasingly harder; however, I knew that the truth I received was even greater than I could fully understand… My faith in God had delivered a hope beyond the possible.
My faith somehow delivered hope. A hope of exceeding expectations of God's grace, mercy and an unfathomable love.