Tuesday, December 24, 2013
On the eighth day, Jesus was circumcised. He had to fulfill the law from conception forward. When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple for the dedication and Purification offering, they encountered two people, Simeon and Anna. Simeon prophesied over Jesus noting that some will rise and fall and that Gentiles will be enlightened. He blessed Mary and Joseph, and then looking at Mary said, a sword will pierce your own soul too. Knowing that Mary was a thinker, a contemplator, you know that she dwelled on his words for some time. God may not have told her everything before she became pregnant, but He did give her bits and pieces along the way to prepare her as best He could. Sometimes, though, we don’t understand or see all the ways He has prepared us until we look back on the journey because while Mary wasn’t pierced with the sword as Jesus was, as His momma, you know she had to have felt it too as she watched it happen. She also probably relived it in her nightmares.
Hearing Simeon’s words had to bring the momma bear out in Mary. How overwhelming it must have felt at times knowing she was responsible for raising the Son of God, protecting Him from those who wanted to harm him. Yes, she knew that God was protecting Jesus as well, but there is this fierce, internal instinct mommas have for their babies. They will fight to the death to protect them.
Then there was Anna. She must have been a relief to Mary. The sheer joy and delight in Anna’s face had to have been comforting. Anna doesn’t take the baby in her arms like Simeon did, but rather, she brings people to Jesus who need redemption. How many people have you brought to Jesus who need redemption? I wrote on Anna’s sandals prior to Mary’s.
Joseph and Mary return to Bethlehem and move into a little house and start a life as a married couple. It’s only now that Joseph and Mary consummate their marriage. Excitement, nervousness – do you remember the first time you made love to your spouse? All those emotions and feelings wrapped together in an act of love designed by God. Joseph and Mary have already had to overcome so much, and waiting to be together made it that much sweeter. You know that Mary had to recount every little thing that Joseph had done for her and because of her and how he chose to follow God and lead Mary. Sweetness.
Life for Mary and Joseph get into a routine. I love routine. There’s comfort in it. You know what to expect. But routine doesn’t last forever. One night when Jesus is almost two years old, Magi show up on Joseph and Mary’s doorstep bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These Magi were Gentiles, educated Gentiles who with all their learning and knowledge realized that salvation could come in the form of a baby. Sometimes truth is as simple as that.
I don’t know how far back in Mary’s memory she had stored Simeon’s prophesy about her baby, but when the Magi arrive presenting gold (the gift for a king), frankincense (the gift for deity), and myrrh (the oil for death), I wonder if Simeon’s words came rushing back to her. Mary’s son was born with a death sentence hanging over his head, but Jesus would not stay in the tomb. You can’t put God in a box and you can’t put Jesus in a tomb and expect them to stay there. Hallelujah!
After the Magi leave and Joseph and Mary go to bed, Joseph has another dream. An angel of the Lord tells Joseph to get Mary and the baby and get out of there immediately. Joseph wakes Mary, and they have to throw some things together quickly and flee Bethlehem. Have you ever thought about what you would grab if your house was on fire or if a tornado was coming in your direction? What would you grab? It’s so quick. You know Mary grabbed the gold, frankincense and myrrh. She grabbed Jesus’s clothes and probably a few of his favorite toys. But they wouldn’t be able to take everything. It’s just stuff anyway. They run and keep running until God tells them to stop.
At some point in time, Joseph and Mary hear what Herod did to those poor babies. I wonder if Mary thought she had escaped Simeon’s prophesy. I imagine she must have been heartbroken for those mommas and babies, and she may have felt guilt. She didn’t have time to tell them good-bye or ask them to come with Joseph and Mary. As women we sometimes take on more guilt and blame than is ours to claim.
I’m glad I took the time to study Mary. My heart feels for her. Being the mother of a young boy, I see him do things, and I wonder what he’ll be when he grows up. I see him spending time with his daddy learning how to hunt and fish and camp, and I know that Jesus learned from Joseph about carpentry. I love watching my husband show our son how to do a certain skill. He wraps his hands around our son’s and moves his body in the motion needed to complete the task. They repeat this scene until our son gets it and can do it on his own. How did Mary look at Jesus and Joseph? How do you raise children after Jesus and not compare them to the Son of God? Mary was up for it. She was chosen for it.
What has God chosen you to be? Are you following your husband’s leadership? Are you meditating on God’s Word? Slipping on Mary’s shoes leads you to putting your arms around Jesus, kissing his face, and following where God leads. Will you wear Mary’s shoes?
Monday, December 23, 2013
Elizabeth is in her last trimester, and Mary is in her first. Elizabeth has kept to herself mostly, and we don’t know if Mary has told anyone about her pregnancy either. Elizabeth confirms what the angel told Mary. That had to be so reassuring to this young, teen, unwed mom-to-be. Mary would have helped Elizabeth the three months she was there. We don’t know if she was there for John’s birth, but some speculate she was in order to help with the delivery.
When Mary returns home, she is through with her first trimester. The morning sickness may have subsided. Considering her age, people may not have known she was pregnant until the seventh or eighth month. I know if I were in her sandals, I’d be concerned during that time about how things were going to play out. That’s at least five months of considering every possible outcome. Nothing was within her control. We saw in her conversation with the angel that Mary is a thinker. Like most women, she thinks about what was spoken to her, about her or her baby, and about the things going on around her. So, it only stands to reason that she thought about the repercussions of this unexpected pregnancy.
At some point her pregnancy is discovered by her family. Mary’s family is never mentioned. No conversations with her mom and dad are recorded, but I think about what that conversation would have been like if I had to have it with my parents. I wonder what my response would be to my daughter telling me this story. Someone is delegated to tell Joseph the news, or the news spreads to Joseph. Word got around even back then. There’s a reason God chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly father. He was of noble character and faith.
In contrast to Mary who actually sees an angel, Joseph is led by an angel in a series of dreams over the next several years. Joseph listens and obeys. He submits his doubt and concern to the Lord, and follows the instructions provided. The relief that Mary must have felt had to have been great. He immediately takes Mary from her father’s home to make her his wife, and they begin their travel to Bethlehem. They really haven’t spent any time with each other up to this point, so this trip provided them plenty of opportunity to get to know one another. Don’t you know Mary had to be so relieved when Joseph told her about his dream!? Surely they compared notes about what they had been told. I wonder if they dreamed dreams for Jesus.
We don’t know if Mary walked to Bethlehem, rode a donkey or a cart. The Bible doesn’t say. Check it out. But by the time she would have made it to Bethlehem, she had to have been exhausted. Then Mary and Joseph had to go door-to-door looking for a place to stay. Think of a woman, late in pregnancy, hormones coursing through her body having traveled 90 miles or so, and now there’s no place to prop up her swollen ankles and feet or rest her back. Do you think you might have a woman on the edge of collapse? If she isn’t crying, she is on the verge.
Finally they are led to the area where the manager of the inn keeps his animals. A lot of times, this was like a cave or in the cleft of a rock. It’s not a nice barn or something like that. It’s dark. It may be dank. It certainly smells, and this is where she has to give birth. Nothing sanitary or sterile about this place. We don’t know how long they were there when she finally gives birth, but don’t you know that was an eye-opening experience for Joseph and Mary. Think about the first time you were in the delivery room – what you saw, heard, smell. Mary gives birth to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and is placed in a manger. My daddy pointed out that while it seems like the most unlikely place for Jesus to be born that it was the only place He could be born because the King of Kings came first to be the bread of life for mankind. Just as the animals went to the manger to eat and get nutrients, so do we go to Christ to get our sustenance.
Do you know that Luke never references the star? We get that gem from Matthew. We know it’s been in the sky for about two years when the Magi arrive, so we know it was in the sky when the shepherds came. It’s an assumption that people make, but I doubt they know why. I would have loved to have seen Joseph’s face when the shepherds told them of the angels and the star. You know he had to go out and see it immediately. I wonder how many times Mary took Jesus out at night and pointed at the star.
Friday, December 20, 2013
LESSONS LEARNED IN MARY’S SANDALS:
I confess that Mary is not one of the women in the Bible that I was dying to study or teach, and yet that is what I’ll be doing. How many times have you heard her story especially at Christmas time? You hear the same story year after year after year. People have preconceived thoughts and ideas about Mary; some of which are not biblically based. While my blogs are biblically based, they are not the Word of God unless in italic. I study customs and traditions. I consider what people might have heard and thought and felt by putting myself into their sandals, so my perspective is colored by the life I’ve walked. But it is my goal that as I sit down, praying for wisdom, that God reveals a little something for me to chew on, something new and fresh. So, let’s dive into the lessons I learned while wearing Mary’s sandals.
Mary is old enough to be betrothed, so people estimate her age anywhere from 15-17 years of age. Girls back then didn’t go to school. They learned life skills at the hands and feet of their mothers and grandmothers. These skills would be needed to run their own homes, and these lessons would have started when they were quite young. For Mary to stand out above the rest of the girls her age in order to find favor with God, He must have seen something special about her. But then again, He did create her, and He created her for this life. God’s name, El Roi, the God who sees, was given by Hagar another poor pregnant woman who had run away from Abram and Sarai. When it seems like the choices you make are inconsequential, think again. God is watching. Does your behavior, attitude and actions give God a reason to find favor in you? He created you for your life. Are you living up to the potential that He created in you?
Then the angel appears. After 500 years of no communication from God, Mary is the second person to receive a personal visit from an angel of God. How significant is that!? A poor, humble, young virgin visits with an angel before the head of the priests, before leaders in government, before her fiancé. I would have to think the fact that the angel called her by name had to be as alarming as it was comforting. She does not doubt what the angel says, but can you imagine how difficult it was to process? I love the fact that Luke chronicles the fact that Mary does try to process what she’s hearing. And even when she can’t completely understand everything, she says, Let it be as you have said. How often has God attempted to communicate to you or lead you in a different direction just for you to balk or go the other way because it is comfortable or a known path? Have you ever just trusted God and followed allowing the chips fall where God allows? That’s what Mary did at 15 to 17 years of age. It may be one of the reasons she was chosen for this role in history.
I also notice the things God didn’t say. God knew not to give Mary all the details of the big picture because had she known how cruelly Jesus would have died, she might not have enjoyed his babyhood, childhood, or teen years. She wouldn’t live the life of being Jesus’s mom or a mom to her other children. He also doesn’t explain about the kingdom that Jesus will rule, when that will be or what it will look like. He doesn’t tell her all the things to come because it would simply be too difficult to understand and appreciate and it would be so overwhelming. Instead, God shoulders that responsibility and gives Mary just enough to make her way for the day, for the moment, knowing she will trust Him for the rest.
When I thought about the Holy Spirit hovering over her, my mind went to Zephaniah 3:17, and how God sings over us with rejoicing. I wondered if she heard God rejoicing because if there was ever a time for rejoicing, this would be the time. How awesome that experience must have been for Mary! It’s not the first time in Scripture that the Spirit hovered. If this peaks your interest, it would be a great study.
At some point, Mary has to tell her family about the messenger. We don’t know if she tells them about the angel or of a messenger. Either way, we know that she leaves shortly thereafter to go and visit Elizabeth. Most likely she would have needed a letter from her father or male relative to travel abroad without chaperone. I find it highly unlikely that Mary would have done a lot of traveling by herself prior to this excursion. She would have had to spend the night along the road or in an inn. It could have been a frightful time if she didn’t believe what God had set into motion. She had to know that God would protect her and her unborn baby at all costs.
Mary enters Elizabeth’s home and greets her. Elizabeth is about 6 months pregnant and is full of the Holy Spirit as is her baby, John, who leaps. I wonder if Mary’s voice is the first voice that John heard while in the womb. Either way, he was already testifying to the existence of a Savior while in the womb. Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary confirmed what the angel had told Mary. I love to see women encouraging women, affirming one another. Elizabeth was not jealous. She was thankful for her own blessing. She didn’t need to covet Mary’s. Elizabeth’s greeting is met with Mary’s Magnificat. You can see how she worships the Lord. You can see her heart. She is overwhelmed by the idea that generations to come will know of her and call her blessed. When something amazing happens to you or on your behalf, what is the first thing that you do? Do you give God the glory?
Thursday, December 19, 2013
We head back to Bethlehem to the little home we’ve rented. I’m a little nervous because this is the first time I’ve been with Joseph. We’ve already been through so much together, and he’s been so patient in waiting as have I. Even though he’s not Jesus’s father, he loves Jesus as his very own. I see the way he looks at Jesus. I watch him when he holds Jesus and talks to him and wraps Jesus’s hand around a toy he made for him. When most men would have abandoned me and divorced me, he stayed. When I could have born such shame from those around me, he took me and made me his wife. That act alone gave me a place, a standing in this world. He leads by following what God gives him in dreams. How can I not love this man? How can I not give myself completely and wholly to him? We are husband and wife in every sense of the word.
We get settled into a routine in Bethlehem, and even though everything seems “normal,” the star still shines at night. I love staring up into the night sky. I doubt that Jesus can see it, but I show it to him anyway. I tell him that’s his star. God is giving a sign, a big, bright sign. Jesus is toddling around, getting into everything, curious as to how things work. He’s constantly banging things together and stacking his blocks. He jabbers as he lines up his blocks, and I wonder what he’s saying. He’s such a sweet baby and such a joy. One night around Jesus’s second birthday, there’s a knock at the door. Joseph answers as I clean away the dishes. There are men from the East saying they are kings, Magi, who have come to worship the king. Really!? This hasn’t happened in some time. I am surprised. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. They were so excited and filled with joy. Come to find out, they’ve been searching for Jesus for a long time. They bowed in front of Jesus and laid down gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Jesus warms up to them quickly grabbing their cloaks and garlands, and they are thrilled when he allows them to pick him up. I’m hesitant. They’re Gentiles, but Jesus is safe, so I just try to take it all in. When they leave, I consider the gifts they gave. The gold is for royalty. I smile because he is the King of the Jews. He will reign over the house of David. That’s what the angel told me. Frankincense is for deity. They don’t realize just how significant this is. He is Immanuel, Jesus, Son of God. It’s the third gift that gives me concern – myrrh. It’s what they use to prepare a body to be buried. Jesus is just a baby. He has a long life ahead of him. Why would they give him myrrh? I pack them all away knowing that one day a long time from now I’ll give them to Jesus to do with as he sees fit. I lay Jesus down in his crib. I kiss Joseph goodnight, and I go to bed.
I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep when Joseph begins tossing and turning in his sleep and talking in his sleep. I place my hand on his chest, and he calms down. I roll over, and as I begin to drift back to sleep, Joseph wakes me gently saying, Get up. God’s given me a dream. We have to leave, and we have to leave now. I roll over and look into his face, and I know it’s time for action, not questions. I get out of the bed, pack Jesus’s clothes and a few toys, a bag of food and flasks of water. I grab the gold, frankincense and myrrh. Whatever I can throw quickly into bags, gets loaded onto our donkey. I pick Jesus up and put him in a wrap and secure him to my body. He’s warm and safe. I don’t get to tell anyone good-bye. We just disappear into the night, skipping out on our rental lease.
I’m so exhausted by the time we get to stop, and we don’t get to stop for long. Joseph is emphatic that we keep moving and get out of the region. Several weeks later word comes, and I hear about all those innocent baby boys that were murdered per Herod’s instructions. My heart shatters for those mommas and babies, and to know that God protected us is overwhelming. I know that even now God sees me and is protecting Jesus and myself. When I couldn't have protected my baby, God was. Who would have thought that a poor, young virgin like myself would ever play a role in history like this? Certainly not me.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
We arrive in Bethlehem, and it is busting at the seams. People are everywhere. Everyone from David’s lineage is here. Talk about a family reunion! We have no place to stay, and I start to get a bit discouraged and a little weepy. I find myself getting weepy from time-to-time. Inn after inn manager tells us they are full and beyond capacity. We finally find an inn manager who says he will let us stay with his animals. I know he’s being compassionate because he doesn’t have to do it, but he sees my swollen belly, feet and legs, and he knows I could drop this baby at any time. Neither he nor his wife can live with that.
We make our way to a cleft in the rock where they keep their cow, sheep and donkey. I am so tired that I don’t even care how badly it smells, but the wife comes and mucks out the stalls laying down fresh hay. I try to help, but let’s face it, I can’t get up on my own once I’m down. I rest as much as I can, and I sleep as well as one can when there are animals around you.
Joseph makes his way around town finding out where he has to go to register and what is required. He doesn’t wander away often or too far. He also knows at any moment Jesus could come, and he asks the manager’s wife to check on me when she can.
The time came, and Joseph was there, right by my side the whole time, holding my hand, stroking my hair as the manager’s wife helped me deliver the Son of God. He cries. I cry, and we clean the baby up. He’s wrapped tightly in the swaddling clothes that are prepared for him, and he’s put on my chest. His sweet puffy eyes and pink skin. I stroke his face, and Joseph holds us both. I kiss Jesus on the forehead and begin to nurse. This is a moment I will treasure – the three of us with the animals in the cleft of the rock.
Night falls, and I know I can’t hold him all night. I’ve held him all day. I didn’t know what the Son of God’s face would look like as a tiny baby, so I’ve studied his features while I held him in my arms. His eye brows, his nose, his lips, his ears, his hair, his eyes. This is the face of God’s Son. I’m holding God’s Son, and while I know I need to put him down, I just hold on for one moment longer before Joseph takes him and lays him in the manger Joseph prepared with fresh hay and blankets. I've protected him for nine months inside my womb, but now He's here, and I'm a little overwhelmed that now I protect Him with the fiercest mother's love I've ever known.
Even though Jesus was placed in the manger, the animal’s trough for food, none of them bothered him. There was a curious lamb, but they never got close. When it was their feeding time, we removed Jesus and his blankets so they could feed. I knew this arrangement was not permanent. I knew at some point in time we would be living somewhere else, but in the meantime, my baby would share his bed with the animals. It was the best we could do, and I wonder what kind of place is this for the future king.
It is well past meal time when we hear a commotion outside our makeshift home. Joseph goes to check it out and meets some shepherds who are heading in our direction. They keep looking up into the night sky. They are so excited and animated and loud. They are talking over each other in their excitement. One runs ahead of another as they jostle to get to Joseph. They ask Joseph if this is where the Christ child is. Surprised, Joseph tells them “yes.” The shepherds come in as Joseph stands there stooped by what’s going on. That’s when I saw Joseph look into the sky. He stared for a moment, looked at me, and grinned.
To be honest, I know shepherds are typically smelly people, but I couldn’t smell them over the other smells in our little place. They were just so excited. We hadn’t told anyone about Jesus being born. I doubt the manager’s wife went and told them, plus we didn’t tell her that I had just given birth to God’s Son. That’s when they told us about the angel and the singing angels. They told us how the sky exploded with a bright light and the sound of angels singing, announcing the birth of the Messiah. They said people had to hear it from miles around. They were compelled to come. They were drawn to find him. They had nothing to offer the Savior. Their clothes were soiled, and they smelled from living with the sheep. They had nothing of value to offer, but what they gave was the purest form of worship and adoration. It was so beautiful. I again cried.
I don’t remember how long they stayed, but when they left, Joseph walked me outside to see the star beaming proudly above our humble beginning, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in the night sky.
Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day as is custom and outlined under the Law, and we would have to wait a little longer to complete the Redemption of the first born and Purification Offering and Ceremony. We travel to the temple in Jerusalem for that. The trip wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Jesus travels well. We consecrate Jesus and make a sacrificial offering in his place. We also complete my Purification Offering with two turtledoves. As we are in the temple, a man named Simeon approaches us. He took Jesus from my arms. Normally, I’d be a bit taken aback, but when he starts speaking, I know it’s of the Lord. Simeon says,
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Simeon said, then he blessed Joseph and I. Looking me in the face, he says, This child is destined to cause the failing and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
That is a lot to process. I do my best to remember everything he’s said when a woman comes over. I discover her name is Anna. She is very old, but I see a light in her eyes. Her eyebrows raise as do the corners of her mouth. She started thanking God and bringing strangers over saying they needed redemption. This is the baby that was born to redeem them. She was filled with such joy. Joseph and I were amazed by the people who knew about Jesus already when we hadn’t said a word.
That night as I nursed this sweet baby, I thought about what Simeon had said. My baby is salvation, and a light for Gentiles. I understand that Jesus has come to reclaim the throne of David, but what do Gentiles have to do with anything? I wonder who will fall and who will rise because of my son. I’m concerned that people will speak against him and my mother's instinct already kicks up a notch. I can’t help but wonder what he meant by, a sword will pierce your own soul too. I’m not concerned for me, but rather, what does this mean for Jesus? Protecting the Savior. That’s my job. I’m his mom. He's a baby. The task seems too daunting and overwhelming, and he’s not even two months old yet.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
My journey to Elizabeth’s home was uneventful. I know God is protecting me. He won’t let anything happen to the baby I carry. I see Zechariah and Elizabeth’s home. I can’t wait to see her. I haven’t seen her in a long time. I knock on their door and enter their home greeting Elizabeth whose pregnancy is clearly in full bloom. As I speak to her, this look comes over her face, and she grabs my hand and puts it on her belly. The baby within her is kicking and actively moving.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!
I step back to listen because Elizabeth is so loud as she’s telling me these things. I haven’t even told her I was pregnant. How could she possibly know?!
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.
And this is how our visit began. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear Elizabeth testify and prophesy to me. It affirmed my feelings and thoughts, and it confirmed what the angel had said. Not that I doubted, but the reassurance was a blessing. Elizabeth knew I was carrying God’s Son without my telling her, maybe others will too.
Elizabeth shared with me the miracle of her conception which explained while Zechariah was mute. I’m not really sure what to make of all of that, but now I understand why Elizabeth was thankful for my instant belief that God was able to do the impossible. Apparently, Zechariah hadn’t believed.
I love being here for her last trimester. I’m helping to take care of her and her home, helping her to prepare for John’s birthday. Elizabeth is so patient with me on those days that I’m fighting morning sickness or fatigue. We are a pair. That’s for sure.
I am there for John’s arrival. How amazing! What a little miracle. I know it’s time for me to head home, so Elizabeth can get used to being the mother she always wanted to be. I head home carrying Jesus in my womb. He’s always with me. That fact alone is so comforting.
I’m not showing yet, but I know the day is coming, and people are going to start asking questions. Here’s the thing. I left right after the angel visited me. I left to go see Elizabeth, so I know there will be those who think I got pregnant while I was gone, and that I was unfaithful to Joseph. Joseph knows he hasn’t been with me. He will know the baby isn’t his. I’m able to keep my pregnancy hidden for some time, but eventually, someone notices the change in my body. My family has a sit-down. I tell them about the angel and what the angel said. I tell them about what Elizabeth said. I can see the doubt and confusion in their faces. I ask them to trust me. I’ve never given them any reason to doubt me before. Trust me for the unbelievable.
Someone has to tell Joseph. I’m not sure who is chosen to tell him. I wouldn’t do anything to shame or hurt Joseph, but this isn’t about him. This is about God. It’s about His plan, not mine.
We wait for Joseph’s response. He could publicly disgrace me and divorce me, and then no one will want to marry me. He could divorce me silently, but men rarely choose that option. He could marry me is the last option. That would be a miracle. If Joseph does either of the first two, my family will make the next choice regarding my life and Jesus’s life. So, I wait, and I pray. Boy, do I pray!
Word comes from Joseph that he has to go to Bethlehem for the census because he is of the house of David. As soon as I hear that Joseph is of the house of David, my mind goes back to what the angel said. My baby, Jesus, was to reign over the house of David. It’s a very little piece of the puzzle. He tells my family that I am to get my things together and go with him. He intends to marry me. Oh how I love that man!
I started packing the few things I have for myself and the clothes I have for Jesus are so small and soft. I pack a few personal things because I really don’t have much, and Joseph and I start our trek. It’s the first time that Joseph and I have been alone, and the silence is a bit awkward. We begin talking at the same time, grin, and he tells me he knows that I haven’t been unfaithful and that I’m carrying God’s Son. I just want to break down in tears, and as a matter of fact, I do. What a relief! Relief washes all over me. I breathe deeply and feel the tension in my shoulders slowly melt away. Since he knows, I don’t have to tell him about the angel’s visit or what happened at Elizabeth’s, but we have about 90 miles of walking and plenty of time, so I do.
I know I’m moving slower than a herd of turtles, but when you are eight and a half months pregnant, walking on cobble stone streets and dirt paths make for some very swollen feet and ankles, not that I can see them, but I can definitely feel them. We take frequent breaks and occasionally I can ride, but truth is, that is uncomfortable as well. I don’t complain though for I know it won’t be long before this little one that I’ve protected inside my womb will make his entrance into this world, and everything will change. Everything.
Monday, December 16, 2013
I’m really a Nobody, but I am content. I live with my parents, but I’m betrothed to a carpenter. One day, I’ll have my own home. I’ll move out of my parents’ home into his home and make it our home. In most ways, I think I’m ready. I’ve been under my mother’s feet since I was old enough to walk. I was sweeping the floor by three and helping to wash dishes. I began learning to bake and cook at a young age as well. When I was young, I used to love mashing the dough between my fingers. As I grew, I learned more things like washing clothes and sewing. I was happy to learn. We didn’t have much, but we shared what we could. Like I said, by the standard around here, I’m really nothing special. I know a lot is expected of me when I become a wife, so I do my best at whatever I put my hand to do. That is the best I can do, as I live unnoticed around here.
I really did not expect to live any differently than the way I was raised, poor and humble. I never expected to wear fine linen or eat rich foods. That’s just not my lot in life, and while some may be striving for those things, I don’t. I’m happy. My needs are met. I need nothing more.
There are some days that draw longer than others. There are days that become monotonous, but in the big scheme of things, my life could be so much worse. There’s comfort in monotony. You know what to expect. Life is predictable, but my life was not destined to be “normal.” When I thought I was unnoticed, El Roi saw me. When I was doing my daily chores, Yahweh observed me. Then one day as I was working on my handwork, I was startled so badly. I about jump out of my skin. It’s not like he knocked on the door or anything, and when I’m by myself, I tend to be deep in thought. So when he appeared you can imagine how my heart jumped into my throat.
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you (Vs 28).
Oh my word! Is he an angel? He’s got to be an angel, but he must be a LOST angel. I am not highly favored. I am a poor, young woman. Plus, the Lord doesn’t speak to someone like me. As I’m trying to process and all these thoughts are running through my head, he speaks again, and once again, I’m a bit rattled.
Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Ummmm, he KNOWS my name, and we have NOT been introduced. My mind is in a whirlwind of thoughts. I have found favor with God. How? My eyes tear up. How is this possible? And I’m going to have a baby? I’m a virgin. I know I’m young, but I know how babies are made. I struggle to find my voice.
How will this be, since I am a virgin?
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.
I pinch myself. This is really happening. How exciting! I’m so excited for Elizabeth, and I truly believe that nothing is impossible with God.
I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.
I fall to my knees and bow my head, and I feel the Most High hovering over me. Is that singing I hear?
I’m still trying to process everything that the angel told me when my family begins arriving at home. I tell them a messenger came and that Elizabeth is pregnant. They are surprised, and I tell them that I am to go to her. At first there are some concerns about my going alone because this is the furthest I will have gone by myself, but I convince them that I’m ready. With their blessing, I go.
I pack a few things and a little food and water, and I head out the next morning. It’s in the evening when I’m alone with my thoughts that I think about what the angel said. I never really knew that God was watching me and that even when no one else appreciated the hard work I did, He found favor in me. I’m so unworthy of this honor, but if God trusts me to do this, then I trust He will deliver me. Who is going to believe me? Yes, I’m still a virgin. Yes, I’m pregnant. No, Joseph’s not the father. No, I didn’t sleep around. I wasn’t unfaithful to Joseph. The father? The Holy Spirit, God. He’s the Father of my unborn baby. I think it sounds too good to be true. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I know there will be many who won’t believe me.
I put my hand on my flat belly and grin. One day, there will be a full-grown baby in here, and he will rule. The angel said Jesus will reign over the house of David and that his rule will have no end. I’m not really sure what all that means. But wouldn’t it be neat to live with the king?
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
LESSONS LEARNED FROM WEARING ANNA’S SANDALS:
Anna’s story is in three verses in the Bible found in Luke 2:36-39. From those three verses and a little digging in the Old Testament, Anna’s story is extrapolated.
If Anna was around 15 when she married as a virgin to a man for seven years and she was a widow for 84 years, then this puts her around 106 years old. We don’t know if she had children in those seven years of marriage; we just know that she never remarried. I wondered if she had children, did she outlive them and that is why she was at the temple all the time serving God? It’s a possibility. Otherwise, she should’ve been with her children and grandchildren. Regardless, God had a purpose for her outliving those she loved. God had a purpose for her life to continue on serving Him. She was focused on God. She was determined in her praying and fasting and serving.
I cannot help but think that when Anna prayed that she was praying for God to move, praying for God to send the Messiah. I bet she was relentless in her prayer. I bet when she started praying, God would smile and think, “Yes, Anna, I know you are ready for the Messiah. I’m working on it.” She was fierce in her prayers, pounding on the doors of heaven and on the ears of God.
It says Anna was a prophetess, but she didn’t become a prophetess until she was 106 because God did not speak through prophets during the Dark Ages. It wasn’t until God sent an angel to speak with Zechariah that God broke His silence. Do you get how huge that is!? She was 106 when she fulfilled one of her purposes God had laid out for her. How old are you? I dare say that you aren’t 106. If you are sitting on your assets or laurels, that is a luxury you can’t afford. Discover what God’s purpose for you is and get doing what He has called you to do. Time is short, sweet friends.
I bet Anna was desperate to hear more and learn more once she heard about Zechariah’s encounter. This was the temple in Jerusalem. You know word got around. Have you ever anxiously waited on news about someone? Maybe someone was in a bad crash or deathly ill or maybe someone was serving in the military overseas and you were desperate to find out any news whatsoever about your loved one. Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt that sense of desperation just wanting some piece of news? I can’t help but think that Anna felt this in her inner most being. So when she finally sees Joseph and Mary holding a baby and Simeon huddling over them praying, Anna become filled with the Spirit. She burst in praise and prophesying. How could she not!? Her enthusiasm and excitement cannot be contained. It was infectious. She was telling those who needed redemption and grace that Scripture was being fulfilled. The time had come. The great I Am was here, and she was blessed to see the face of God. WOOHOO! That right there will preach!
So here are my questions to you: How desperate are you to see the face of God? How infectious is your faith, your enthusiasm over the things of God, your joy at God’s handiwork? Are you so excited about what God has done that you can’t help yourself, you have to tell others? Is the excitement just pouring out of you? And don’t you know that she told some people more than once? Did I tell you I got to see the face of the Messiah? I can’t remember who I’ve told, but did I tell you? When was the last time you felt the Spirit? When was the last time you saw God move or answer a prayer? Are you relentlessly pounding on the door of heaven, bending your Father’s ear, telling Him what is on your heart?
1 Timothy 3:5, “Now she who is widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers days and night…” In a time that Anna could have wished to have died having outlived her loved one, she was still serving God, and she was rewarded for her faithfulness. There is no doubt that Anna’s hope was on God and in God, and the Scripture verifies her praying day and night. What a testimony she has. Life does not end when a status in your life ends. Your purpose does not die just because you grow older and outlive loved ones. Whatever season of life we are in, may we pray without ceasing and seek God for that purpose He has for us in the season in which we find ourselves. The time is growing near, sweet friends. Christ’s return is inevitable. Will you be like Anna looking for Christ? Are you excited about His return? Are you telling people about it? Will you know the Scripture? Will you be praying in anticipation of His return? This is what Anna was all about. She wasn’t all caught up in her status of widow or in her late-in-life age. She was all about serving God and telling others.
I’m just telling you, I can’t wait to meet Anna in heaven. I bet she still has an infectious energy and would love to recall how she met the Savior face-to-face while on earth. I’m going to tell her I really enjoyed wearing the sandals she wore during this period of her life.
Monday, December 9, 2013
My story is a story of how dreams change over a lifetime.
Like any girl, growing up I wanted to marry and have my own household, and for a very brief time I had that dream. You see, my husband died after we had only been married for seven years. Seven very short years. What happens next is really not important. I never remarried. Now I’m so old the detail are a haze anyway. So, please forgive me if my mind is hazy on the past. I am, after all, 106 years old, or somewhere thereabouts. My once eternal youth beauty has been exchanged for gray hair and wrinkles. My naiveness has given way to hard won wisdom. My will, well, my will has long since come under the way of the Almighty.
There comes a time when a widow comes to the realization that her true husband is Yahweh. He alone can protect and provide. He’s the One I serve now, and I am content and happy in doing so. The years of looking for a husband have long since gone. Yahweh’s the only One I serve. I’m guessing somewhere in my sixties, I started coming to the Temple daily and serving God. I figure if I’m still here on this earth, there’s a reason, so I better be about my Father’s business. The Temple is my favorite place to be. It’s my happy place. I love seeing people come with their families. I love ministering to those in need, those who are discouraged, those who just need a hug. I can be found here anytime night or day. Let’s face it, when you get to be my age, we take frequent naps during the day, go to bed with the birds and up with the rooster. Anytime I’m awake though, I’m at the Temple.
Some things you should know about me is that my name means grace. My daddy’s name was Phanuel. His name has an alternate - Penuel, which means face of God. Wouldn’t that be awesome to see the face of God!? I’ve heard people of old having dreams and visions, but it’ been over 400 years since God made His presence known. I have heard tell though that Zechariah saw an angel or had a vision when he was in the Holy of Holies. I cannot tell you how excited that made me. Then I’ve also heard that God sent an angel to a young woman. I cannot wait to meet her, to hear what she was told. I pray for the day that I can hear her speak, the truth she will say. I want God to move. I want to feel His presence, to see a sign or something for myself. I know that’s selfish, but I’m an old lady give me that one indulgence, okay?
My family and heritage is important to me. I am of the tribe of Asher. It’s not a well-known tribe. No one famous ever came from Asher. We don’t have any famous musicians, judges, kings, rulers or warriors. Asher means fortune or happiness. My tribe is mentioned all throughout the Old Testament and is even in Revelations. You see, my tribe started with Jacob’s eighth son was born to Zilpah (his concubine) because Leah couldn’t have children. Jacob blessed Asher saying that Asher would have rich food that he would give a king. In the wilderness marches we numbered 53,400, and when we were given our assigned portion of the promise land, we couldn’t drive out the Canaanites and had to live among them. I think we were absorbed into their culture. It happens.
I fast. Trust me when I say, I won’t die from fasting. I don’t do it every day, but I do it regularly. I tell you this, so you understand my devotion to God and that even I get my attention drawn off of what is important. Fasting draws me closer to God. Fasting requires me to put down the things that I desire or think I need or want and put God first. He does not deny me what I need. I have fasted from speaking and meditated on the Scripture I had memorized. I have fasted certain foods or wine. Whatever God calls me to fast, I do, and I do it willingly and happily. Sometimes I fast on behalf of someone who needs a miracle, but most of the time when I fast, I’m pleading for the Messiah to come.
I pray. I pray without ceasing. When I see someone walk into the Temple, I say their names to God, and if I know their need, I raise it up in prayer. If I don’t know their name, sometime I give them a name or I point them out to God. He knows for whom I pray.
Some of my most favorite times in the Temple are when families bring their babies in to make a purification offering. The baby boys are brought a month and ten days after they are born, and his parents make a sacrifice on behalf of the mother who gave birth. It’s also a time that the first born son is consecrated to the Lord. What an honorable time in a new parent’s life in dedicating their baby to God. I no longer watch the ceremony. I watch the parents’ faces, and from time-to-time, the baby upstages the whole show by doing something unexpected. Such sweet memories as the life of a family truly begins. Sweet, sweet, sweet.
There are other people serving in the Temple as well. There’s a man named Simeon. I got to see him filled with the Spirit of God. HOW EXCITING! Simeon is a great godly man. He said the Spirit told him that he would see the consolation of Israel. That kind of thing gives me goose bumps! I keep a close watch on Simeon. I want to know when God keeps His promise to Simeon in the hopes that I too will have that same blessing. I cannot compare my anticipation of the Messiah to anything I’ve ever known. It just wells up in me, and I cannot contain it.
It was during one of these welling-up times that I feel the Spirit. I get so excited. I start looking. I don’t move as fast as I once did, and I’m not as stable on my feet as when I was young, but the Spirit is urging me and moving me. If I had a beautiful singing voice, I’d be singing at the top of my lungs. I see Simeon talking to a young couple holding a baby, and he’s praying over them. I move as quickly as my feeble legs will carry me, tears of joy running down my face, this overwhelming Spirit causes me to speak. I move in, and I see the face of the Messiah! I raise my hands in worship. I have seen his face! Hallelujah! I’ve seen the face of the Messiah. Phanuel’s daughter, tribe of Asher, Anna saw the face of Jesus! I can’t help myself. Before hearing Simeon speak, I knew this infant in arms was the Son of God. My enthusiasm and excitement could not possibly be contained. People are looking at me. Once they make eye contact, it’s too late for them. I started bringing them over. People who needed redemption and grace. I told them this was the long-awaited Messiah. Long after Joseph and Mary left the temple with Jesus, I was still telling people about looking into the face of Jesus. I told them to keep an eye out, to keep tabs on him as he grew up that he would do great things. I told them to expect it. I won’t live to see it, but they need to know that he’s here. He’s actually here.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, God, for allowing me the blessing of seeing the face of my Savior. I am truly favored and blessed.
Friday, December 6, 2013
LESSONS LEARNED IN ELIZABETH’S SANDALS
In over 500 years God had not moved or stirred among His chosen people. He made His plan known to Zechariah first, a man. While Zechariah had prayed and prayed for a son as well as the coming of the Messiah, I wonder why he didn’t believe when things started happening. Humility? Skepticism? Lack of faith? Regardless, God’s plan was God’s plan, and He set it into motion on His time.
The women reacted differently. Elizabeth was the first person to experience being filled with the Holy Spirit and uttering words only the Spirit could give. Mary, while in her young mind couldn’t understand the “how,” her heart was that of a servant and trusted God to work it out.
To know that God cared about Elizabeth’s shame, to know that He was going to bless her beyond her wildest dreams but couldn’t give it to her when she wanted it most, to know that God was working it out for her good even after decades of wishing and hoping and praying, Elizabeth story resonates with so many. Trust in God and faith are partners. You can’t have one without the other. And to see her character as described as having lived “honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways to the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God,” sets a high standard for those who are living in disappointment that God hasn’t answered their prayers the way we think is best.
Even in Elizabeth’s excitement of being pregnant, she was also humbled that the mother of the Messiah had come to visit her. She wasn’t jealous. We don’t read that she envied Mary in her heart. That’s not the kind of woman Elizabeth was. If she had been that kind of woman, God might not have chosen her. How often do we miss the full joy of a blessing because we see what someone else received and decide theirs is better? It’s childish and immature. Elizabeth knew that God had a special calling for John. She might not have known that he would eat locust and honey and be covered with camel’s hair, but if God was faithful to give her this son, He would be faithful to lead her son.
Elizabeth and John were set apart. They did not drink anything from the vine. Some have said that he may have been a Nazarite which is a person consecrated to God who cannot eat anything non-kosher, touch anything dead, cut their hair or drink anything from the vine. This is not documented in the Scripture that I could find. But they were set apart nonetheless.
She chose to remain in seclusion for the first five months of her pregnancy. Some have speculated that she stayed hidden in case she miscarried. Her shame would have been replaced by pity. Some have said she stayed hidden because of the stigma and embarrassment that might have been attached to a late-in-life pregnancy. I have lived in fear that God would take the child He had given me, but I don’t see that fear in Elizabeth. The second option may be more viable, but what if there is a third option? Elizabeth knew this was ordained from God. She knew that God hadn’t moved or spoken to His people in about 500 years. I think she knew there would be a lot of questions, excitement and concern wondering what it all means. What if she stayed removed from society because she wanted that time for herself to enjoy the pregnancy and to enjoy God’s blessing? She was resting up for the excitement to come. It’s something that I’d like to ask her when I see her in heaven.
Think of her testimony. Her neighbors watched Elizabeth live out her faith when it appeared that God wasn’t listening. Her marriage survived 9 months and a few days of silence. God surprised her with a pregnancy when she was past the age of fertility. Her neighbors watched her testimony bloom as God showed his overwhelming mercy on her giving her a healthy son who was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. God removed her shame and blessed her for her faithfulness. How liberating that must have been. God never forgot about her. He wasn’t surprised when she struggled, and don’t you know that God thoroughly enjoyed blessing her with a baby. James 1:17, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. I think God enjoys surprising us with good and perfect gifts because that is just the kind of God He is. Sometimes we just have to wait for it making the gift that much sweeter.
There are people watching you: your children, your friends, your coworkers, your classmate, your relatives, your spouse. What do you actions, your words, your belief or lack of belief tell them about God? You are a living, breathing testimony either for God or against Him. Which are you? Elizabeth leaves big sandals behind to fill in this area. Can you wear them?
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
NOT FORGOTTEN AND FULL OF SURPRISES
John. I rub my hands over my belly and call his name and smile.
Five months in this house with a man who can’t talk or hear. Think about it. Could you do that with your spouse? Honey, I need some wheat. We’re out. Instead I walk to him, look him in the face and mouth my words. For some unknown reason I speak very loudly and slowly as if that is going to help him to hear me or understand me. Isn’t that hilarious!? HONEY, I. NEED. WHEAT. GO. GET. SOME. PLEASE. Then he gets that confused look on his face, and I show him the empty wheat bag. Ding, ding, ding. The light goes on, and out he goes. We also play charades a lot. Why he acted like he was taking out the garbage, I don’t know, but I come to realize that he’s trying to tell me something about the laundry. I giggle. He gets frustrated.
Don’t think that just because he can’t hear me that means I’m not talking. Some days drift by without a word being uttered in this house, and then there are days, when mine is the only voice bouncing off these walls. I tell Zechariah all kind of things. Of course he’s deaf and can’t hear me, but it doesn’t stop me from talking to him. I love him, and I’m happy in my position, but I confess there are days that the walls begin closing in. And then in my sixth month, I get a visitor. Never have I been more excited to receive a guest! A person who can hear me and talk to me. What a gift! What a blessing!
Mary, my young sweet cousin, Mary. She greets me, and I am beyond excited. As a matter of fact, there is a feeling that washes over me that I’ve never felt before, and I know it is the Spirit. And my baby, John, leaps in my womb. He leaps so hard that if I had been sitting, I’m pretty sure he would have knocked me off my seat. Something is stirring in him as well. I can feel it. Oh the excitement! There is something powerful going to happen! God is moving again. He’s speaking again! Hallelujah the dark ages are lifting. My thirsty soul is being fed by the Spirit.
You know that someone had the nerve to ask me if I was jealous of Mary? The Lord may have answered our prayers for a baby, but Mary’s son is the Messiah. Are you kidding me!? I don’t give those people any place in my head much less my heart, mainly because they are both so full that they are overflowing. I’m just humble by the fact that the mother of the Messiah came to see me, an old pregnant woman. I can’t help but smile when I say that. Plus, she needed encouraging. Bless her heart, she’s 15 and only betrothed. There will be people who won’t believe her. There will be people who will want to stone her, and who knows what Joseph, her fiancé, will do or say. So, I encouraged her. I am so proud of her for believing the angel and trusting God. I’ve seen what it’s like to live as a result of lack of faith in what God can do. Zechariah hasn’t spoken a word since.
I help Mary during her first trimester. You know all the things that go along with that – morning sickness and fatigue. She may be pregnant with the Messiah, but she’s still human. And she helps me in my last trimester when I can’t see my feet, and I waddle everywhere. Word is slowly getting out, but it won’t be long before John is here, and I’ll have to share my miracle with the world.
The day comes that Mary has to go home. I will miss her terribly. I’m old enough to be her grandmother, and yet, we have bonded in a way that I will never be able to bond with another woman again.
Zechariah still isn’t speaking. I’ve almost forgotten what his voice sounds like. He stubbed is toe the other day. He opened his mouth, and nothing came out. While it has been funny at times, it does get old.
Oh my! I brace myself. Contractions. Water breaking. Tears. More contractions. John wastes no time getting here. It’s as if he already has an agenda. I know he has a special calling on him. He’s not to drink of wine and to live a life set apart, but I can’t help what else is in his future. I hold my baby swaddled in a soft blanket. I fall in love with the smallest thing in the world. I knew it would feel like this. I look up into Zechariah’s face. He’s overcome with emotions as tears stream down the traces of his wrinkled face. His face that I’ve memorized is an open book. No words are necessary. The sweetest of moments, the softest of times and it has been so worth the wait. It has been so worth every monthly torture and every year of waiting. I am so full. My cup runneth over.
Zechariah opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. When will God release him from this? He should be shouting it in the street like he always said he would. It’s time for John’s circumcision. The leaders start trying to name my son, Zechariah. I inform them the baby’s name is John. But John isn’t a family name, they say. I say again, His name is John. And as if I don’t know what I’m talking about they ask Zechariah the baby’s name. Of course, they are acting all of this out looking like a bunch of monkeys. Zechariah is watching their antics, and I catch a glimpse and start to chuckle. Someone is rocking a pretend baby in their arms and pointing at it, and speaking very loudly and slowly, WHAT’S THE BABY’S NAME? For a minute I think Zechariah was going to mess with them, but instead he writes down our baby’s name, John.
Zechariah started speaking. I heard his voice. I hadn’t forgotten it after all. He stood up. He was full of the Holy Spirit, and he started prophesying. I sat there in awe. I was so proud of my husband, and I was even more ingratiated to Yahweh who chose to bless us so richly, so completely, so lavishly. All those years, feeling like I wasn’t being seen or heard by Yahweh only to realize that God had surprises planned for me all the way. A surprise pregnancy. A surprise name. A surprise affliction for Zechariah. A surprise visit from Mary. A surprise visit by the Holy Spirit. A surprise restoration of Zechariah. God had never forgotten me. I realize that now. He was just working His plan out in His timing.
I could not want more for my son than to hear what the angel told Zechariah. My son will be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. He was to be the forerunner of the Messiah. I am blessed beyond measure.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Not Forgotten and Full of Surprises
It’s that time of year again. I’ve washed his clothes, packed food for his trip, kissed him goodbye, and watched him walk out the door headed to Jerusalem. I giggle a little because it feels like I’m sending him off to school, not that I know how it feels to send a little mister to school, but I can imagine. He will be gone for a good week. It’s his turn to serve in the temple. He goes twice a year to serve. This is nothing new to us. He comes from a family of priests, and my family of priests go all the way back to Aaron. This is the only life we know. He loves serving. It’s his heartbeat, his passion. He loves studying God’s Word, and he loves coming home to tell me what all he’s learned. The weeks that follow his return are some of the best conversations.
We are followers of Yahweh. I can’t remember a day when we weren’t. It’s not easy either. For years, no, decades we have prayed for one thing, and we have been denied it over and over and over again. People think because we don’t have children that we must have some sin in our lives, most specifically me. I remember weeping every time someone in our community became pregnant. It got to where people avoided telling me that they were expecting. I can’t say that I blame them. There was a time when I was just so tender. I didn’t understand why God would deny us a child, but I trusted that God had a plan. I didn’t know if His plan included children for us or if He had another way He was going to take care of us in our old age. We are His servants, and we humbly serve Him.
Now I’m at an age that no one expect me to become pregnant. For years I was blamed for not being able to conceive. It was my fault that we didn’t have a little Zechariah running around our home. Life happens. People have said some mean and heartless things over the past decades, but I realize they have no idea what I’m going through, and I don’t bother to tell them. I don’t tell them how I’ve grieved every month for the baby that wasn’t there or how my heart and arms feel so empty and bare. Barren. Infertile. Sterile. All labels I disdain but wear because my Lord has entrusted me with this in my life. I choose to keep my eyes looking for the Messiah. I choose to learn the Scriptures, so I can know the signs of His coming. Won’t that be simply amazing!? There has been almost 500 years of silence from God. No prophets. No stirring among the people. What we do have is the Scripture. People are pouring over them thirsty, craving, and desperate for a Word from Yahweh.
It’s funny that after all these years, I still have a desire to be someone’s mom. It’s still on my lips in prayer. To look down into the face of a gift from God, to wrap his fingers around mine, to kiss his forehead, to nurse him, to hear him and feel him against my skin – Those desires haven’t left me. Do you think that’s silly?
So, as the husband of my youth now the husband in my old age ambles toward Jerusalem, I realize just how quiet our home is, and I wonder what it would sound like to have a small voice, a small life living inside these walls. I just want to know what that’s like. Just once before I die. Just once.
Sorry I rambled on so. This is a very tender part of my heart that I just exposed. Please don’t judge me like those around here have.
The week drags on, and I get word that Zechariah has been selected to go into the Holy of Holies. How exciting! I’m so excited for him. This is a once in a lifetime experience. As a matter of fact, many priest die never being permitted to go into the Holy of Holies. On the other hand, some priest have died going into the Holy of Holies. Zechariah and I have talked about what to do if he ever gets the call to go in. We’ve heard stories about what it looks like. They burn incense at 9 AM and 3 PM. When they are burning incense, there is smoke going up, and people stop what they are doing to pray. All these prayers going up. Surely Yahweh will respond. Surely he won’t keep his back from us forever. I cannot wait for Zechariah to get home. I want to hear all about it. I have so many questions. I’m just so excited.
Finally, I see Zechariah returning home. It appears there is someone helping him, and I wonder what has happened. In no time we put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. Apparently while Zechariah was in the Holy of Holies an angel of the Lord came to him. That makes me so excited. I have chills, goose bumps. I’m on the edge of my seat. The angel told Zechariah that I was going to have a son and to call him John. There’s more to the message, but it’s unclear. The angel did something to Zechariah and now he can’t speak or hear.
Is this the trade-off? A baby for Zechariah’s speech and hearing? I don’t question it. I know God has his reasoning. But I have to tell you I’m dying to talk to my husband, to ask him questions, to hear the details from his own mouth. The biggest news of my life and my husband can’t answer my questions. To say that I am filled with joy would be the biggest understatement ever. There are no words that can convey to you what I’m feeling right now. I’m shocked. I’m surprised. I’m in awe. I’m humbled. For once, I cry a river of tears in shear utter delight and joy.
And to know that Yahweh after 500 years of silence, broke His silence to speak to my husband. The only word for that is humbling. Of all the priests, in all the years, in all the times incense was burned in the Holy of Holies, God controlled the lot that selected my husband for this specific time. My sweet, godly husband.
And as the angel told Zechariah, I did become pregnant. I became pregnant when women my age don’t get pregnant. I wasn’t sure those parts were even working still. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t. I stayed at home for the first five months of the pregnancy. Because while I am excited about the pregnancy, someone would find some reason that this should be shameful. Haters. Nothing is going to rob me of this joy. The two words I’ve wanted to say all my life, I’m pregnant, are now the words I hide in my heart. I’ve wanted for so long to shout it from the mountain top that I was indeed going to be a mom. I’ve wanted to tell people in the market about the upcoming arrival of my baby like all the other girls did, but instead, I keep this treasure for myself.
John. I rub my hands over my belly and call his name and smile.