Mary’s excitement was tempered with a certain degree of fear. Thoughts of her recent experience flooded her mind as she drove into the hill country of Judah. Her small beetle rattled through the dusty paths, meandering past towering stone walls and lush green fig trees.
How can this be?
You are Royalty, I am a common woman…Who am I that you are mindful of me?
…and Aunt Ellie! such good news! God, why the delay though?
I don’t understand it, Lord I really don’t. I’m sure You have a plan, let it be as You have said.
Judah was lively, its entrance surrounded by traders of assorted goods. There were diverse activities to lure incoming visitors. Mary gently braked as a snake charmer escorted his bewitched reptiles across the road. The market extended up the hill where musicians saturated the atmosphere with joyful melodies. Mary drove carefully into a parking space she’d spotted, next to a linen store.
“Good day sister”, Mary said. “I’ve parked my car by your shop. It will only be for a few minutes, if that’s Ok with you.”
“No problem, madam” replied the shop owner.
“You’re not from this part of town, are you”?
Mary grinned “No. I’ve just travelled from Galilee, well, from Nazareth to be precise”
“That’s quite the journey! You’re welcome, the road must have given you a tough time?”
“Ah, but its beautiful countryside. The road was an experience, but thank God I got here in one piece.Seems like a very happy town, what ‘s the celebration?”
“Haven’t you heard? word has it that the Messiah will appear this year!”
Oh, but she’d heard all right! The words of Gabriel came back clearly to her mind’s ear ‘You will give birth to a Son and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, His kingdom will never end.’. There was much she could tell this woman, who seemed kind and helpful: but would she believe the strange things that Mary had experienced?
“Madam”, the firm tone of the shop keeper jolted Mary from her thoughts “So what brings you to this part of town? You’ve travelled very far for just a shopping spree”
“You’re right. I’m visiting my aunt. She’ll be having a baby soon. I thought I’d stop by and get her a few things. She has been craving honey and fruits.
“Unfortunately I don’t sell food items. If you look directly across my shop, you’ll see the store with the green door. That’s a friend of mine. He will be able to help you..”
“Would you mind waiting a bit? I’ll be right back”
The lady hurried into the back room of her store, returning with a wrapped parcel.
“Madam, I don’t know you but I feel strongly that this is for you. It’s my most expensive linen and I have been keeping it for something special. I can’t really explain why, or I’m not sure you’ll understand, but I believe you brought that special something today when you walked in here. There’s a presence of God around you, you are highly favoured and God has blessed you.
You don’t have to pay anything for it. you pick from my friend’s store is on me. May God bless your journey.”
Mary stared wide-eyed, amazed at the beautiful material and favour she had received. But it seemed these wonderful things had been happening since that day. That day! She still couldn’t believe it. Could she tell this perfect stranger who’d just shown her such kindness?
“Thank you, thank you so much sister” she repeated, overwhelmed with gratitude
“God bless you Lydia. My name is Mary”.
“Maaaaary!” Elizabeth yelled with excitement, stretching the name for seconds. Mary hugged her aunt so tightly that they both felt Elizabeth’s baby leap.
“Congratulations! Aunty, isn’t this amazing! We have waited and prayed so long for this”
“My dear, It’s a miracle. Even I, am still in shock”
“Shock? Aunty, it’s been six months, surely you’re getting used to this now”
“Sweety, when God interferes in the affairs of man, nothing can ever prepare you for that. There is no getting used to it!”
Mary stared at her deep-seated wrinkles. There was something amazing about this woman; in her old age she was radiating with beauty, covered in grace – amazing grace. The two women conversed late into the afternoon, sentences punctuated by laughter and tears. The small living room could hardly contain the weight of their stories.
“how did you hear?” Elizabeth asked
“How could you not hear? News travels quickly” Mary shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Really? Mary how did you hear?”
“uhm…Ga – Ga – Gabriel” Mary stuttered
“Gabriel? Is that a close family friend or relative? I can’t seem to place the name”
Of course she couldn’t, there was no such person the family knew. “He’s a messenger” Mary’s voice trailed off
Mary stood up and her aunt looked at her as though to prise open the secrets she tried to protect. The room seemed to have warmed up. Mary unravelled her shawl exposing her white turtleneck jumper. She had a small frame, a fitting physique for a teenager. She wore humility, yet her eyes blazed with courage. Elizabeth could sense something different about this young girl; she carried a presence, like the very presence of God.
“Aunt Ellie, a few days ago, I had an experience that dismantled my logical world. I don’t know how to explain it to anyone. I promise you, I’m not crazy, but this goes beyond the construct of the human mind.”
“My darling Mary, you’re talking to an elderly woman, six months pregnant. Have I not had my own share of impossibilities made possible? Try me”
Mary relaxed her shoulders. Elizabeth’s words had somewhat reassured her. And now she could finally tell someone.
“I was in my room one morning, when I heard a voice say to me ‘Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women’. You can’t imagine how I felt. I did not understand this greeting and couldn’t recognize the voice. I tried to identify the speaker but saw no one. I went to the door and made sure it was locked. There was no way someone could have walked in. I turned around and there he stood.”
“An angel , the messenger.”
“He told me I was going to conceive. Aunty, You know how much Joseph and I have tried to keep each other from stumbling before we get married, you know we want to keep the marriage bed pure. So I was perturbed. How would I conceive? What would that mean for my upcoming marriage? How do I explain this to my family? To my beloved? Somehow, he must have sensed my worries. He told me it was the Lord’s doing and then He said you too had conceived and were six months into the journey. If it’s the Lord’s doing, who am I to argue. I accepted God’s will there and then, which is how I came to visit.
Elizabeth was so moved by Mary’s words, she burst into song, hands lifted in worship.
“Blessed are you O God!”
She reached for Mary’s hands “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the voice of your greeting reached my ears, my baby leaped, that speaks volumes. You are blessed for believing He will fulfil His promises to you”
Mary was overwhelmed, as, compelled to give honour to whom it was really due,
She knelt down and poured out her heart “My soul will magnify the Lord, My Spirit will rejoice in God my Saviour. He has been mindful of the humble state of this young lady. I am nothing, yet You chose me. I am not worthy, yet You saved me. I am lowly, yet You exalted me. Now generations will call me blessed.”
They worshipped God together, two ordinary people connected to an extraordinary experience. There was a child to be born, a king to be enthroned, a Saviour. It felt like the appropriate thing to do at that time. Yet this was only the beginning.
“Aunt Ellie, this is crazy! I remember how your mother in-law used to call you barren. What did she not do to break you with her words? I remember the day we visited and my mum was comforting you in the kitchen. I was too young then to understand. Uncle had given up hope. He would sit outside on that small stool, watching children play..”
“My darling, the past, thankfully is now in the past. I told you to try me with your story, didn’t I?”
“You did, Aunty”
“You see, at the time I grieved because I did not have any children. My close relatives deserted me. I grieved. But look at me now. I rejoice. The delay was not denial. He had a better plan, but I was too enclosed in my own world to see it. Afterall, who can understand the mind of God? I am just grateful! He has allowed me play a role in His great plan. What is impossible with God?”
“With Him, all things are possible” Mary agreed. “I’m learning that.”
They both smiled.
“As for your uncle, he has a little problem.”
“Well, for some time now, he’s been unable to speak. I can’t go into that now, things are still not so rosy as you’ll come to see.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, I hope He is otherwise well?”
“Ah, he certainly is. Afterall, he got me in this state didn’t he? This child is not a one person job”
“Aunty! too much info for this young person here”
“So my Mary is going to be a mother?”
Mary chuckled “Yes Aunty and I have no idea about motherhood. So I’m hoping to learn a thing or two while I’m here.”
“While you’re here? how long are you staying?”
“three whole months!”
“Beautiful, so you can start by making me something to eat then. But first, let’s get your things from the car”
“Joseph, why do you have that look on your face?” Mary asked her husband.
“My love, I know we’ve already had some strange things happen in our lives. And it doesn’t seem to stop…”
“Oh-kay? where are you heading with this?”
“I know you just gave birth, and you still look like hot spice by the way. But we have visitors”
“Well this hot spice is not ready for visitors. Who are they?
“Uhm…so believe this or not, we currently have shepherds outside wanting to see the baby”
“You’re kidding. Shepherds? This baby?”
“Not kidding love. Definitely, sheep caring shepherds and definitely this baby”
“Darling, I’m still a hot mess. We’re currently in this tiny square of hay and animal poop. The baby just went to sleep. Like we’re really doing visit time now? I thought Bethlehem had no CCTV, how did they know we were here?”
Joseph handed her decent clothing “I have no idea. But that’s reason to find out their story”.
Mary had been through an eventful pregnancy. When she returned from visiting her aunt, her pregnancy was difficult to conceal. Joseph was a good guy. He honoured and respected Mary but he could not bear the thought of infidelity during their engagement. Their relationship took a stormy course till God again intervened. The baby was born, not in Galilee, but in Bethlehem. The government had said everyone should go to their hometown for a census, … and Joseph came from Bethlehem. So to Bethlehem they went, only the baby was due and they couldn’t find a room in the crowded hospitals. As one after another, the kindly receptionists told them the grim facts of the overcrowded city, they were forced to take shelter in a farm; but not in the farmer’s house, in the animal pen. Of course they named the baby Jesus – heaven had come to earth, God had come down to man.
Mary knelt by the handmade cot, keeping the baby calm. Gasps of wonder filled the room as one by one, the shepherds trickled in. They looked haggard, hands and feet dirty, but their faces were beaming And Their hearts content.
“Greetings to you both” the leader began “We had to come and see for ourselves. Everything is just as he told us.”
“You are welcome” responded Joseph “who told you about our baby?”
“We were watching our flock, gazing at the starry sky just outside Bethlehem. Imagine our surprise, wonder, even fear when an angel just materialised from nowhere. But his presence was so calming, his voice so gentle and his news so amazing! It was he who told us that the Saviour is born, that we would find Him in the manger”
Joseph marvelled, but Mary just pondered these things.
Some time later, wise men would visit, bearing expensive gifts. But for now, although she knew there was so much more, she was finally beginning to understand.
The Messiah was born. Jesus: He will save the people from their sins. Immanuel: God with us. The lineage of grace , the gift of salvation was all inclusive. God sent His only son in Human form. Our Saviour became personal.
With God, all things are possible.
“God has made us to be conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do. Copper can carry unbelievable riches to others.” – John Piper
Disclaimer: This is not an alteration or a replacement of the biblical story regarding the birth of Jesus. Please see Matthew 1&2 and Luke 1&2 for the original story. This work is only inspired by the scriptures already mentioned.
What is your opinion of this retell of the Christmas story? Is this story worth winning the RETELLING THE CHRISTMAS TALE contest? Let us know in a comment below. (PLENTY GIVEAWAYS FOR 3 LUCKY PEOPLE THAT POSTS COMMENTS)