Mary looked about the room, wondering if it had been her imagination, and yet, even as her thoughts became tainted with doubts, the air still held something—a lingering sense of the heavenly presence—like the faint wisps of a delightful fragrance which haunts each breath and serves as a gentle reminder of a beautiful woman who has just left the room. The air seemed charged with extraterrestrial atoms rubbed into the atmosphere by the angel’s sudden departure from this world back to his own.
Had she dreamed it all? No, even now she could see him standing there, filling the room with his presence! Her mind whirled as she rehearsed every word of his message, fearing that she would forget something, and yet knowing that she would always remember everything! … highly favored … blessed … among women. All her life, she had heard the prophecies, wondering who would be the chosen one to bring forth God’s own Son. How would this happen? What would it be like? What family would be so honored? And now, to her overwhelming amazement, it was her family that had been chosen, and she was the one!
Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS … The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. The words took her breath away and made her heart race with fear coupled with excitement!
“This is too much to comprehend,” Mary murmured to herself as she rose and went to the window, her hands shaking as she reached for the casement. She looked across the busy streets of Nazareth, thinking how impossible it seemed that life outside this room could be so normal; truly it would never be normal for her again!
“How will I tell Mother and Father?” she wondered aloud, leaning out the window and straining to see her mother grinding grain for the noon meal. “Will she even believe me?” Then another face came to mind—Joseph. Will he think the worst? She couldn’t believe that he would, but would he believe that an angel came to her—a mere girl? Certainly, the Lord had appeared to Samson’s mother and even Hagar. Recent news had come that an angel had appeared to cousin Zachariah, and now Elisabeth was expecting! Elisabeth, who was old enough to be her mother!
“I must go to her,” she said anxiously, wishing that she could leave before the day was through.
When the arrangements were made, Mary gladly went with the excuse of helping her cousin through the last three months of her pregnancy. As she rode among the others in the caravan, she couldn’t help but wonder if she would know when it happened. Would she feel different? Would she know? She watched a young mother, who sat across from her, caring for her children, and she saw life in a whole new way. I am to be a mother—the mother of the Son of God; but even as she thought the words, it just didn’t seem real!
When she reached the village, Mary was glad to be away from the others and on her way to Zachariah’s home. Used to hard work but not used to traveling, her body ached everywhere, and she once again wondered if there was another reason for her weariness. When she reached their house, she called to them, entering with caution.
Suddenly, Elisabeth was there, her condition obvious; nevertheless, it was her face that arrested Mary’s attention: Her eyes sparkled with delight, and her hands were raised in praise to God. “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She reached down and gently caressed her middle and reached for Mary’s hand. “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Elisabeth saw the mixture of unbelief and wonder on her young cousin’s face. She gently stroked Mary’s cheek, her eyes softening. “And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
They embraced, as tears filled Mary’s eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “I didn’t know how I would know or when it would happen.”
Elizabeth stroked her hair, “How long our people have waited for this day. And to think that we have been chosen…” Her voice was but a whisper, and the awesomeness of the thought laced each word.
They made their way through the doorway, and Elisabeth motioned for Mary to have a seat; however, the weariness was now gone and in its place was an overwhelming desire to praise God for what He had done. She paced the room, and turned a radiant face to Elisabeth. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior,” she said, her voice shaky with emotion. She shook her head in wonder, “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Her voice became stronger, as the words poured forth from her heart. “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”
Elisabeth stood still, listening in awe and wonder as the young girl before her continued to praise their God.
Mary came to Elisabeth and took her hands, her face shining with love and joy. “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.” It was her voice, but later she would wonder how she had spoken them.
By the end of three months, there was no doubt in Mary’s mind: She was with child, God’s child! Elisabeth had delivered her son, and once again, they watched in wonder as Zachariah’s tongue was loosed and he freely praised the Lord. Too soon, it was time for her to return to Nazareth.
“Our prayers go with you, child,” Zachariah said as they walked to the waiting caravan. To her surprise, he handed her a letter. “If you have trouble telling your parents or Joseph, give them this to read,” he said, handing her the rolled sheath which he had been carrying. “I have told of all the wonders our Lord has performed, and the words which He has spoken to His servant in the past months, as well as all you have told us.”
“Thank you, cousin,” Mary said, relief washing over her taut expression. “And thank you for all you have done for me.” She turned to Elisabeth who held the tiny infant, John. The older woman took Mary into her embrace and held her for a moment before letting her go. “God goes with you, daughter,” Elisabeth said, the added meaning of the words bringing a smile to Mary’s face.
Mary knew she had a month before her mother would know the truth; however, she didn’t have to wait long before the news was discovered. Later that same week, she was coming in from gathering the laundry when she found her mother reading Zachariah’s letter. Her face contorted in confusion as she read. Mary quietly put down the basket and walked slowly to her mother’s side.
“What does all this mean,” she asked, reaching for Mary’s hand.
Mary sat down beside her, never letting go of the offered hand, seeking strength from the work-worn touch that had always been her guide. “Mother, it’s true. All that cousin Zachariah has written has happened.” She hesitated. “And I am in my fourth month,” she added quietly.
Her mother accepted it all, but her mother-heart ached for her daughter. “This will be a very hard thing for your father and Joseph.” She looked at the letter, “Your father will accept this, but Joseph?” She shook her head, her eyes filled with sorrow. “He may still doubt you, daughter.”
That evening, in the darkness of a star-studded sky, Mary told him everything. She spoke barely above a whisper and watched his face as the words which she had dreaded to speak sliced through his mind and pierced his heart. He looked at her, he head slowly shaking before he tilted it to one side—a mannerism she had come to expect when he did not understand. “No,” he whispered in a defeated tone, his face contorted. He rose to his feet, his eyes never leaving her face, glistening with unshed tears. “No,” he said once more, now with more force and a tinge of anger, before he turned and hurried away.
That was the night Mary wanted to die. She slowly rose to her feet and made her way back to their home, wondering what would become of her. You carry my child, came the still small voice to her aching heart. I will take care of you. Peace, be still. As the meaning of the words settled upon her, a quiet calm washed over her like a gentle evening breeze.
“Yes, Father. I will trust in Thee,” she whispered as she walked the familiar path back to her home. Although the sights were as common to her as her own hand, the way seemed strange and foreboding. The enemy of her heart would work hard to snatch away the peace that had just been won.
In the months that followed, Mary stood in awe at the power of God. Many in their village would not accept her story. Some even spoke of stoning her, but Joseph too had been visited in a dream, and he became her strongest ally. The day they left Nazareth, she felt like a captive bird set free. Leaving the shroud of evil thoughts that had marred their last days in their home town, Joseph and Mary were glad to be on their way to Bethlehem.
“It’s as though the edict from Rome was directed by God,” Joseph marveled, as he walked beside Mary, his espoused wife. He had had his doubts, but the dream remained fresh in his mind; and, coupled with the sweet countenance of his beloved Mary, the doubts could not stay anchored in his soul for long!
“What do you think he will be like,” Mary asked, walking beside her husband.
Joseph’s head tipped as he thought, and Mary smiled at the familiar sight. “I don’t know—perfect in every way.” He looked down at Mary, concern in his eyes. “Do you ever wish that someone else had been chosen?”
Mary looked across the rolling hills that stretched before them as she pondered the question. “No,” she said so quietly that Joseph would have missed her response if he had not been so intent. “I am not worthy of this privilege.” Her eyes were bright as she turned to him. “I know our lives will never be the same, but Joseph, our God has entrusted us with the care of His Son! There is no other life so full of meaning and promise.” She hesitated. “It will be difficult, but our God will be with us in a very special way.” She rubbed her swollen abdomen and received a tiny poke as if to assure her just how right she was!