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Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

The various characters of the Christmas story each play a vital and intentional role.

Herod is the insecure leader, willing to do anything to hold his throne. The shepherds are the unwitting observers just doing their thing, when the heavenly hosts came to make their great announcement to the Earth. Joseph is the strong and silent blue collar man engaged to the pregnant Mary.

And Mary, she is the young woman who delivers heaven to earth.

There are many who place Mary up on a pedestal near or at the place of Jesus. There are also many who view her as no greater than any other of God’s human creations. I tend to walk the fence on this one … and you can blame my grandmother.

I remember so clearly, as an adolescent girl, asking my grandmother why some people elevate Mary so greatly, whereas the small church (and when I say small, it was really small. I remember when we would sing “The Church in the Wildwood” I thought it was written about her church) she attended barely spoke of her. I have always remembered the response she gave, “well, God did choose her to be the mother of Jesus, I think we should elevate her a lot more than we do.”

I have been wondering and considering her words ever since, and how they fit into my worldview.

Maybe Mary had the faith of a mustard seed that I would so love to have. Maybe Mary was able to know no fear, because she had grown up in a time and a culture of verbal history telling. Maybe the generations old anticipation of the Messiah was so desired and longed for that all fears were erased, because the Messiah was finally coming to Jews (and the Gentiles), to remove them from their bondage.

Do we, as Mary, anticipate and desire the second coming? Are we able to put our fears aside, knowing that, in the end (as was true in the beginning) God is in control?

I think my grandmother was right about Mary. God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. He could have chosen another way to send His son, and He could have chosen any other woman. But, he choose Mary.

Perhaps it is the words of Elizabeth that give us the most insight as to God’s choosing of her to bear the son of God,  “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45

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I wrote the following during the Easter season of 2000, when our son was still a baby …

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Luke 2:19

The pains are coming more often, and oh how they hurt. Do you feel what I am feeling?

Soon we will be in Bethlehem and you, my son, will be born;

in a strange inn, in a strange town.

I feel such a felling of impending loss my son, soon you will no longer be just mine, but all of Israel’s. I thrill with every last movement of you withing my womb.

I look so forward

to holding you

to looking into your eyes

to counting your tiny fingers and toes …

how quickly the pains are coming …

Hours Later …

Oh, the pain! Will this agony soon bring you into my eager arms?

This isn’t right. You will enter into this world with the touch of rough hay, the smell of animal dung and with no family to welcome you. How sorry I am that I could not deliver you into a softer, sweeter place.

The pains,

they are coming again …

Later …

The pain is all over now, my son.

You are so beautiful.

Your hands

your feet … ten perfect little fingers … ten perfect little toes …

so soft … but, they are not like mine, or any of my kin.

Your eyes look into mine as though you have always known me, as though you know my very heart … but, they are not like my eyes.

Your lips are as I imagine those of the angels … plump and pink, shaped like a heart. I wonder what words will be spoken from your lips. … but, they are not like mine.

Your nose is a like a piece of art, perfectly positioned in the center of your gentle face … but, it is not like mine.

Your shoulders look like those of a man, broad and strong. They will strengthen to hold your head up high … but, they are not like mine.

Oh, my beautiful little son, is any part of you from me? Was I simply just the vessel from which you came?

Oh course,

now I see,

you have my blood within you. As your heart beats, my blood rushes through your body, making you alive, and fully human.

Hush now, my beautiful baby, no need to cry, the pain is all over now …

Years Later …

Oh, the agony.

Why did they have to pierce a spear in you too? How could they do this to you?

YOur hands,

your feet …

they are pierced through with hard, ugly nails. Oh, my gently one!

Your eyes … they show your pain, they are wet wit your tears!

Oh, my beautiful son!

Your lips … they are so dry, and made worse by the vile those guards offered you! Oh the bear of my heart!

Your nose is covered with the perspiration of your body’s torture! Oh, my sweet one!

Your shoulders are weighed down by the weight of your body! My pride and joy!

And your blood … my blood … flowing our from all over your flesh! Oh my flesh and blood!

I agree with the words of your Heavenly Father,

“You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

You made me a mother, my first born.

May God end this suffering for you so that the pain might finally be over.

The day following the next Sabbath …

My ears still ache with the rumbling of the earth, only moments ago.

That ache is nothing compared to the ache of my heart, for the loss of my dear son. But that man, like the heavenly messenger I met many years ago, says that you are alive, that you have risen from your death.

There you are! You are whole again!

Your hands, your feet … they hold the story of your death …

but you are not dead, you are here, you are alive!

But you speak of leaving to go back to your Father …

please do not leave  … do not leave me … you are my son,

pleases come home with me?

But, you have not forgotten me. You spoke on that cruel cross,

to me,

that your beloved friend and follower, John, is now my son …

that I am to be cared for by him, as though I were his mother.

You are entrusting me and my care, my future survival, to the hands of the one you love most.

Oh, my beautiful gift of a son … from the very hands of God.

As my heart beats, you will always be the blood the flows through my veins.

Ah!

Now there is no more sorrow , no more sadness, no more pain.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4

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I cannot imagine the insecurities of Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:16). The man was not only the earthly father-figure of the Messiah, but he was also married to the Virgin Mary, who was chosen by God, to be the vessel through which God would come to Earth! That, is alot to live with under one roof!

Really, I do wonder about Joseph. I wonder what kind of a man he was. I wonder what he thought about his virgin fiance being with child. I wonder if he felt like he was father to Jesus. I wonder if he felt his role was understated. I wonder if he felt it difficult to correct Jesus, as a child (or did he need correction?). I wonder if he felt used, unjustly treated, minimalised.

The Bible really says little of Joseph, but I do not think that his role is minimal, after all he was chosen, by God, to be the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus as well as to do all that an earthly father does for his child. Joseph married his fiance (knowing that the child she was carrying was NOT his), worked to earn an income, helped to raise Jesus, and moved around whenever he had a dream telling him to.

Matthew 1:18-19 gives the main account of Joseph’s part in the birth of Jesus:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly …”

Being engaged to a pregnant woman during those biblical times was not a politically correct position to be in. He could have had her stoned (adultery), he could have left her publically, but he didn’t want her to ‘disgrace’ her (most of that time would think that it was she who disgraced him), so he planned to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:20

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit “…”

Joseph is one of the small, elite group of people of the Bible who have been given a message through an angel of the Lord. He did not ask for it, he had already made the honorable decision about what to do with his Mary, before any angel entered his dream world. He is also of the line of David, a royal line that was part of the big picture plan of God.

Matthew 1:21-23

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) …”

Joseph did not even get to choose the name of the child that his betrothed was to give birth too. Even that was not in his power or choosing … but, he did it!

Matthew 1:24

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife …”

He married her! He did not divorce her quietly, but he took her to his home. This would increase suspicion that the child that Mary was carrying was his … he put himself in a position of public ridicule.

Matthew 1:25

“But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Hum, how do I expand on this point … ? So, Joseph … a young man … pregnancy takes nine months … Joseph takes her home as his wife around three-four months … so they would be married, without consummating their vows for about four months before the baby was born, and then another two weeks after the birth (before her ritual bath). So, married? Yes. Joseph experiencing marital physical closeness? No. Enough said!

Joseph was a man, chosen by God, because God knew that Joseph was an honorable man, who (obviously) sought to ensure the validity of God’s plan. And really, I doubt he was full of insecurities … I expect that he understood what it was to fully seek God’s will for his life.

What an amazing man he was!


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images-10At this time of year, I am looking for many things … free time, peace, relaxation, togetherness as a family, and a holy night experience.

This holy night experience is one which the Christmas Carol describes. It is one when “the stars are brightly shining” (that means no rain).

It is one that, if you go for a nighttime walk, you can almost imagine being there, in Bethlehem. The stars are brightly shining, and you follow quietly behind that young couple; he leading the beast who is as burdened as the young woman atop it, both feeling the weight of what they carry.

You see them enter the town gates, you see the relief flash on Joseph’s face, the relief that allows him to breath deeply, just as his lady beside him, breathing as the women in her hometown instructed her to, when the pains began.

As you follow along behind you feel the disappointment from the lack of vacancy in the first inn that Joseph inquired. Ah, but there are so many, he will just try again … and again … and … again.

There is no room for them. Mary tries to put on a brave face through the physical pains, feeling hope slip away. Joseph tries to put on a brave face, through the feelings of discouragement at not being able to provide for his increasingly suffering wife.

Finally, an option. An innkeeper offers a warm, dry, safe place … I wonder if Joseph felt the relief of finding a place, and the regret of having to tell his laboring wife that all he could find was a cave-like stable … I wonder if he felt thankfulness for the provision or failure that he was only able to offer a dirty animal refuge for the arrival of the son of God.

“Oh, hear the angel voices” … could Mary and Joseph hear and what was happening on the hillside outside of Bethlehem as it flooded with the light of the angelic chorus singing “sweet hymns of praise”?

As I imagine crouching in the corner of the stable, I try to read the expressions on the faces of the new parents. Their eyes filled with relief, and delight, no longer aware of their rustic conditions, no longer aware of anything except each other and the beautiful new child in their arms.

What were they thinking as they gazed into his eyes? Were their thoughts simply the thoughts of all new parents since the beginning of time, or were they looking at this child and seeing him as Christ?

Then the shepherds arrive, falling on their knees, telling their story of angels on the hillside. Praising his name, as the one who will “break the chains … cease oppression.”

If the new parents showed no acknowledgment of their son’s paternity and purpose earlier, I can almost imagine them looking at each other with wordless acknowledgment of what the other was thinking. Oh, the holy ground that they were on!

“Oh night divine,
Oh night,
Oh night divine”

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God knows what He is doing, both now and always.

For instance, He knew what He was doing when Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Christ child … and not me.

Mary was “highly favored” (Luke 1:28), I on the other hand am … extra human in regards to my use of phrase like, “that’s not fair.”

If I were to have walked in the shoes of Mary, and been visited by an angel (that is big enough as it is) who told me that I, a virgin, was to be inseminated by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God (and not even have the honor of choosing the name of my firstborn) I would not have replied, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

Then off she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth … if it were me, my intent would have been to flee the realities that were going on, and to bury my head in the sand, as the great ostriches do to avoid their problems. But no, there is no avoiding reality from her first words, when Elizabeth’s pre-born boy decides to do cartwheels at the sound of her voice.

And the unfair things did not stop there! After Joseph got his angelic visit, and he hoped on board, they had to head travel to be counted in the census that Caesar decided was necessary. So off the pair trod, Mary VERY pregnant, and the two undoubtedly still confused.

Then, upon arrival at their destination of Bethlehem, there is not a room left for them to find refuge, and for their baby to be born.

At this point I would have been looking up at those shiny stars and saying, “really God? Really? This IS YOUR son, could we at least have a place to bring Him into this world?”

God knew what He is doing, then and now. He does not ask any more of us than we can handle, and being the mother to the Christ child would definitely be more than I could handle.

I remember being a young teenager and saying to my God-loving grandmother, that ‘other’ denomination puts too much emphasis on Mary (parroting words I had heard, rather than what my own heart and brain deemed to be true). My grandmother, uncharacteristically firm and pointed in her reply to her only granddaughter said, “and we do not emphasize her value enough! If God chose her to give birth and raise His Son, she must have been a very special young woman.”

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As I contemplate today about the first family, I am not referring to Will and Kate’s or  Barack and Michelle Obama’s family, I am referring to the first family of Christmas …

images-7

This first family of Christmas was a unique family, one that was never before, and will not be again. Certainly there have been families that began with a teenage pregnancy, or a long trip (our honeymoon trip was a car drive from New Brunswick to Yellowstone National Park …), or concern for the future, or without a place to live, but never was there a family like this first family of Christmas.

Never was there a family who began from such simple means, with such great purpose.

Joseph was a carpenter, a respected, necessary profession in that time, but not an esteemed position in that society. It is a fair guess that Mary would not have been from a household that was ‘above’ that of Joseph, as marrying beyond your class or level in society would not have been acceptable. They were simple, average Jews, living within the expectations and laws of their place, time and culture. They were engaged, thinking of and preparing for their wedding day, but engagement was a little different than what we know of engagement today. To be engaged then meant that you were already married in the eyes of society, in the eyes of the synagogue, in the eyes of God. And, even though if Joseph had died, Mary would be viewed a widow. They did not live together … they barely spoke to each other, and certainly not alone.

Mary was a virgin.

This was written the book of Luke, and it was the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14):

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Joseph was a righteous man.

This meant that he obeyed the laws, followed the rules, was respected in the community. For him to choose to wed his pregnant Mary was to live his days as disgraced as she. His response to the angelic messengers who told him that the conception was from the Holy Spirit (relieving him of feeling disrespected by his betrothed) and the direction for Joseph to give the baby boy the name Jesus was evidence of just how righteous he really was, from the inside out.

“He (Joseph) did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25)images-9

The entirety of the formation of this first family was in the hands of God, who provided the seed in Jesus, who grew into the life source of redemption for all of humanity.

Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day
the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him,
and his dwelling shall be glorious.”

 

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A baby … a newborn baby … with ten fingers, and ten toes …images-8

When the doctor hands a newborn to the exhausted mom, she counts …

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 , 9 … 10 …  t  e  n, complete.

It is as though there is some primal need to count and confirm the existence of all appendages, all phalanges.

When it comes to giving birth, and becoming a mom (I cannot adequately speak for what it is to become a dad) primal is the best word to describe the experience. There is nothing like becoming a mom to make a woman realize what it is to want to save every child everywhere in the world. Newscasts of missing children, sick children, violated children stir a primal response from us that was just not as strong, not as emotion-filled before the moment when we knew, instinctively, that we were a mom.

Sometimes I think that God, in His all-knowing wisdom and understanding of we human creatures, chose to send His son to us, born of a woman, so as to draw we females to Him and to ensure that we would feel, and understand, and KNOW that hope, and peace and redemption was for us too.

Finally, after years of women experiencing a devalued existence, they were not only offered forgiveness and atonement for sin, but it was also provided through the womb of a woman, granting the opportunity to be part of the deliverance of His people. There was a oneness with the Father God, sharing in His love and pride of His own son, as well as the sorrow and separation that the crucifixion delivered.

How many of us, as women, have seen the images of Mary on cards, in nativity sets, or in stained glass windows or how many of us have heard or read the Christmas story, causing us to wonder, as Mary did, about all that had been told to her, all that was happening, and what was to come.

I believe that God was making a point, for all the world to see, of just how valuable we daughters of Eve are to Him.

“Love came down, at Christmas …
Love be yours and love be mine …”

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