What a day!
In the comfort of encroaching darkness, Mary sank her still-spinning head onto her pillow, struggling with so many rebounding thoughts.
“I’m still alive - after seeing an angel – an angel who told me I was ‘blessed among women!’ How could that be?
“Pregnant? But who can I tell? And what can I tell them? How could anyone believe me?
“This baby – my baby - will be the Son of the Most High. Does this mean I am also to carry the weight of the future of the whole world?
“How could my cousin Elisabeth be pregnant – at her age?
Heaviness was claiming every part of her body as her mind lapsed towards unconsciousness, and her last semblance of wonderment was to brush her hand over the firm flatness of her stomach. The angel’s voice subsided in the dullness.
Another voice, an incessant, syrupy snarl, began to inveigle itself into her dreams. Drowsiness meant she was unaware of the malevolent stench of its breath, and of how its cunning accusations were masquerading as her own thoughts…
“Some blessing! Here in this hick-town? There should be a lottery’s first prize as a weekend for two in Nazareth; with second prize being a whole month here!
“God spoke to me? No, it wasn’t him, it was an angel. Who do I think I am? Me, Mary - a ‘handmaid of the Lord?’ Was that what I said? What about all those other handmaids or servants of the Lord… they were all abused, beaten, persecuted, killed, sawn in two; you name it, they copped it. Fools; all of them – and what did they get out of it? Zilch, zippo, nothing at all.
“So how would I like to die? Of course, for adultery, stoning is the way. And those stones – as big as my fist and bigger. A mob will be baying for my blood in no time. That’s how they will handle it!
“I’d better get out of town. Maybe some Gentile family over in the Decapolis will take me in; because life around here won’t be worth living once I start to show.
“Oh, and what about Joseph? How will he take the news? He’s such a good man – impossible to tempt. How can I tell him: ‘Guess what Joe! I’m pregnant! But don’t worry, I haven’t been playing around. This is God’s baby – the Messiah! He will save us from all our sins!’
“I can just hear him: ‘Mary, call me Joe - not slow! I know the Messiah will save us from our sins, but who will save you from your sins? Let’s break it off right now. If I can’t trust you before we get married, how can I trust you afterwards? Yeah, that’s it. I don’t want anyone smirking at me when I know I haven’t touched you!’
“Mary - a “handmaid of the Lord?”
The voice now shifted from sowing doubts to arrogant assertions…
“You have no idea how I’ve got everything running my way, with powerful people under my control everywhere. And your Jewish scholars? Bah! I’ve heard their debates and discussions. Some of them say Bethlehem is the place; others say that God will call his son from Egypt. Nothing will happen here - Nazareth is a no-show!
“And what can a baby do? The Jews want another David - a leader who will mobilise them into an army and drive the Romans into the sea! Could a baby do that?
“Mary, you’re throwing your life away.
“Can’t you feel how hard and sharp those stones will be? And who will throw the first one? Probably Jerash – after all, he’s the synagogue leader. Such a good man, and a long-time friend of your family! Poor, sad, foolish Mary, it’s not worth the risk!”
As dawn light silently corroded the shadows of night, a cacophony of bird calls greeted the new day. Mary’s heart joined their praise despite her fitful sleep, and the angel’s message about Elisabeth’s pregnancy strode back into her consciousness. Yes, Elisabeth and Zechariah would understand whatever she told them about what God was bringing into being.
Yes, there was much to ponder in her heart, but despite the risk, she would keep her promise to be the handmaid of the Lord.
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