When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:17-19 NRSV)
It was over. This long, strange journey, the journey that had started with the vision of the angel at the well, was at last over. What the angel had promised was now fulfilled; God always keeps God’s promises.
I couldn’t help but think how young I was then. It was only nine months ago but it could easily have been nine years, or ninety. I was so silly in those days—a typical teenager. Imagine, rushing madly in to tell Joseph about this miraculous event that was happening to me—to us. No wonder he was so angry with me. I well remember his bitter rebuke: “Mary, there is only one way a girl becomes pregnant, and it doesn’t involve angels or mysterious Presences.” And I had crept away and cried my eyes out.
But the next day there was a change in him, a gentleness. He came to me and kissed me tenderly, more tenderly than he’d ever done. “I’m so sorry, my darling,” he said simply. “Forgive me.” And for the next nine months he had looked after me so lovingly that I barely had to lift a finger around the house—he even went to draw the water!
Then came the dreadful day when he came back downcast and angry from the registrar. “We have to go to Bethlehem,” he said dully. I protested. It was winter and a long journey. How would I and the child survive it? But we had to do it. Better risk death along the way than see him thrown into a Roman prison, leaving me abandoned.
It didn’t turn out badly. People were kind on the journey and looked after me. Then we got to Bethlehem and there wasn’t any room at the inn. I was in despair: Where was I going to have my baby? The birth was imminent. But then the innkeeper said he did have some room, only it was in a cave that they used as a stable! I started laughing: the Son of God was to be born in a stable! It wasn’t too bad: the stable was clean and warm and dry—I thought of Noah’s ark. They found me a woman, a kind, gentle, motherly soul, to assist with the birth. The birth was easier than I’d thought it might be. And suddenly I held in my arms this beautiful baby boy. He looked into my eyes with his calm, milky ones and I felt a sensation of deep peace.
Then the most extraordinary event of the night happened. Joseph and the baby and I were at last alone in the stable. Suddenly, four rough-looking men, shepherds, burst in upon us. They were tripping over their tongues trying to tell us about the miracles they had witnessed: angels wheeling and dancing in the skies above; joyful songs about “Glory to God in the highest,” and “peace on earth.” One of the angels told them where to find us and they came immediately.
They were so sweet about the baby—cooing over him and kissing him as though he were their own. They held him—they all wanted to hold him—as gently as if he were one of their newborn lambs, which in a sense he was: Jesus, the Lamb of God and his mother’s own dear darling.
I kissed him and rocked him to sleep.
God our Creator:
thank you for the waiting and the joy;
thank you for new life and for parenthood.
Thank you for the gift of Jesus,
entrusted to our care.
May we be patient and understanding,
ready to guide and forgive
that in our love Jesus may know your love.
May he learn to love your world
and the whole family of your children;
through Christ our life. Amen.
(Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child: A New Zealand [Anglican] Prayer Book)