It’s gonna be another sleepless night.
It’s going to be another sleepless night.
This will be, what, my third in a row? Fourth? It has been just over a week since I met with the angel. I don’t think I have had a full night of sleep since.
At first, I was overjoyed. Who wouldn’t be? For hundreds of years, we have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah. For just as long, every young girl has dreamed that she would be the one to mother him. And it’s me. It’s me! My heart races at that thought. Whose wouldn’t?
But I don’t think any of those dreaming girls ever thought through the logical conclusions of their dream. At least, I don’t think any of them would have imagined they would have the same second thoughts I am struggling with now. I am not talking about abortion, I would never be that stupid. But I have been starting to realize that these next few months are not going to be easy. First of all, how on earth am I supposed to tell my parents? Hey mom, hey dad, I’m pregnant. Don’t worry, I’m still a virgin, though. Oh, and this angel told me that my baby is the Messiah. Can you imagine my dad even beginning to try and swallow that one? His daughter, who won’t even be old enough to get a drivers permit for another year and a half, is trying to tell him she is carrying the most important child in Israel’s history? Will he believe me? Would I believe me in his place? Not a chance.
And what about my friends at school? Do I dare even tell them? Do I dare not? How long can I keep going to my classes before I start to show? Do I drop out then, or should I start planning to do so immediately? There’s not a chance on God’s green earth that I will stay through the school year. I remember when Sarah married David. She was a couple years older and two grades above me. Even still, she was the talk of our class for weeks when Sarah was having her baby only five months after walking the aisle. She went from popular to outcast overnight. So what will they be saying about me? I will end up having my baby two months before my wedding.
If there even is a wedding. Father worked hard to arrange my engagement with Jo. He’s a good match. Yes, he’s almost twice my age, but he is wiser and more mature than any of the guys still in school. It also means he is set up in life. He has his own home and shop. He built it himself for goodness sake. He might not ever be rich, but he is kind. Mom says that is far more important.
For me, right now, that thought of his kindness is a lifeline. It is more than just our marriage that is at risk. It is my very life. Now that I am engaged to him, Joseph has every right to have me killed for adultery. No priest, no group of elders, would ever believe my defense. Kings are born in castles, not in the small home of a backwater village in Galilee. If I will even have a home soon.
Part of me knows that death isn’t a real possibility. After all, why on earth would the angel have come to tell me that the baby is the Messiah if I am going to be killed before he is even born? But knowing this with me head does not quiet down my heart enough to let me sleep.
So I live. So Jo doesn’t have me killed. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to break off the engagement instead. It doesn’t mean the gossip will not spread like wildfire the moment word leaks. It doesn’t mean my parents aren’t going to kick me out of the house the moment I try sharing my news with them. Who is going to want a single, unwed, homeless mother?
It’s going to be another sleepless night.
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Mary, did you know. Who would have guessed that a song written by a comedian a couple decades ago would today be such an integral part of the soundtrack of Christmas? I think it is safe to say that this Christmas season, it will be one of the most viewed Christmas songs on youtube. I would also bet that there will be more covers of this than any other song created within the last fifty years as one artist after another puts out their holiday album. It is such a great, heart-gripping, singable song. Who can resist? If I had a voice worth listening to and if I were putting out a Christmas album, it would undoubtedly be on my list.
So who is this Mary that Mark Lowry and, thanks to him, millions of other people are singing to? Who is this woman that we are asking questions of? I have had some Muslim friends get confused when they find out that I do not believe Mary is part of the Trinity. Apparently, they were taught that Christians believe the Trinity is God the Father, Son, and Mother. The funny thing is, the Quran actually mentions Mary more times than the New Testament does. According to Islam, she was born sinless. She was born miraculously to a couple in old age and dedicated from birth to the Temple. There in the Temple, Mary was given a specific room in which to pray. In that room, she was miraculously fed and placed under the guardianship of her uncle Zechariah. At the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, she was declared the greatest woman in the history of the world and made sinless (from what I’ve read, most Muslim scholars view this as a statement on her perpetual virginity). She gave birth while eating dates under a palm tree, and when she returned with the baby to the Temple, the newborn Jesus defended her against her skeptics. At this last point, I cannot but think of the cigar-smoking “baby” from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He stands up in his crib, wags a finger at the Pharisees, and says, “You pwiests outta be ashamed of yourselves.”
Anyways, except for the last bit, that is how Muslims view Mary. What about Catholics? Although they do not worship Mary as divine, it sometimes seems they come close. With some of the statements some Catholics will make, it is no wonder why our Muslim brothers would claim they do. The thing is, most of the Catholic doctrine of Mary does not come from the Bible but from a text called the Protoevangelion of James. The first record of the Protoevangelion we have was by Origin. He called the document a recent writing and clearly false. Innocent the First, is today considered one of the early popes. He was writing not long after Origin when he also condemned it as false. It was not once included as part of the canon by any of the early church counsels. At least one counsel explicitly rejected it. Even Thomas Aquinas, the most celebrated religious scholar in RCC history, rejected it. Even still, it is only in this writing that you will find things like Mary’s perpetual virginity, the announcement of her birth, and her dedication to God from that time onward.
A common prayer to Mary begins, “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thee among women…” This actually brings to mind a time when Jesus was teaching. A woman in the crowd raised her voice and shouted out, “Blessed is your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus did not deny that his mother was blessed. However, he wanted to make sure people kept things in perspective, so he replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” According to Jesus, you and I can be even more blessed than Mary, just so long as we obey Him.
This last statement might sound like heresy to some of you reading me. It actually does line up with what Mary herself has said. In all of scripture, there is only one command that Mary gives. Do you know what it is? She said, “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you to do.” Her only command in all of scripture is that we obey the commands of Jesus. Jesus commands are more along the lines of: come to me, follow me, do what I tell you, listen to my words, and put them into practice. It is made very clear that Jesus loved and respected his mother. At twelve, he chose to return home with her and dad rather than stay in the Temple. At twelve, Jesus had the right to do this and begin learning from the greatest rabbinical scholars of His time. But he chose his parents instead. Jesus also made it a point to see that she would be cared for even as he was dying on the cross. He loved his mother, but he never pointed to her as one worthy of adoration, or even emulation.
So who is Mary? She was a girl, probably in her early teens or maybe even younger when she was first visited by Gabriel. She was still unmarried, which meant she was not far past her first bleeding. Mary had relations who served in the Temple, but she was just a small-town girl who became a young mother of at least three kids. Two of the books in the Bible are written by Jesus’ brothers. In short, Mary was just a normal girl who loved God and wasn’t all that different than you and I. Yes, she was used by God for one of the greatest miracles in the history of humanity. That was because of God’s grace, not her own goodness. She was simply a child who said, “Let it be to me, just as you have said.” Did she have any idea what she had just agreed to with those ten simple words?