We celebrate Christmas every year, but have you ever spent time thinking about what the Christmas story as Mary may have seen it or experienced it? By taking a little creative liberty, I hope to bring the Christmas story to life for you today! Historical facts may vary, but here is a down-to-Earth look at the Christmas story through the eyes of Mary.
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“It’s okay, Mary, I understand,” Joseph muttered. He had offered these same words again and again. Mary thought he may be trying to convince himself as well. Despite his kind words and his tender touch on her shoulder, tears still streamed down her cheeks. She climbed up on the donkey for another day of travel. Her back ached horribly, and it felt like this baby could arrive at any moment. As she bumped along on the donkey, she wondered if she should have accepted Joseph’s offer the morning they left home.
“If you’d rather, you could stay here, and I could go alone,” Joseph offered kindly. He was attaching whatever belongings he could to the donkey as he spoke.
“No, I don’t want to be without you, especially now with everyone talking. Why I can’t even fetch water at the well without the stares and whispers.”
Mary thought of the numerous trips home from the well as she cried. The only thing that helped was returning to Joseph’s loving reassurance, “You and I both know the truth. We heard it straight from the angel. We know we’ve done nothing wrong. We are going to raise the Son of God!”
Every time Joseph said that she got shivers down her back. To imagine…she would be the mother of the king. She could hardly fathom it all. Many months had passed since the news was delivered, but she still remembered the day. She was daydreaming of her recent proposal. How could she possibly wait a year for the wedding? Her fluttered with excitement. How could she wait that long? Then her thoughts were interrupted by a sight she’d never imagined. A bright light shone on her and a kind voice spoke. The presence of this being was like none she’d ever experienced.
“Mary, you are highly favored by God.” The angel continued and explained that she would be with child and that she would give birth to a son and call Him Jesus. This was all to be part of the promise to Israel.
“But, but… I am not married yet,” Mary began to explain.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will give birth to the Son of God.”
Mary couldn’t understand. It didn’t make sense, yet she knew in her heart this was something special. The angel looked upon her as if waiting for her reply. “I am His servant, let it be as you say,” she responded with apprehension.
Then, just as quickly as he appeared, the angel was gone. A part of her wished that angel could have stuck around a little bit longer to maybe answer some of these questions that raced through her mind. She was left alone with her thoughts. How would she tell Joseph? And what would she do if he didn’t believe her and didn’t want to marry her anymore? And her parents…how would she ever convince them she’d never been with Joseph? What about the townspeople?! She heard their harsh talk of others, now it would be her. This was not what she had imagined of a betrothal or a wedding. Never had she dreamed of bearing a child no man could call his own. She could lose everything that mattered so much to her– her fiancé, her family, her reputation, and her dreams.
Mary shuddered as those early feelings flooded through her mind again. Those thoughts weren’t exactly comforting, but they served as a good distraction now, as she bumped along on the boney back of the tired donkey. Her thoughts continued through the past several months and how it all unfolded.
She was so relieved that Joseph had not sent her away with a quiet divorce. It had been a very difficult discussion between the two of them. At first, he wasn’t so sure this child was not another man’s. He felt scorned and hurt, until of course he had his own encounter with an angel. Mary was so glad the explanations were simplified once the angel told Joseph the truth. Who could question what an angel with that overwhelmingly peaceful and yet powerful presence had delivered? It was then Joseph took her lovingly into his arms and promised his love forever.
“Don’t worry, Mary,” Joseph said as he hugged her tightly. “We will raise this child together. I will be like a father to him, I promise.”
“But, Joseph, everyone is already talking. This could get very difficult. And I,” Mary spoke in haste. Joseph kindly put his finger to her lips.
“Mary, I loved you enough to marry you. And God loves you enough to choose you as the mother of the Christ child. That will have to be enough love to get us through this.” He smiled lovingly.
Just then, her thoughts were interrupted with a sharp pain. She doubled over and nearly fell from the old donkey.
“Joseph,” barely escaped her lips with a groan. “I don’t know what it feels like to have a baby, but I don‘t feel so well.”
“Mary, hang on. The little town is just ahead. I can see it. Can you?” Joseph asked nervously.
Mary didn’t know if she believed that was the town ahead or not. Joseph had thought the last two towns were Bethlehem, but they were not. She kept herself quiet and reserved her energy. She held on tightly and tried to think of the beautiful cradle that awaited them at home. Joseph had so lovingly chiseled and carved the cradle to be just perfect for their baby. He had started it the night the angel appeared to him and had worked on it for several months. She wanted desperately to wait and give birth to this child once they returned. She wanted her mother to be there to help her. And she really wanted to use the beautiful cradle.
She continued to bounce along on the winding trail, wishing she could wait and give birth once she returned home. The thought of the trip home on the boney old donkey made her shudder. Joseph led the donkey into town. Door after door was closed to them. “No room. No room. No room.”
At the far edge of the city, they knocked once more. “I’m sorry. There is no room here.”
“But you don’t understand…my dear little Mary…she’s tired and sore and,” Joseph said with great concern.
“Sir, everyone traveling into town feels that way,” the tired inn keeper chided.
“She’s about to have a baby,” Joseph blurted it out in frustration.
Taken back, the inn keeper thought for a moment and then replied, “All I have to offer is the stable,” he said and motioned toward the old weathered structure.
“I am so sorry, Mary,” Joseph patted her shoulder as he took her into the stable to lie down.
As Mary stepped inside the stable the strong stench of manure and animals overwhelmed her. She turned away and hoped Joseph wouldn‘t see what was happening. She caught up with Joseph and grabbed his arm to steady her.
“This isn’t exactly what either of us imagined,” Mary whispered with a tear in her eye. “But then, none of this has been as we imagined.” She squeezed Joseph’s hand as she searched for better words. Then she settled herself in the hay hoping to withstand the pain.
The long minutes turned into hours. Late in the night, her great pain gave way to a new born baby. She heard his cry, and her heart was filled with joy. Her son was here at last. Joseph smiled and handed her the tiny baby. She picked the piece of straw from his tummy and cradled him close to her heart. This wasn’t what she had imagined for her child…dirt, animals, stinky smells, and hay. But she couldn’t think about that right now. This moment was too great. She had just given birth as the angel said she would. Joseph was here, right by her side. And they were looking at their child, the Christ child. A tear trickled down her cheek and landed on the rosy cheek of the heaven-kissed baby.
They snuggled the tiny bundle, laughing and crying all at the same time. Never had she imagined loving a child so much. And to think that he was such a special child. Would others understand? How would they know? Will they treat him like a king?
Mary’s thoughts were interrupted again as Joseph spoke. “I know it’s not exactly fit for a king, but shall we lay him here?”
Mary glanced up as Joseph patted the fresh hay he’d put in the trough next to her. She giggled and sighed.
“Well, it’s not your beautiful cradle, but it will have to do for tonight,” she answered and smiled at Joseph as he cared for them.
They wrapped the baby tightly in some tattered cloths and put him in the trough of hay to keep him warm. The two of them huddled close together.
“I’m so proud of you, I know this is not what you had imagined,” Joseph whispered in Mary’s ear.
They drifted off to sleep, waking only as the tiny baby needed fed.
The sun shined through the cracks of the stable walls. It must be a new day. There was commotion in the doorway of the stable. “Is there a baby here?” Mary jumped in surprise. Joseph rose to speak to the shepherds standing in the doorway.
“Yes, there is. But why do you ask?” Mary felt protective of the tiny baby.
“The angels told us as we tended our flocks. There was to be born a baby in the city of David, a Savior, Christ our Lord!” The oldest shepherd spoke first.
“We were to find him lying in a manger. So we ran and checked every stable in town,” said the youngest shepherd excitedly. “This has to be Him!”
Mary and Joseph smiled at each other. The news had already spread. God needed them here, and now, and even in these circumstances in order to fulfill His promises. It wasn’t what they had imagined for the birth of their baby. But this was what God had imagined for the birth of the king.
Mary looked at her new-born son lying in hay and surrounded by animals and strangers. She couldn’t help but hope that someday the glory of this child would be understood despite his humble beginnings. She smiled at the shepherds who had traveled to see her child. They leaned over the manger and gazed at him in awe. She held the hand of the man she loved and realized his devotion. She pondered these precious moments and tucked them away in her heart.
No, this wasn’t what she had imagined, but it was what God imagined. She could feel His love surrounding her, and that’s what really mattered.