"Mary," my mother calls from the path in front of
our home on the outskirts of Nazareth, "we'll be
back in a while. Make sure you finish the mending."
Her voice trails off as she and my little sisters head
for market. It's finally quiet. Of course, father and
the boys left for the fields hours ago. And now I'm
alone, gloriously alone. Alone with my thoughts and
dreams -- and the family mending.
I sit near the window so the morning sun will light
my stitching. I sew and think.... Of turning fourteen
last month. Of kind Joseph, the village carpenter, to whom
I am pledged. Of
how life will be like a year from now when we're married.
They'll call me the
carpenter's wife, and finally I'll be thought of as a woman
rather than just a
girl. We'll have children of our own, and....
I hear a step on the threshold and look up. Standing in the
doorway is a man,
tall -- extremely tall -- and bright, with a gold sash
girding his shining robe.
I've never seen him in Nazareth. Who is he? What does he
looking directly at me.
"Shalom, daughter, upon whom the favor of the Lord is
resting," he begins.
"The Lord is with you!"
What kind of greeting is this? Who am I that he should
speak to me so?
Should I cry for help? Should I climb out the window and
run? But I sit
paralyzed with my mending still in my lap, needle and
thread fallen to the floor.
"What brings you to our humble house, good sir?" The words
roll out without
me even realizing that I am speaking.
The man stoops to enter the door, and then, as if to put me
at ease, he lowers
himself on one knee so his imposing height will seem less
"Do not be afraid, Mary," he says gently, "You have found
favor with God."
I have been holding my breath, I realize, but now relax
enough to let it out and
take another. His next words, however, terrify me.
"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and are to
give him the name
Me "with child"? Bear a son? I'm just a girl in my father's
house. But he goes
on, and it is all I can do to keep up the words which sound
like a formal
decree from a king or someone he represents.
"... You will give him the name Jesus. He will be great,
and will be called Son
of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of
his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his
kingdom will have no
The man has finished his message for a moment. I brush the
hair away from
my face. "How will this be," I stammer, "since I am a
He must be an angel! The royal manner and presence, the
shining garments. I
clutch the mending still tighter in my fists.
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you," he answers, "and the
power of the
Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born
will be called
the Son of God."
He's not talking about my marriage in a year, and a little
"Joseph" nine months
later. No, he's talking about some kind of miraculous
pregnancy, a pregnancy
from God Himself. A holy Child who is God's Son, body and
Why me, a peasant's daughter in a hill-country village? Why
is God is calling a
mother for His holy Son? Why?
The angel doesn't answer my whys, but his tone changes from
royal herald to
"Did you know that your cousin Elizabeth in Judea is
Old Elizabeth, the priest's wife? She must be sixty if
she's a day! How
amazing! How wonderful!
"Yes," he goes on, "though everyone thought she would never
have a baby,
she's already six months pregnant!" The angel is smiling,
and now I am smiling,
too. Elizabeth, six months pregnant! What a divine joke on
happy she must be! I look at the angel once more, but the
smile is gone.
There is friendliness and warmth, but no smile.
"Mary," he assures me, "nothing is impossible with God."
Then he is silent,
So I'm to be the mother of the promised Messiah? How can it
be, and yet this
is God's angel. It must be true!
But what about Joseph, dear Joseph who loves me. He could
understand this. He would never believe this. And my mother
and father -- the
village for that matter -- how could anyone understand? I
don't understand it
either, but I find I believe it. Deep within I know that
this angel bears me a
message directly from God Himself.
I glance up again. He is still waiting. No convincing, no
arguing, no badgering.
Just waiting for an answer to take back to his Lord.
"Mary, mother of God's Son." It sounds so strange. I am
overcome with love for God who is trusting me to carry out
mission for Him.
At the same time thoughts rush in to compete for my
attention, thoughts of my
future, of Joseph, of my parents, and friends. I can't
expect anyone to stand
by me through this. Can I bear it? I look at my lap. I have
brother's shirt into a tight roll. I unroll it, and try to
pat out the wrinkles.
Yes! I am willing if God will help me. I look up at the
angel and speak quietly
but clearly: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as
you have said."
The angel's face beams, and he rises to his full height.
My, he is tall! The sun
from the window catches his golden sash for just a moment,
sparkles cascade upon the walls and ceiling and floor.
Now I hear the sounds of children laughing and glance out
the window to see
my sisters skipping up the path, my mother a few steps
behind them. I motion
for the angel to leave quickly, but he is no longer here.
The door bursts open,
and my giggling sisters scamper into the room, tumbling the
from their aprons onto the table.
"You seem flushed, girl," mother says. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, mother, I'm fine." She looks at the pile of mending,
hardly begun, gives
me a glare, and then sets about putting away her purchases.
"Mother," I say. "Do you remember cousin Elizabeth who
lives down in
"Oh yes, old Bessie. My, but it's been a long time since
we've seen her and
"Mother, I'd like to visit her for a little while, if you
think that would be okay
"Now whatever put that thought in your head?"
"We'll see, Mary, we'll see. I'll talk to your father. Now
help me cut up these
vegetables. Your father and brothers will be back in less
than an hour, hungry
for their dinner."
"Yes, mother. I'll help right away. I ... I am your
She stares at me for just a moment, till the barest smile
forms at the corners of
her mouth, and then hands me the kitchen knife. "Okay,
Mary, it's all yours,"
she says with a touch on the shoulder, and she's out the
door calling for my
sisters, "Sarah! Margaret! Come help with dinner!"