Even as she travelled along lonely pathways, Mary felt no fear. As her tummy grew so did her confidence in God’s protection and purpose. She could not see the warrior messengers that travelled with her, but she sensed their presence, especially at night-time as she lay beneath star filled skies, thinking on all that had happened.
The hardest part had been telling her parents. Even their strong devotion to God, and to their daughter was stretched to breaking point. While their first fear was not family shame, that fear did quickly surface as they struggled to understand what was happening to their beautiful daughter. Mary wept silent tears at their pain and confusion but a heaven-sent peace was growing within her, a peace that comforted her and sustained her as her family tried to understand. ‘Was it Joseph? Surely not, he seemed such an honest gentleman’, ‘Was it someone else? Had she been harmed in any way? You can tell us anything!’ they assured her; well, almost anything, the notion that God had given her this child was beyond their believing for now. For now there were practical things to be done.
Joseph must be told, maybe even challenged. Mary so deeply wanted to tell him herself. She was prepared for his reaction but to be able to look him in his sorrowing eyes was the very least that she owed him. But this approach was not possible. There was a very real possibility that Joseph in anger would shame her, tell the Rabbi, tell everyone, maybe even have her stoned for adultery. No, it must be her father who would tell him, try to explain what he himself could not yet understand. Mary was to stay in the house; no! not on the roof. She mustn’t be seen.
Her courage failed her at that point, she scribbled a note while her father went to speak to Joseph, and her mother went about her daily chores as if nothing was wrong. Mary left the house, untied the family donkey, and under the darkening sky, left her village. It was something the messenger had told her that had prompted her decision. Her beloved cousin Elizabeth, expecting a child! If she were not herself the receiver of extraordinary news she would never have believed it. She knew in her heart of hearts that while Joseph would be devastatingly hurt, maybe even angry, he would not shame her, he would, very quietly send her away, and then leave himself. Maybe her going would make things easier for him, less to explain, he might even be able to stay, find another wife in time. The thought of it caused even more tears, she loved him, always shad as she was growing up. Drawn to his quiet, calm ways, his faith, his presence. Hoping as a young teenager that he would wait for her, and he had. But now there would be no more waiting, no more marriage!
Gabriel and Michael watched over her as she slept fitfully, ‘She has deep strength and faith’, whispered Michael, ‘Our God has chosen well’.
They watched as she set off on the final part of her journey, head bowed, heart heavy, but determined. The messengers loved her then and continued to push back the enemy’s attacks along the way. They watched as she rode up into the village, a look of bewildered recognition on Elizabeth face as she carefully and proudly carried water from the well. Her eyes looking first to where Mary’s travelling companions might be, then closer, more intently at her young cousin. Seeing, though not yet understanding, the depth of anguish and faith that fought within one so young.
‘Mary’ she gasped, dropping her buckets much to Zechariah’s alarm. She rushed to hug her now openly weeping cousin. Then she leaped back in astonishment and understanding the very moment Mary cried her name. The baby within her ageing womb had leaped and Elizabeth felt herself filled with the Spirit and Presence of Almighty God. Zechariah and Mary watched in wonder as she proclaimed; ‘Mary, God has blessed you above all women, and the child that lies within you is truly blessed. Why would you honour me so, that the Mother of my Lord would come and visit me. When I heard your greeting, surely this baby within me leaped for joy. You are Blessed, Mary, and will be a blessing for generations, because you have believed and obeyed God and what he is doing for and through you! Now, come inside and tell us everything’.