"For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."
Lk. 1 : 37-38
A newborn infant shivers in the cold. His small family has traveled many arduous miles. His parents are scared and confused. For when they arrived at their destination, they were not able to find a place to stay. They find shelter in a barn, where the mother gives birth to this helpless bundle. They wrap the baby the best that they can to protect him from the cold, and lay him in a trough of hay that not long ago, animals were feeding on.
This infant does not seem special. He, like any newborn, cannot yet lift his head. He is crying and cold.
His parents, like all new parents, are anxious about the duties ahead of them and how to care for and protect their son.
The scene is fairly typical, with the exception of the location. A child is born to anxious parents and they wonder what they have just gotten themselves into. But this couple has added stress.
In a time when women were stoned to death for being adulteresses, this mother was found with child before she had even lived with her husband. When he found out, he could have had her prosecuted and killed, but because he didn't want to shame or harm her, the worst he had considered was quietly divorcing her. Then, in a decision that must have baffled everyone around him, he decided to take her into his home and accept her as his wife, and her child as his own. Surely the gossip of the town was all about them. And many people probably shunned them or ridiculed them. But they stayed there until it was almost time for the baby to come and they were forced to take a journey on foot and by donkey.
Parents, think about when your child was born. Think about how frightening it was. And most likely, your experience involved a car ride to a hospital full of medical equipment and trained medical professionals. Still, the first time that you held that helpless baby in your arms. This tiny being that depends on you for everything. Isn't it one of the most wonderful, scariest things ever?
Yet this is how God decided to come and walk among us. The creator of the universe and all life therein, came into our midst not even able to lift His head. Came into our world the same way we all do, totally dependent on others for all of his needs.
Think about what that moment was like for Mary and Joseph. The anxiousness of new parents magnified by their situation and the journey they had just taken, and then further, the knowledge that these two poor and humble people were going to be responsible for raising a King. Knowing how I worry about raising my children, I can't imagine the heroic faith that they must have had to even accept this task. But every day, I'm glad that they did.
Our church has a carving of Joseph standing beside Mary while she is with child, that we put out during Advent. When my wife was pregnant, I would look at it and pray for our small family. One day I realized that from where I sat, in a direct line behind and above this carving was the crucifix. And I wondered if Mary knew all she would see happen to her child. I wondered if she knew how he would be tortured and nailed to the cross. My heart aches each time I think of her watching her child suffer through that. It makes me think of all those who have to watch their children fight through disease or chronic illnesses. But I cannot fathom the strength of faith someone would have to know ahead of time that this child she was bringing into the world would be so violently persecuted, and to respond to God's messenger, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
We should all strive to be like Mary and say 'YES!' to God's plan for us even in times when we don't quite understand where He is leading us or when it looks like it may be difficult. If He takes us there, then that means He is there with us, right?
Happy Annunciation all, let's celebrate the day that a brave young girl said 'Yes' to life, for all of us!