It may be my iconoclastic, eternally questioning little soul but it’s been years since I bought into the “gentle Mary, the meek and mild” interpretation of Jesus’ mother. I guess this is my not very traditional take on the advent season.
A few years ago I found myself asking “what if Mary had said no?” In theory she could have. We do have free will within our relationship with God. I assume she was a well brought up, faithful Jewish girl. She’d probably been to the synagogue; was familiar with the Law and the commandments. She was betrothed; she was as good a married. Customarily it was all over except for the blessing as soon as the marriage contract was signed and here was an angel announcing that if she said yes Someone Else was going to be the Father of her first born. Even if all this was God’s idea, if Mary said yes she was technically committing adultery. If you look at it one way God was breaking His own commandment.
Her first thoughts just may have been “Joseph is not going to believe this” followed by “and neither will anyone else.” Then I can see her straighten up, lift her head and step right off the path of the known of the Law and into the unknown of the Promise.
This was no empty vessel. When God said “walk with me” she reached out and took His hand. Then they both reached out to Joseph and said “trust, it will work out.” Then to add a little extra adventure to the story and get mom to Bethlehem where the prophecy was to be fulfilled the Romans decided that this year would be a really good time for a census. And to accomplish this exercise in imperial bookkeeping for tax purposes everybody had to be counted SOMEPLACE ELSE. Imagine nearing your due date and traveling from Galilee to Bethlehem either one….step….at…..a……time, or perched on the back of a donkey. Makes me sea sick just imagining it and I’m not nine months pregnant.
Then because everyone else in Judea had to be someplace else at the same time as everybody else in Judea, she found herself giving birth in less than shall we say desirable conditions. In a stable for crying out loud. At least it wasn’t by the side of the road. I guess you have to count your blessings. Many Mediterranean buildings do have the living quarters over the barn; even if the stable was in the ground floor of the inn, it was still a stable. Most western mothers to be would probably faint at the idea. The heck with the Father, I’d want my mother, now.
So Mary’s managed to give birth to her promised first born. The family has been counted, the baby has probably had his bris and they learn that life just keeps getting better and better. Somehow the new parents discover that Herod the Great AKA Herod the Paranoid and Extremely Ruthless believes that while prophecies of promised Messiahs are all very well in theory, he prefers theory to fulfillment. It would be better to return home,eventually, by another road. Via Egypt. Joseph’s house and workshop probably weren’t all that much, but it was home. I mean, here we are stuck in a stable and now we’re homeless and on the run. Just keep repeating “we did say yes, we did say yes…..”
Traveling overland through country that’s just this side of being a desert on donkey back toting a newborn? If that isn’t trusting in the promise I don’t know what is. I can only imagine what was running through their minds every step of the way; “we did say yes, we did say yes, we did say yes…………”