Will you?

This is a piece I wrote for our Advent service last Sunday. Mary, the mother of Christ, was our focus and I have tried to capture some things about her and place them into a slightly different situation than some of the traditional images we have.

We don’t know an awful lot about her from the Bible, but from the culture and history of the time we can suppose a few things. She was young. A young teenager. She was engaged to a man twice her age. She lived in Nazareth which was a very small town, surrounded by hills, where everyone probably knew or at least recognised everyone else. The Bible makes reference to angels as appearing in human form, and yet, having a strange man approach this young girl, would have been quite frightening and Mary would have feared for what he intended to do.

I hope you enjoy reading it and that as we continue in this Advent season, we will all find our hearts mulling over the question ‘will you?’.

She lifts her soil-stained hand to catch the hair from her eyes.

Her skin, darkened by the sun, shines with the sweat of a labour-filled day.

Tapping her foot to release the dust and husks trapped in her sandal, she rises and stretches to relieve the tired muscles beneath her tunic.

There is a shout. ‘Water!’ and she moves to join her brothers and sisters for this brief communal drink.

She lifts the chalk-stone jug and pours. Dipping her fingers into the cool, clear water she frees them from the soil and considers the cleansing of her hands.

The cleansing of her heart.

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.’

As she drinks, the cold water refreshes her dusty, dry lips and her heart is full.

Thankful for this moment to rest.

Thankful for this moment to sit.

To watch.

To breathe.

To live and laugh and love and be loved.

There is water and wine and bread.

There is safe, familial talking of ordinary things and sorrow and hardship and hope and future.

Her future.

Revived she returns to her place on the terrace. Brushing past tall white lilies she disturbs their sweet, strong scent. The fragrance lingers as she bends low to till the soil.

As the day journeys and the shadows lengthen, her eye is caught by a movement on the hill above. A man striding. Purposeful. Not a wanderer. But a stranger. Not from here. Not from this place. Not from her people.

Her heartbeat quickens. Her eyes search far below for her father. Her protector. But he doesn’t see.

‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow, I will fear no evil’

She opens her mouth to cry out. There is no sound. She lifts her tunic and frees her feet to run. She trips. She falls. Into the dust. Her trowel clatters among the stones.

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?’

A voice now. ‘Mary!’

A voice now. ‘Don’t be afraid!’

A voice now. ‘God is with you!’

She lifts her head and looks below. At last, her father sees. She rises to run and the stranger reaches out, steadying her as trembling knees struggle to carry  her.

His hand is warm and strong and gentle.

‘I have a message for you.’

The stranger continues with his startling message.

It is all too confusing.

Too much for this tender-strong heart.

Too much for this child.

He talks of a baby, her baby. He talks of the gift of a son. A son that she must give away for the sake of the world. He talks of a king and a throne and a kingdom that will last forever. He talks of an overshadowing of the most High. He talks of Yeshua. The Holy one. The son of God. The son of Mary. Her son.

‘Will you?’ asks the stranger.

She thinks of how this could possibly be. She thinks of her beloved. Her betrothed. Of her father, nearing now, his eyes fierce, his hands fully ready.

She thinks of the gossip and the shame and the casting aside and the pain of birthing and the kingdom that will last forever.

‘He who dwells in the shadow of the Most high….’

‘Will you Mary?’

The words hang in the stillness of the sunset air.

Her heartbeat slows.

Her eyes well with the tears of burst emotion.

Her trembling hands, still.

In the embrace of her father she senses within herself a strengthening.

A growing peace.

A rising hope.

Fear turning.

Confusion clearing.

Determination settling.

‘The joy of the Lord is my strength.’

She lifts her soil-stained hand to catch the hair from her eyes.

‘I will.’