I joyfully skip down the dirt path as the sun rises. The shepherds already have their sheep on the hillside in the distance. I call a morning “Shalom!” to our neighbor who sits outside washing clothes. “Sara,” she says with a smile. “Too much excitement this early in the morning. Are you off to see Mary?”
I cannot help but grin back. “Of course! There is much planning to be done, you know!” I laugh as I continue on my way.
My dearest friend Mary has been recently promised to marry Joseph. I could not be happier for her. She and I have often daydreamed of who we will marry, and I am ecstatic to be with her during this part of her journey into marriage. We have known Joseph for only a few years, but he is just and full of wisdom. “He seems so old,” I told Mary when she told me who her parents had chosen. “But I suppose that is good. He will take care of you, I know.” And she seems so happy, even before they are married. She has always been so full of joy.
Her home is already bustling when I arrive, with her father going into town and her mother making cakes before the fire. “Shalom!” I declare, entering the yard. “Where is Mary?”
“Out back washing,” her mother says. “Shalom to you as well, Sara. May the Lord grant you peace this day.”
I barely nod before going to find my friend. She looks up from washing and a brown lock falls before her eyes. “Shalom, and may the Lord grant you peace this day.”
I sit cross-legged before the wash-bucket. “Shalom. How may I help?”
She smiles. “What is it, Sara?”
“Your family always says that, about the Lord granting peace. They’ve always said that.”
“We have. God promised He would send a Messiah, and He would be the Prince of Peace.”
I scoff in spite of myself. “There is no peace in Israel right now, Mary. You and I both know that.”
She gives a small sigh. I know she does not like politics. But she graciously answers, “That does not change the promises of God. He has given us His words through the prophets, and our Messiah will come.”
I shrugs. “You’ve been saying that for ever. Let me know when it happens.”
She smiles. She is so very kind and good. I sometimes despise her for it; but more often than not, she inspires me. I cannot help but smile back, and soon we are discussing the possible fabric choices for her wedding gown, and where the ceremony will be held.
Each day is similar with my friend. She continually reminds me that God’s promises are true, and the Messiah will come. Some days, when I stay through the evening past dinner, I listen to her family read the prophecies God has given. I believe it all, but it sometimes seems so confusing. I think the prophecies are very vague, and that God is sending Someone to rescue us from our current state of Roman rule. Surely God sees the turmoil here, does He not? Surely He knows what is best for His people Israel. Sometimes, when I sit and think about it, I wonder if I will see God’s promises fulfilled in my lifetime.
Some time later, it is just a morning like any other. I prance happily over to Mary’s home and slide around the side of the house to find Mary kneeling in the yard. She looks pensive, and is trembling. I cannot imagine what is on her mind. “Mary,” I say, kneeling beside her. “What on earth is wrong?”
Her eyes glisten with tears as a wave of emotions washes over her features. “I– I’ve received some news, from God.”
She stands up and stumbles toward her house seemingly ignorant of my presence. I hurry after her. “You’re not well. Come sit,” I urge, but she shakes her head. “I must go to my cousin Elisabeth.”
I wrinkle my nose. Elisabeth is old and overly spiritual, in my mind. “Why?”
“I must. She is with child and I– I should go to her.”
My expressions twists. That must be the news Mary spoke of: Elisabeth with child? That is disturbing.
“Alright. Well, go in peace,” I say automatically. “Tell me when you return.”
Her return, as it ends up, is not for another three months. She wrote me a few letters while she was away; but when we reunite I am overjoyed. “Good heavens, Mary, I was afraid you were never coming back! I’ve had to do all sorts of things without you and your parents will hardly tell me what’s going on with you at Elisabeth’s but rest assured I kept up with many of your chores for you . . .” I embrace her, but then step back and eye up her modestly covered torso. “Have you gained?”
Her cheeks turn pink. “Sara, there is something I must tell you.”
Her eyes are glowing as usual, but when her hands take mine they are trembling once more. “I have told my parents, and Joseph just now, but now I must tell you. God sent His angel to me three months ago, to tell me that I will bear a Son: the Son of God, the Promise. Our Messiah.”
I stare at her, and then start to giggle until I see the seriousness on her face. “Are you being serious?” I say in disbelief.
“Yes. I am. Remember in the prophecies from Isaiah, when it was foretold that a virgin would conceive?” She smiles, and her face is radiant with Heaven’s blessing. “My soul magnifies the Lord. He has regarded my estate, and has done great things in my life. Blessed be His name.”
I am speechless. My friend, sweet innocent Mary, full of joy and goodness, handmaiden of God, has been chosen to bear His Son. My mind cannot fathom it. All those prophecies felt so far-off and confusing and surely impossible.
“But–” I finally find my voice. “What about Joseph? The wedding? What did he say? Did he believe you?”
She takes a deep breath. “He said he needed to think about it and pray. Oh Sara, I am afraid. But I know God’s way is best. Joseph will make the right decision with God’s help.”
I sit down on the ground and close my eyes. A baby. God is sending our Saviour. . . as a baby? It doesn’t make sense. But those prophecies from Isaiah begin to flood my mind. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulders: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” I had always only thought about the government part; but now, looking at my young friend who has the Son of God forming and living inside her, I understand that first He has to come as a baby. And for the first time, I truly believe.
I smile up at Mary. This is real. Our Messiah is come.
“What will His name be?”
A tear slides down her cheek. “Jesus. His name is Jesus.”