I’m so pleased to welcome a guest post from Marion Stroud whose book, It’s You And Me, Lord, I featured yesterday. Don’t forget to make a comment on my blog, thus putting your name into the drawing for a free copy of Marion’s book. Or you can email me at kathyspeak @ aol.com (omit spaces).
Here are her words of encouragement about the New Year:
“You couldn’t make it up!“ Sally pulled a wry face. “If I’m honest it was a nightmare Christmas! My in-laws quarreled with my mother. We had no heating and instead of wearing that gorgeous dress that I’d spent hours shopping for, I was wrapped up in so many layers that I looked like an Egyptian ‘mummy’! The dog pulled the Christmas tree over, trying to get at the chocolate ornaments. And my niece announced that she was pregnant and had decided to be a single mom! Not quite like a Hallmark movie.“
Why is it so important to us to have everything perfect at Christmas? Do we invest so much energy and hope into trying to create the idealized version of the holiday, because we forget that for the main players in the original story, it was nothing like a dream come true?
Mary was young when she became “engaged“ to Joseph. Possibly he was the love of her life and she was full of joy. But even if she was, there was a problem. In her culture, betrothal was a binding contract, and to be pregnant before the wedding could result in death by stoning. I’m sure that Mary didn’t dream of telling Joseph that a child was on the way, well aware that they hadn’t slept together. Or to be faced with the gossip and hostility from scandalized neighbors that they both had to endure. It wasn’t a good start for any marriage.
The birth of this God-given child probably didn’t go according to plan either. Her baby wasn’t born at home, helped into the world by her mother and the village midwife, but after a long journey to a strange town where there was no accommodation available. It must have been terrifying for the teenaged mother–to–be. After all, what did Joseph know about delivering babies?
Their first visitors weren’t excited relatives, eager to see who the baby resembled, but rough and possibly smelly shepherds, definitely from the bottom drawer of local society. And when the Magi finally found them, and offered their strange gifts, their visit triggered Mary and Joseph’s midnight flight into a foreign land, before the soldiers of a vengeful Herod stormed into Bethlehem, bringing death and destruction in their wake.
I think I might have preferred not to be “highly favored“ if I’d had to face having my life turned upside down as Mary did. And yet … we never hear her complain. When the angel came to her, she didn’t understand what was happening, but she stepped forward into the next phase of her life with exultant praise, and joyful acceptance.
Whatever our Christmas celebrations have been like, let’s put any unfulfilled hopes behind us and, as we step into the New Year, make this our prayer:
“How my soul praises the Lord … I belong to the Lord, body and soul … let it happen as you say“…remembering the angel’s response, “For nothing is impossible with God.“