Another Mary Story
“What do you mean you’re pregnant?” Mary’s father probably didn’t mean to say it as loud as he had. He certainly didn’t want the neighbors to hear what was happening in his household right now.
Mary, his perfect little girl, was standing before him telling him that she was pregnant. Mary, who he had never had trouble out of. Mary, who had been an example to all the other little girls around. His Mary was pregnant. And here she was, in the process of marrying a decent man… and she wanders in and says she’s pregnant?
The problem with life in a little country town is that it’s impossible to hide these sorts of dishonorable events. Maybe people in the big cities can sweep stuff like this under the rug, but not in this little town. Everyone would know… if they didn’t already.
“I thought I could trust Joe!” her father sighed, exasperated.
“It isn’t Joe’s baby,” Mary insisted, “He’s never touched me!”
But before she could explain any further, her father’s voice erupted again: “What! What do you mean? Do you know what Joe can do to you?”
Of course Mary knew what Joe could do to her. Hadn’t she reminded the angel that she wasn’t even married yet? That she had never had the sort relationship she needed to have a baby? If she didn’t understand how a pregnancy could come to a woman like her, how could she expect Joe to understand?
In her little village, religious living was as important as food and water. And anyone who didn’t live a seemingly perfect life were at risk of losing everything. People would shun them, reject them, push them to the margins. And for a transgression like what her father was assuming… well, Joe could drag her before the religous authorities who would recomment charges against her. If they were having a really bad day, they could have her stonded to death. Mary and her unborn baby, together.
Mary tried her best to explain to her father about the angel and the very important task God had chosen her for… but even as she said the words, she realized how crazy they must sound. Why would God choose a woman not yet married to carry God’s very child? The rules that people followed–the rules they beleived kept them in line with God–meant the baby would probably never see the light of day. And even if she wasn’t stoned to death, then what? Joe would certainly reject her. And who would blame him? An unmarried woman with a child? No man would have anything to do with her and she’d be left on her own, left to the mercy of the streets. She’d be lucky if she didn’t starve. And she’d be even luckier if she could survive the dangers of violence and exposure and other hardships. It was no life for any child, espcially not for the child of God.
But here she was, explaining it to her increasingly perplexed father, and all she really has to cling to is her trust in God.
God chose Mary for something that seemed impossible, something even God’s own priests were likely to sentence her to die for… and even when God convinced Joseph not to reject her, the danger didn’t end. People were still gossipping. There were still rumors. And then there were the threats–from Herod and from others. How could a poor carpenter and his young wife ever hope to protect this child against the powerful armies of rulers?
God took unlikely people–people not too different from the ones we encounter day in and day out, and put them in a place that should have brought guilt… and turned it into glory.
Young Mary, unmarried, pregnant, and about to be homeless when she gives birth and forced to hop across one border after another as an immigrant to protect her child, becomes the mother of the Son of God. The mother of our Savior.
Fast forward to our day and time, the Marys of the world are now standing in refugee lines, hoping to be permitted into nations where their children will be safe. The Marys of the world are now standing in line at homeless shelters, waiting for a bed to open up. They are standing in line at the free clinics, hoping to find medicine. They are standing in food pantry lines, hoping to feed their families. They are standing in employment lines, hoping to find work that will provide for thier little ones.
And God is there with them, ready turn guilt into glory by the power of his grace…
The question is, will be like the religious people of Mary’s day, waiting with stone in hand, ready for her disgraced soon-to-be-husband to drag her forward and charge her with immorality? Or will we be like her cousin Elizabeth, who knew the moment she saw Mary that she was carrying within her someone… something… extradorinary? Will be like Herod? So afraid of losing our own power that we sould seek to destroy a child? Or will we be like Joseph, who married a woman no one would have blamed him for rejecting, all because he knew God would make glory of it all?
Will we be a part of God’s grace? Or will we be a part of humanity’s guilt?