The Greatest Story – Part 3: Faithfulness

Mary looked down into Jesus’ sleeping face and smiled. She was so grateful to have this moment of relative quiet to sit and enjoy her precious child. As she laid back and rested she let her mind wander. Mary’s face smiled softly as she recalled the moment she told her dear cousin Elizabeth the news. Mary had known that her cousin would understand the marvellous mysteries of God seeing as she had conceived a child after she had given up all hope. Mary laughed quietly as she recalled Elizabeth’s greeting, it had been unlike anything Mary had ever experienced before. Elizabeth had been truly glowing in her pregnant state and Mary had noticed that the pregnancy had also given Elizabeth a new vigour and enthusiasm for life. Elizabeth had declared that her own baby lept in her womb at seeing Mary’s approach and had boldly declared Mary blessed for her absolute trust in God’s promises. Mary recalled the song of praise that had burst out of her heart at Elizabeth’s greeting and softly sung it to her sleeping child:

Oh how my soul magnifies and exalts the Lord!

Oh how my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

Oh how He has looked upon me with loving care, He did not care that I was so lowly or ill-prepared instead He has used me to bring life and love.

The generations to come will recall how blessed, happy and favoured by God I am, not because of any great statute in man’s eyes but because of God’s great grace.

Oh how I praise God for He who is mighty has done great things for me.

Oh how holy is God’s name, so worthy of all our praise.

Oh how mercy flows from one generation to the next for those who stand with awe and reverence before the Lord.

Oh how powerful His arm is, He quickly scatters the proud; He tears down unrighteous rulers from their thrones; and exult those with humble hearts.

Oh how He fills the hungry with good things.

Oh how faithful He is and He remembers His great promise to Abraham, YES faithfulness is my God’s nature.

How blessed will be those who trust in Him, how life-giving His reign will be.

(inspired by Luke 1:46-56 Amplified)

As Mary allowed the song to ring out in the small stable she was reminded of God’s faithfulness towards Abraham. His story was one that was often told because Abraham and Sarah’s story was a truly inspiring one. Mary smiled as she recalled the story of Isaac, the promised child who eventually was gifted when Abraham was around 100 years old and Sarah 90. As Mary reflected upon that divine miracle she was again reminded of her dear cousin Elizabeth who had a similar miracle occur, although she hadn’t been quite that old. Mary and Elizabeth had reflected on the similarities many times during her 3 month visit. Mary had raced to be with Elizabeth upon the news of her pregnancy and Mary had found great comfort as she had struggled with the news that she would become a mother in such an unusual way.

As Mary laid down to nap with her resting child she recalled the precious time that she had spent with Elizabeth. She had treasured the instruction and encouragement that Elizabeth had instilled in her and missed her terribly. Mary desperately longed to see her right now and allowed Elizabeth’s sweet face to lull her into a deep sleep. Mary awoke to the sound of rustling nearby and she was surprised to see a young boy sitting near her with a look of utter adoration upon his face. Mary wondered who he was and smiled at him as she gently cradled Jesus. The boy crept closer and gazed at her sleeping child. Mary smiled again and offered to hand Jesus to the boy but the young boy shook his head and just reached out a hand to gently touch Jesus instead. Mary noticed that the boy had a drum sitting next to him and watched smiling as he grabbed it and gently started playing. As Mary laid back in the straw Jesus kicked his arms and legs with great excitement, Mary laughed and the boy looked at her with tears streaming down his face.

‘Come they told me, a new born King to see.

Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the King.

So to honor Him when we come.

Little baby I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give the King.

Shall I play for you on my drum?

Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him.

Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.’

After a few more moments his sweet song ended and he scurried away into the night. Mary laid back and treasured the little boy’s song in her heart, it seemed like such a fitting gift and one that she knew had the angels in heaven rejoicing over. Mary was reminded of King David and his ability to create such wonderful songs, as Mary thought back through the many to choose from she softly sung:

‘The Father says to His beloved Son: ‘Sit with Me at My right hand while I subdue every enemy. They will bow low before You and I make them a footstool for Your feet.

Come my beloved Son take the sceptre of strength and rule in Zion where Your Kingdom will have no end. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Oh my precious Son Your people will lovingly offer themselves to You, ready and willing to battle with You in the day of Your power. You will dwell in holiness from the womb until the very end. Forever You will be a priest of the highest order, One of great righteousness. I will be at Your right hand ready to crush the kings that rise against You.

My beloved Son execute judgement among the nations and shatter the strongholds of ruling powers. My Son drink from the flowing brook and be refreshed by My love. Know that in the end You will stand victorious!’ (Inspired by Psalm 110)

Mary lay back in the straw exhausted from her song but feeling refreshed in her spirit. She wondered how it could be possible for her precious son to help fulfil God’s promise to Abraham. Was Jesus to be like the other kings who take on hundreds of wives? Mary shuddered at the thought and sighed. Her weary brain was simply too tired to try and make sense out of any of this, as she laid back down she allowed the promise between God and Abraham to lull her back to sleep:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk [habitually] before Me [with integrity, knowing that you are always in My presence], and be blameless and complete [in obedience to Me]. I will establish My covenant (everlasting promise) between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly [through your descendants].’ Then Abram fell on his face [in worship], and God spoke with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And [as a result] you shall be the father of many nations. No longer shall your name be Abram (exalted father), But your name shall be Abraham (father of a multitude); For I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you’” Genesis 17:1-7 Amplified

Lauren Daigle – ‘Little Drummer Boy’- YouTube Lyric Video

Little Drummer Boy lyrics

Notes:

According to The Passion Translation Psalm 110 is related to Jesus Christ and is quoted more often than any other Old Testament passage. There is an article that looks at this in great depth by 500 Questions.

I also studied “Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived” The Reader’s Digest Association Inc. Printed in 1974 by John Sands Pty Ltd Halstead Press Division. Sydney, Australia.

The Greatest Story – Part 2: Immanuel

Mary’s exhausted body finally succumb to sleep but after only a few short hours she awoke with her heart racing. It took her a moment to remember where she was and as she tried to roll over a soft moan tumbled from her lips as her weary achy body made known its protest. Mary took a few depth breaths to calm her racing heart as she felt her sleeping baby next to her, she pushed herself up into one elbow and tried to stare at his beautiful face in the dim light. Jesus lay in a very unusual crib, a feeding trough, but he didn’t seem to mind as he slept soundly. Mary’s ear picked up strange voices mixed with Joseph’s voice and wondered what was going on. As if he had read her mind Joseph crept quietly to her side to check if she was awake “are you ok?”, Mary tried to sit up and Joseph rushed to assist her as she let out another moan of pain, Joseph’s face filled with concern “I’m so sorry that you’re stuck here in this uncomfortable place”, Mary caught her breath and replied: “it’s ok Joseph, you tried everything, at least we are warm and safe”. Joseph smiled and stroked Mary’s face “you’re really so special”, Mary smiled back at him “you’re pretty amazing yourself”. Their moment was interrupted by Jesus stirring and Joseph gently picked him up “I think someone else wants your attention also”. Mary smiled and reached out for her son. “I’ll grab you some food and then we have some unusual visitors that insist on seeing you and our son”, Mary looked at Joseph with curiosity but he was gone before she could ask for more detail. A few moments later Merry, the homeowner’s wife, came to check on Mary with some food, fresh water and more cloth for Jesus “did you manage some sleep”, Mary sighed “yes thank you and thank you again so much for your assistance I was really quite scared”. Merry smiled “I’m so pleased I could help. I’m sorry that this is the only space we have free at the moment.”. Mary smiled and replied: “I appreciate having somewhere warm and safe, thank you for your kindness.” The two women sat in silence as Mary ate and fed Jesus. Once Jesus had finished Merry helped Mary to change him into fresh swaddling and she rocked him as Mary laid back sipping her water. “I’m sorry that you can’t rest longer but as Joseph mentioned we have some very keen people who are insisting on seeing you and Jesus, is that ok?” Mary again was extremely curious but just smiled and nodded. Merry handed Jesus back to Mary and left to find Joseph. A few moments later Joseph returned with Rufus, the homeowner, and a group of men. The first man laid down a staff as he knelt next to Mary and she recognized it as a shepherd’s hook. Mary smiled and offered Jesus to the man but he just knelt with a look of awe upon his face. One by one the shepherds gathered around Mary and Jesus kneeling with strange looks on their faces. Finally one of them spoke “blessed Mary we thank you for allowing us to visit. We have quite an unusual tale to tell.” Mary’s eyebrows shot up and she noticed Joseph winking at her over their heads, as she nodded the shepherd continued: “we were out in the fields not too far away and it was just like any other night except one particular star seemed extraordinarily bright.” The man’s face lit up as he continued “then the most amazing thing happened an angel appeared and the brightness of the Lord God shone all around us. We were terribly afraid but the angel told us not to fear because he was bringing good news of great joy. He told us that we would find a newborn baby right here in Bethlehem, wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger. We of course wondered just what was so special about a new baby and it was as if the angel understood our thoughts because he explained that this baby is the One we have been waiting for, he is the Messiah!”
Mary’s eyes filled with tears at the shepherd’s words. Then all of them began to speak at once about how a choir of angels had filled the sky and one shepherd sung out the song he had heard:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV)
The first shepherd managed to get the others to quieten down so that he could explain “when the choir of angels left us we packed up and rushed straight here. It was easy to find you as the bright star led us here!”. The crowd that had followed the shepherds listened with amazement and pressed closer to see the baby that they spoke about. Mary hugged Jesus tightly to her chest and smiled as she allowed their words to sink deeply into her heart.

As the shepherds and the crowd disbursed Mary lay back in the straw to unpack all that they had told her, eventually her exhausted eyes closed and she dreamt about the choir of angels. She awoke to another crowd of visitors, at the sight of the distinguished looking men Mary felt unprepared and dishevelled. The men approached and knelt beside Jesus with a look of absolute wonder in their eyes. As Mary sat up straighter one of the men explained how they had been studying and searching. Mary gasped as one man reminded her of Balaam’s prophecy that her family had often recited:
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” (Numbers 24:17 NKJV)
Another man quickly explained that they had been closely watching the skies over Bethlehem because of Micah’s prophecy:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
They explained how they had been watching the skies year after year and had seen the dramatic changes. They had enquired with King Herod about the new born king but he had seemed shocked and disturbed by their news. Joseph gave Mary a concerned look as they both felt uneasy at the mention of King Herod.
As the men explained how the star had appeared and moved to where Jesus lay a great excitement bubbled forth, “today we meet a great King and we have prepared gifts for him”. Each man brought forth a small chest and presented them to Mary, with shaking hands she opened them one by one to find gold, frankincense and myrrh. Tears of gratitude rolled down her face and she thanked them for their kind words and generous gifts. The men visited with Mary, Joseph and Jesus for a little while discussing in great detail their journey and observations and then rested nearby.
The next morning they bid farewell to Joseph as Mary and Jesus slept and explained that they would not return the way they had come because they had all had dreams that warned them to not return via King Herod. As Joseph thanked them again he wondered if Mary was strong enough to leave also because the Magi’s words had increased the unsettled feeling in Joseph’s heart.

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

Picture – Westminister Church PCA

Read the visit of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12

The Greatest Story. Part 1: Joy To The World

Mary had feared so many things about this pregnancy. She had feared when the angel had visited her…. Mary had awakened many months ago with her heart beat madly in her chest, a disturbing dream had gripped her entire body with fear and then someone had called her name in the dark of the night. Mary had been too scared to answer and then her room had been filled with a blinding light. Mary had held her arm up to her eyes in an attempt to block the light. As it had dimmed slightly Mary gasped and realised that someone had been standing in her room. Mary had called out: “Who are you?!”. The response had surprised her: “Mary, my name is Gabriel I have been sent from God with a message for you”. It was then that Mary’s entire body had trembled. Gabriel had continued his greeting to her: “greetings and grace to you, young favoured one. The Lord is with you!”. His words had meant to comfort her but Mary’s concern and confusion had grown as her mind raced to grasp the situation and the words. As if he completely understood her fear and confusion Gabriel had proclaimed: “Do not be afraid dear precious Mary, for you have found great favour with God.”

Mary had sat up straighter and focused her heart upon Gabriel’s words, she had fought hard against the fear gripping her heart. Then Gabriel’s words had granted her a great peace and the moment that Jesus was implanted in her womb she had felt as if peace had been implanted into her heart.

That peace was desperately needed as she had tried to find the words to explain to Joseph something that was unexplainable. Her heart had physically hurt as she watched disbelief and betrayal flash through his eyes. She hadn’t blamed him at all because her story was extremely hard to believe. She had tried to articulate the experience of seeing an angel and the message given. She had tried to explain that the Spirit of God had implanted the precious child within. She had wept for days wondering what his response was going to be. She had known that he could have accused her of adultery and that would mean being stoned, but her prayers had been answered and God had confirmed her story through an angelic visitor to Joseph. They had both wept tears as he had retold her about how close he had came to letting her go.

Mary reflected upon the fact that God had delivered her then and tried to ignite the peace in her heart. But as a strong contraction hit she felt a desperate need to find somewhere safe and fear began to creep into her heart. It was if this whole journey had been shadowed by fear and she had feared so many things.

Mary lifted her weary head, her dusty tear stained cheeks revealed just how painful and difficult the journey had been. She watched through her grit filled eyes as Joseph dragged her and their faithful donkey from place to place, she heard his desperate pleading for a room and wondered if they would ever find a place to rest. Mary cried out to God as another pain hit her abdomen, the birth pains had started as soon as the outskirts of Bethlehem had come into view and were much more frequent and strong now. Mary hadn’t needed to tell Joseph that the time of delivery was imminent because he had sensed it the first moment she had let out a soft moan. Joseph’s kindness, love and concern for her was evident in his pleas with each place they stopped. Joseph had almost exhausted all of his family contacts and there was only a handful of places to try. Mary’s pains continued regardless of the fact that she feared delivering her baby in the street with no shelter. Joseph looked at Mary with utter love and concern as he appologised:  “I’m so sorry we only have 1 more place to try”, Mary tried to smile but tears poured down her cheeks instead, she took a deep breath and mumbled “then let’s pray they can help us”. Mary tried to not get angry about the fact they had travelled for days and now there appeared to be no place for her to rest. She tried not to rage at the injustice of it all, how was she suppose to give birth? Was it to be on the back of the donkey? She feared that she really was going to deliver her child in the middle of the street! What if they could find some sort of shelter, but what? Under some tree if they could find one? Under a stall holder’s table? There simply seemed to be nowhere!

Mary had been afraid of many things but the conditions of her birth hadn’t entered her mind until now. The injustice of the Roman rule seemed personified in this moment just because they wanted to greedily grab every tax penny they could Caesar Augustus had issued a decree for a census to be taken of the entire Roman world. This ruling had forced her and Joseph to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, the town of Joseph’s ancestor King David. Mary had feared their journey through the frightening Jordan valley wondering if they would face a lion or a band of robbers, knowing that both would show no mercy or acknowledgement to the fact that Joseph had ties back to King David and that she was bearing the Messiah. Mary had felt such relief when they had made it through the dim forest without too many troubles. Joseph had done an amazing job of finding shelter at just the right moment, so Mary placed her trust in him once again and thanked God for getting them here safely. As they made their way to the last place on Joseph’s list Mary issued another desperate plea to God.

The man who answered the door tried to explain that he simply had no room but as Mary’s moans rung out in his ears a great compassion filled his heart. He quickly ushered them inside and raced to find his wife.

Mary tried to get comfortable in the hay but the smell of the animals around her made her stomach turn. She issued a prayer though because she was so grateful to have finally found somewhere to rest but if she was honest this hadn’t been what she had imagined. Her ears had registered that they were surrounded by animals but it had taken her eyes quite some time to adjust in the dim light to see them all around her. Mary now smiled at the three sheep who had quickly surrounded her, they had simply ignored Joseph’s prodding and she was grateful for their warmth and comfort. “Joseph” Mary cried out “I did not expect to give birth here!” Joseph apologised yet again to Mary and knelt down beside her “I know I’m so sorry”.

“It’s ok” Mary gasped and Joseph reached for her, “do you want me to try and move those sheep away?”. Mary shook her head “no it’s ok I appreciate the warmth and softness of their wool, it’s actually kinda comfy now”. Joseph smiled and stroked the head of the sheep closets to him  “This journey has made me think a lot about my ancestor King David, he probably slept in a place like where you’re sitting right now”. Mary smiled and nodded unable to speak as another pain gripped her stomach. When the pain finally eased Mary gasped out for help. Just then the homeowner’s wife came rushing to Mary’s side with comforting words. She was soon issuing orders to her husband and Joseph who acted quickly and obediently to the commands issued.

A little while later the sheer terror of the past few hours melted away as Mary gazed into her newborn son’s eyes. Her body felt heavy from the arduous journey, the hours of pain and her arms shook slightly as she reached out for her son. Mary smiled as she watched Joseph gently hold and coo at Jesus, she desperately wanted to enjoy some quiet and calm but surrounded by animals and strangers she felt on high alert.

Joseph had urged her to get some sleep but the adrenaline was still racing through her veins, her racing heart refused to slow down and her tired eyes simply wouldn’t close. Mary shifted in the blankets and lent back into the warmness of the sheep around her. Her trio of comforters hadn’t left her side despite many attempts by Joseph and the owners to shift them. Eventually Mary had managed to convince Joseph that they were a comfort to her and so their presence still remained. As she laid back the companion to her right lifted her head to gaze at her, Mary reached out and stroked the curious nose “I’m ok” she whispered quietly. The sheep looked around as if checking all was ok, looked back at Mary and sighed. Despite her exhaustion Mary laughed, it was as if these three mild creatures had taken on the role of being her personal body guards.

“For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!” Luke 2:11-12 The Passion Translation

sheep

Mother and Baby Picture – Pixabay

Sheep Picture – Pixabay

Joy To The World – Jeremy Riddle – YouTube video

Notes: This story is inspired by the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. I hadn’t ever really considered what the journey would be like between Nazarene and Bethlehem and I was surprised when I read Los Angeles Times article explaining that the journey was fraught with danger. Joseph and Mary had to contend with a long (90 miles/144 kilometres) difficult journey and possibly content with things like lions, bears, wild boars and bandits.

When Joseph and Mary finally made it there would have been such a sense of relief but then to find no shelter would have been terrifying. Mary would have longed to be around people she was comfortable with and also to have some skilled people on hand such as midwives. Giving birth is a dangerous thing especially back in those days when mortality rates were much higher. For her to have been surrounded by animals is very likely and believable. As James Cooper explains homes in those times were built with at least 2 levels: the ground floor was used by the family during the day but was where the animals slept at night while the family slept on the first level. Sometimes there was even an upper room which was a guest room on the roof.