Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mary did you know?

Over the summer I read Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, if you haven't read this book, you should.  It's a first person narrative that tells the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph.  Dinah was barely mentioned in the bible, but the author expands her story beautifully in this novel.  The book tells of Dinah, Rachel and Leah and life of women in general in biblical times.  In this time, women would gather together in a specified place when they were menstruating or during child birth.  For these nomadic characters, this was the Red Tent.  Gathering in the red tent allowed the women to not only have their privacy, but to nurture and support each other.  Of course the happenings within the tent at the full moon were mostly a mystery to the men. The whole thing makes perfect sense to me, all the women in camp having their periods at the same time, no wonder the men just left them alone to do their thing.  Besides, modern sanitary products didn't exist way back then. I seriously recommend this book, read it.

Anyway, all this got me thinking about Mary, Mother of Jesus. Imagine this teenage girl who is engaged to be married to a nice boy and BOOM she comes up pregnant.  God gave her the choice and she had faith that He knew what he was doing so she took on this challenge.  Now she has to tell her parents, her fiancé, and her friends what is going on.  Who's going to believe this story?!?  We assume everyone took it well enough and accepted it, right?  But then they get news that they have to go on a long trip in her third trimester.  Desert heat, riding a donkey, at eight months pregnant, probably not the most comfortable trip.  They get where they are going and it turns out Joseph didn't make the reservations and of course she goes into labor.  Here we have this young, unwed, pregnant woman about to give birth in a strange city.  She's not in her red tent, but in a stinky, dirty barn!  I imagine that if Bethlehem was this full, there was a decent midwife and a couple female relatives on hand, but still not ideal.  On top of all this, there are people who want this baby dead so badly they are killing male babies right and left trying to get to Him.  I realize God chose her because she was the person best equipped for this task, but what a task it was!

After such an eventful birth and the entourage of kings and shepherds that followed, there is still the task raising the Son of God!  Now I'm only raising the Daughter of April and I feel the pressure.  Princess already thinks she knows more than the rest of us and in some cases she is probably right, but we won't tell her that.  I'm worried about which after-school activities are best to keep this creative child inspired and concerned about her getting a B in math.  Mary is raising the future of the world!  No slacking or being lazy about going to church for this family!  Sure, Jesus was God embodied so he would have absorbed the information he needed if his family didn't take him to church but Mary and Joseph stepped up to the job. They kept the faith and held God as a very central part of their everyday life.

Then, of course, there is the end of the gospels.  The part where Mary had to watch her eldest child die.  He who had never sinned was put to death before his followers, loved ones and his own mother.  I can't imagine!  I'm sure she felt proud of her son for following through with what he was meant to do, but I'm sure she was devastated all the same.

This year while you are preparing for Christmas, take some time to reflect on the details of the birth we are supposed to be celebrating.  Think beyond the nativity play the kids perform at church on Sunday evening.  Think of the people involved in the process.  The danger the wise men risked by traveling to worship this baby, the parents of Jesus, the grandparents, the innkeeper who put them in the stables with the livestock.  Aunts, uncles, cousins who grew up with Jesus.  We've all been guilty of comparing our child's development and accomplishments with our friend's children's development and accomplishments.  How would you like to be Mary's sister-in-law?  "You know that boy was conceived before they were even married, yet everyone thinks he's sooo special.  I can't believe Joseph kept her around after she told him she was knocked up!"

What is God asking you to do?  I bet it's not nearly as big as what He asked Mary to do...

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