By Rachel HeffingtonMary took the earthen jug into her work-worn hands and turned it over. She felt the familiar warmth of the sun-soaked clay, the same ridges on the rim that had always been there. She smiled--an expression laced with tears--and marveled that the jug could remain unchanged after...Mary put her hand to her belly as a movement, gentle and soft as the spring's first butterfly, reminded her of all that had changed.
She sighed and ducked through the low door-frame into the hot Israeli afternoon. The cistern in the garden, crowded over with a riot of almond-blossoms from Papa's tree, was where it had all begun. Mary approached the well with hushed footsteps, half-fearing, and almost expecting the angel to be there. She had never been more frightened in all her fifteen years, she recalled. First the blinding, flaming light, then the deep voice speaking in tones far richer than any Abba could coax out of his lyre. Mary had thrown herself to the ground at the first sound of the awesome voice. He told her not to fear, and all at once a deep peace, more encompassing and filling than any she'd ever known flowed through ever fiber in her being.
Then the angel, Gabriel, told her things so wondrous they could not be true, or so it seemed. Mary smiled as she felt the fluttering again. They could not be true, but they were true. She knew that more wholly than ever after the angel had spoken.
It was strange, of course, and Mary felt she must ask the question that crowded her tongue before it asked itself. "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
The angel's countenance brightened with laughter till it shone, no longer like a flame, but with the joyful light of the year's first snow. Then the angel told her the strangest thing yet: the Holy Spirit would come upon her and overshadow her and, well....this.
Mary glanced up at the sun and rubbed her belly. "How are you, my King?" she whispered, then giggle as a tiny kick replied.
She filled her earthen jug with haste, spilling a little on the dusty ground, and returned to the house. She must leave early tomorrow morning to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, of whom the angel had also spoken.
Her cousin, pregnant? Elizabeth--with her wealth of iron-grey hair and deep smile lines, her calloused hands and bent back--to have a son? But if she herself, a virgin yet, was with child, who was she to question it? After all, stranger things had--Mary broke off there. She wasn't sure anything stranger had happened. She would stay with Elizabeth till her cousin's time came--three months at least. She would miss Abba and their quiet home, and Joseph. Oh, how she would miss Joseph! He of the warm brown eyes and gentle smile, the big strong hands that could do such delicate carpentry. Joseph of the courageous heart and just nature, who treated her with love and tenderness! How the news of her pregnancy would hurt him!
Mary bowed her head, the folds of her mantle falling forward and her thick, dark hair almost covering her face. She clasped her hands across her heart and rocked.
"Oh Lord," she sobbed, "Let it be unto me as Thou hast said! If I am never to be Joseph's wife I will not cry against Thee! But oh, do not let me despise me for what has come upon me!" Mary lifted her head and dried her years. Abba would be home soon and she knew he would be hungry.
She mixed flour and olive oil in a bowl, and stirred a pot of stew simmering on the fire. Should she tell Abba tonight? No, she would keep this news from her family a short while longer. She must tell Joseph in just the right way. By the time she returned from Elizabeth's house her condition would be too plain to be concealed.
What a day for the Galilean gossips! But God would not forsake her--she knew that. And despite the bewilderment and anxiety, the deep peace flowed again, and Mary smiled, knowing she was indeed blessed among all women.