I first wrote Full of Grace as blog series, posting each entry over the span of several months. It was a rough draft and changes have been made since then, but what I loved about the story was that even though it was ‘the’ Christmas story (the original one, anyway), there was a starting point that preceded December 25, a story that included the engagement of Mary and Joseph, her pregnancy, their marriage and all that. The birth of Jesus was something they looked forward to, but what happened before then? What brought them to that point? How did their story prepare them for what was ahead?
As expectant mothers, we look forward to our child’s due date, imagining what it will be like to hold them, name them, love them, etc. So what happens if we start thinking about Christmas now? Not the commercial part of it, but the part where our God came down, clothed in skin to know man and eventually die for him? Mary didn’t know what she would endure, but I can guarantee she thought about ‘Christmas day’ (or her due date) throughout the year. We can argue that Christ wasn’t actually born on Christmas, but that hardly matters when you consider all the good that is done on and because of the holiday.
I gave this story a month last year. This year, I want to post each entry on the day of the year I wrote it for. Beginning today. And it will span the nine months of what would have been Mary’s pregnancy, culminating on December 25, 2019. Think of it as a first-century social media/blog post following the progress of a pregnancy.
Full of Grace is available for purchase if you prefer to read it all in one lump (I was never good with daily readings or devotionals – I ALWAYS skipped ahead), and I haven’t decided yet if I am going to delete the previous postings. But I encourage to enjoy the story and look ahead to Christmas – not the commercial or stress-inducing parts (like shopping and hosting family), but to the parts that matter, the peace on earth and goodwill towards man. These are parts we need right now and maybe if we start thinking about it, we’ll start seeing it more.
Note: the book has Hebrew words sprinkled in it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here.
“Mary and Joseph, hugging and kissing…”
Mary blushes at her sisters’ teasing and tries to quiet them but they only make faces at her. She had grown accustomed to this kind of behavior from them, as her sisters were much younger and more immature than she. However, she did not appreciate their conduct now that Joseph was waiting to see her. Deciding it was probably best to ignore them, Mary joins her father and Joseph outside. Keeping her eyes on the ground below, she waits for either of them to speak.
“Hello, Mary,” Joseph says.
Mary looks up at her betrothed. He is tall and lean, with black hair and a close beard, unlike the full, bushy one her father has.
“Hello, Joseph,” she manages to reply, her eyes locked on his.
“Joseph was just telling me how well his shop is doing,” her father, Heli, interjects.
“My abba did the hard work in establishing it. I’m only following his legacy,” Joseph replies.
“You shouldn’t be so modest,” Heli states, patting the young man on his shoulder. “You’ve done well for yourself and for your imma.”
Joseph nods his head and the moment seems to pass. An awkward silence surrounds them, and Mary looks down at the ground again, wishing she could be alone with Joseph. Such a thing was not possible though. Mary had her reputation to protect: she was a virgin and would remain so until her nissuin. Still, there were days she desired the end of their erusin, so she could go home with Joseph as his wife.
Mary clears her throat, unintentionally breaking the silence. Heli motions to Joseph, who presents Mary with a small package.
“Oh, I brought this for you.”
Mary takes the cloth-wrapped gift and gently starts to unpack it. Inside is a wooden bird. She runs her fingers over the intricately carved piece, marveling at the skill it took to make it and the care in Joseph’s heart for her.
“Thank you,” she says, making eye contact with him again. It was tradition for the groom to bring his intended gifts during the erusin, so she wouldn’t forget him, but as Mary peers into his eyes, she knows this will not be an issue for her: she looked forward to marrying Joseph and living her life as his wife.