Full of Grace – Joseph

Our next installment would have been about Joseph. Mary has come home, after being away for almost three months. He has missed her terribly, and is glad to see her – until he learns the reason for her absence.

Now, you’ll notice I said, would have been, because sometimes a story evolves, changes, especially when it’s based on something else, and you have to flow with the changes. To me, the Bible is a living word, and if you study it long enough, you’ll find something you didn’t see before. That’s where I am with the story. Like any jilted lover, when Joseph found out that his fiancee was pregnant, and not by him, he sought to end the relationship. But here’s the thing – if you go by the scripture, it wasn’t because he thought she betrayed him.

Matthew 1:18-20 It was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.

Did you see it? Because as often as I had read that scripture, I missed it. It was discovered that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit – translation, he believed Mary. He didn’t have a reason not to believe her. Even still, he sought to end the relationship – why? I think we see the answer in the next verse, when the angel tells him, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Why would Joseph, after learning that his fiancee didn’t betray him but was in fact chosen by God to bear the Messiah, be afraid of marrying her?

Personally, I think he saw himself as inadequate for the job. After all, he was a simple carpenter, a blue collar worker, a layperson, who had no aspirations for any kind of glory. And here he finds out he is to be the man to raise the Messiah, the savior of his people, the son of the living God. How was he supposed to do that? Think about it – trades were handed down by family. He was a carpenter. He learned it from his father, and had planned to hand it down to his son. But now, he is being told that his son (or rather, stepson) will be the promised Messiah, a revolutionary who would upend Israel’s enemies. How was he supposed to teach Jesus that?

Plus, now, after falling in love and getting ready to marry a young maiden from his hometown, he’s being told that she’s been chosen personally by God. Consider how intimidating that is. Now instead of being just his fiancee, Mary is something else. Like I wrote in the book, something to venerate, something untouchable. So he chose, out of fear, to end the relationship.

But he was a part of the plan. The angel assured him of that and he chose instead not to send Mary away. That brings us back to the book – I included Joseph’s fear, but I think I addressed it too late. And I didn’t include the part where he believed Mary when she said she didn’t betray him. How I have it written doesn’t change the story much but I’m a stickler for accuracy (as much as you can be). And that brings us back to the reason for this post: I’m going to stop posting the story and revise it.

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Unfortunately, these revisions are not at the top of the list. My goal is for year end, but it might move up the list as I complete the other projects. I’m making changes to my website and my books, as well as the publishing projects I am taking on. So, stay tuned.

Full of Grace (June 17)

The story of Mary and Joseph continues. Still living with her aunt and uncle, and new cousin, Mary continues to contemplate her life and her future, and comes to a big decision today.

The tale plays in real time, with each entry signifying a date in her pregnancy. In between entries, imagine the story continuing towards the next highlight. What happens? What does Mary experience during that time as she considers where she is in her pregnancy and what she needs to do be in what she perceives is the will of God?

You can go here to read previous entries. Follow my blog so you can get notification of new postings (see sidebar). Or the book is available for purchase if you prefer not to wait. Note: there are Hebrew words sprinkled through it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here. The next post will be June 30.


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17 Tammuz

Once again, Mary sits at the table in her room, staring at the blank parchment before her. She is done writing, though; done asking for permission. She is going home. However, this decision requires disobedience and she had never rebelled against anyone, much less her parents.

What choice did she have, though? She enjoyed being with her aunt and uncle, yes, but she needed to live her life. Elizabeth’s admonishments weren’t lost on her and while she could admit being chosen of G-d was part of the reason behind her urgency to get home, it wasn’t the only purpose. Maybe she was being carnal, but she missed Joseph and she needed him to know about their new destiny.

Mary stands. She had to talk to Elizabeth and Zechariah. Leaving the parchment on the table, she makes her way to her aunt and uncle’s room. She hears her uncle laugh. It seems strange to hear his voice after all the months of silence

Mary knocks on the door.

“Come,” Elizabeth says.

Mary enters and smiles at the scene before her: Elizabeth and Zechariah sit on the bed, with John between them. G-d could not have chosen more doting parents.

“He looks bigger today,” Mary states, walking over to them.

“As much as he eats, he ought to,” her aunt replies.

“John is a healthy eater,” Zechariah rebuts, even as his wife laughs.

“Ha, listen to you. The boy is going to be spoiled,” she says.

“No, he will be a good boy,” Zechariah argues, an offended look on his countenance. “I will not dishonor Adonai by raising John any other way but according to his law, especially after everything he’s done for us.”

Elizabeth smiles and pats his arm.

“I know, my love. I know.”

She kisses him.

Mary looks away, blushing.

“But you didn’t come in here to see two old people kiss, did you, Mary?”

She turns back, a sheepish look on her face.

“No, doda.”

Both eye her expectantly. She takes a deep breath.

“I think it’s time…I mean, I’m ready to go home.”

Elizabeth and Zechariah look to each other. Mary can’t read their faces, can’t tell if it’s disappointment, or worse, amusement. Mary feels her heart beat faster and her face get hot again. Surely they wouldn’t deny her this…

Her aunt stands, making sure not to disturb John and walks over to her. She lays her hands on her shoulders and meets her gaze.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Then we’ll make arrangements.”

She’s glad for their approval, but there is still the matter of her disobedience.

“What about the fact that I am dishonoring my parents?”

Zechariah rises slowing and joins his wife at her side. He takes Mary’s hand in his and gives her a reassuring smile.

“My dear, this is bigger than your parents; it’s bigger than us. Adonai has set his salvation in motion and we cannot stand in his way. Though I am honored that he would allow you, the mother of our L-rd, to be here, you need to be where his plan is. There is no dishonor in that, no dishonor in following Adonai.”

Mary is once again silent. Beyond their approval, she is glad for their love and appreciative of their understanding. It makes her heart swell and all she can do to respond is hug them. Surrounded by their warm embrace, she knows she is doing what is best.

Full of Grace (June 3)

This past weekend was graduation weekend for my youngest daughter. She is no longer a high-schooler, but an adult, on her way to college. Of course, I say that proudly, but also wearily, as we hosted family from out of town. Which then lead me to being late for this post. I won’t get another excuse like this (until we have to take her to college…) so of course I have to use it.

In any case, the story of Mary and Joseph continues. Elizabeth had given birth to a son after many years of barrenness. According to Jewish tradition, he is to be circumcised on the eighth day following birth. But with a ‘deaf and dumb’ father, things can get a little tricky, especially when traditions are upended by miracles.

The story plays in real time, with each entry signifying a date in her pregnancy. In between entries, imagine the story continuing towards the next highlight. What happens? What does Mary experience during that time as she considers where she is in her pregnancy and what she will be experiencing when she’s given birth?

You can go here to read previous entries. Follow my blog so you can get notification of new postings (see sidebar). Or the book is available for purchase if you prefer not to wait. Note: there are Hebrew words sprinkled through it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here. The next post will be June 173.


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3 Tammuz

Staring at the blank parchment before her, Mary considers what to write. Everything she has penned to her parents, up to this point, has been unsuccessful to her cause. What else could she say that would change their minds? What words could she use that would make them realize she belonged in Nazareth, not Hebron? That Joseph would not turn her away but embrace their new destiny?

Words fail her though and Mary sets the pen down, feeling disheartened. She quickly chastises herself, though: Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son was to be circumcised today. She had no right to walk around feeling sorry for herself. She had to pull herself together, so she could join them in the festivities.

Mary thinks about the babe; he was perfect and perfectly formed. And there was something about him that brought joy to everyone, especially Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah remained deaf and dumb, despite the malakh’s words, yet this did not stop him from embracing the child. The love in his eyes for him was inimitable. He had begun spending more time away from his studies, enjoying the presence of his family for the first time in months; even smiling more, causing Elizabeth to smile. Mary had never seen her aunt happier than she was now and she knew it was because of what G-d had done for them.

A sense of peace envelopes her and Mary rolls up the parchment. She tucks it away and stands. The letter could wait, she had a celebration to go to.

* * *

“Praised are you, G-d our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us in the ritual of circumcision.”

With Zechariah by her side and the family behind her, Elizabeth watches as the priest blesses her son, who is sleeping quietly in her brother-in-law, Shmuel’s, arms. The emotions in her heart overwhelm her: G-d had been good to them.

The priest moves to the table beside them and picks up a glass of kiddush. He blesses it and places several drops into the baby’s mouth to help him with the coming pain. He drinks from the cup and passes it to Shmuel, who also partakes of the kiddush, as a symbol of their willingness to share in the child’s pain. The priest then begins the procedure, waking the boy and causing him to cry. Every whimper breaks Elizabeth’s heart, but Zechariah comforts her by taking her hand in his and squeezing it tightly. She reminds herself that the pain was necessary, but only temporary. He would be back in her arms shortly.

The priest completes the circumcision. Shmuel comforts the boy. Because Zechariah still cannot speak, he pronounces the blessing over him, a right usually reserved for the father.

“Blessed are you, G-d our G-d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to make him enter into the covenant of Abraham our father.”

Together, everyone else replies, “As he has entered into the covenant, so may he be introduced to the study of Torah, to the wedding canopy, and to good deeds.”

The priest continues his blessing.

“Creator of the universe, may it be your will to regard and accept this performance of circumcision, as if I had brought this baby before your glorious throne. And in your abundant mercy, through your holy angels, give a pure and holy heart to…” He pauses for a moment, his gaze moving between Zechariah and Shmuel. “What is the child’s name?” he asks.

Before Elizabeth can respond for her husband, Shmuel, speaks up.

“Zechariah,” he states.

Elizabeth objects.

“No! His name is John.” Though she had received the malakh’s words from Zechariah’s penned description, their potency was still the same; and now having received the fruit of it, she was not going to disobey. John was the name G-d had given him before he was conceived, and it would continue to be his name now that he had entered the earth.

“There is no one by that name in the family, achot. His name should be Zechariah, after his father,” Shmuel insists.

“No,” Elizabeth says firmly, shaking her head. “His name is John.”

The mood in the room quickly shifts as murmuring begins. The same family members who were celebrating with them were now criticizing her lack of respect for Shmuel. The priest calls for everyone’s attention.

“What is the child’s name?” he repeats.

Again, before Elizabeth can reply, Shmuel takes charge. He waves his hand at Zechariah and points to the child. “Name. What would you name the boy?”

Zechariah looks at him blankly and for a moment Elizabeth fears he does not understand. Then he brings his hand up and makes a swirling motion in the air, once, twice, three times before the others understand what he is trying to say.

“Get a tablet and a pen,” someone instructs.

The talking increases, exasperating Elizabeth. This was not what she imagined for her son’s circumcision. Mary turns to her, her expression sympathetic. She knows the truth and Elizabeth was grateful for her support, but it was the family, the friends and the neighbors who needed to know G-d had orchestrated these events—the conception, the birth and now the naming of the child.

John. The name meant ‘G-d has been gracious’ and that was the purpose to which he was born, to show G-d’s grace to his people. Yes, G-d had been silent for many generations now, leaving them to the whims of their goyem masters, but he was still there. He was still concerned for them. He had promises that had yet to be fulfilled, but would be, through her son and Mary’s, the promised Mashiac.

A young child pushes through the crowd, carrying in his hand a tablet and a piece of coal for writing. Zechariah receives the items and concentrates on writing. Around him, the talking ceases as they await his response. Though Elizabeth knows he will back her up, a single thought crawls into her mind, making her faith waver.

What if he doesn’t?

The malakh had said, “You will become dumb and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” The events had been fulfilled, yet he was still dumb. It seemed he had accepted his sin of doubt and offered penitence for it. Why then could he not speak? Why wasn’t he healed of his affliction? Surely the birth signified the fulfillment of the malakh’s words. Would G-d orchestrate all else and not return her husband’s voice, especially now that it was needed?

* * *

Zechariah stops writing. Without any change of expression, he turns the tablet to the family and reveals his response:

His name is John.

Still holding the tablet, Zechariah mouths the words that flow so easily from his soul:

His name is John.

This is what the malakh Gabriel had stated; had tried to tell him so many months ago and he dared to doubt the Almighty.

His name is John.

Now he was a father and the child, his child, was perfect.

His name is John.

He had doubted once, never again.

“His name is John.”

The voice speaking is hoarse, aged and unrecognizable. It fills the room and silences everyone.

“His name is John.”

Zechariah looks at the shocked faces around him. No one is speaking. All are staring at him with amazement in their eyes…even Elizabeth. He meets her gaze, still mouthing the response requested of him. Her expression softens, and she smiles.

“His name is John.”

In the silence of the room, Zechariah realizes he is the one talking. It had been a year since he had heard his voice, and, in his guilt, had forgotten what it sounded like. Still, that matters none. Just as Gabriel had promised, he was a father and his son…his son…

Zechariah lets the tablet fall from his hands and he raises his arms upward, praising the G-d who had not just heard, but answered his prayers.

“Thank you, Adonai,” he states, pouring out all the gratitude his heart holds. Those in the room, from the old priest to the youngest child, hold their tongues, listening with astonishment. “Praise be to you, L-rd, G-d of Israel. You have come to your people and redeemed them. You have raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as you said through your holy prophets of long ago, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

“And you, my child,” Zechariah states, as he walks over to his son, who rests in Shmuel’s embrace. He reaches for the child and takes him in his arms, holding him close to his bosom. The child whimpers, but is otherwise calm, tightly swaddled in his blanket. Zechariah was a fool to ever doubt G-d. This was a blessing only he could give.

He turns to Elizabeth, her face beaming with pride. He decides she is more beautiful now than the day he first laid eyes on her and moves over to her side. His gaze falls upon Mary, Elizabeth’s young niece, and though he has only had his wife’s word on the matter, he knows the burden Mary carries—no, the blessing she has been chosen for, a blessing similar to his and Elizabeth’s, yet much, much greater.

Zechariah turns his attention back to his son and continues, his voice cracking with emotion, “You, my son, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the L-rd to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our G-d, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Elizabeth rests her hand on his shoulder. He looks into her eyes and sees the smile that had brought him peace these many years. John sighs loudly and settles in his arms to sleep. And the hush that had spread over the room is lifted. All the people move forward, talking at once, wanting to know what manner of child this was, that G-d’s hand should rest so strongly on him, on Zechariah and on Elizabeth.

* * *

Back at home, Elizabeth pauses for a moment, leaning against a chair to catch her breath. The household bustles around her, trying to get ready for the midday meal. Many more neighbors and friends had joined them since word got out that Zechariah’s voice had returned. Yes, they were there to gawk and gossip, but even that didn’t distract from the joyous occasion: a son from barren loins and a husband restored to her. G-d was indeed good.

Doda?”

Even in the noisy atmosphere, with Rona and Jesse boisterously throwing about commands, Elizabeth hears her niece’s voice. She looks to her right where the girl stands, her hands in front of her. Her eyes filled with awe—the same awe Elizabeth feels.

Dod said we are ready to begin,” Mary states.

“Good, good,” Elizabeth says, removing her apron. She sets it aside and joins the others at the table. She sits beside Zechariah, who holds their child in his arms. He meets her gaze and smiles. Elizabeth returns the smiles and listens as everyone quiets down. With their attention on Zechariah, they listen as he thanks everyone for joining them, for breaking bread with them and most of all for celebrating with them the miracles G-d had performed on their behalf.

A round of cheers goes up. Elizabeth looks about her at everyone present. They would speak of this day for years to come and all because of the grace of their G-d.

Zechariah raises his hand to silence the guests and turns his head upward to speak the traditional blessing following circumcision:

G-d, help us to raise this child wisely. Give him strength and help him to grow up to trust in you and perceive you at the appointed times of the year. Thank you for the unhesitating hand of the priest who performed the circumcision to bring him into covenant with you. Send the Mashiac speedily and Prophet Elijah so that your covenant can be fulfilled with the re-establishment of the throne of King David.”

Cheers rise, and the talking begins again. Some speak of the miracle witnessed that day, while others talk of John—surely if his beginning was that wondrous, what would his life be like? Still others speak of dumb Zechariah and barren Elizabeth as if they were still so. Elizabeth hears none of it, though. With one hand on John and the other on Zechariah, she quietly agrees with the blessing and says, “So be it.”

Full of Grace (May 25)

The story of Mary and Joseph continues. Mary is about three months along, and every day that passes is another day she is away from Joseph, another day that her Aunt Elizabeth grows closer to her delivery date. The story plays in real time, with each entry signifying a date in her pregnancy. In between entries, imagine the story continuing towards the next highlight. What happens? What does Mary experience during that time?

You can go here to read previous entries. Follow my blog so you can get notification of new postings (see sidebar). Or the book is available for purchase if you prefer not to wait. Note: there are Hebrew words sprinkled through it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here. The next post will be June 3.


 

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25 Sivan

 As the time for her aunt’s delivery draws near, Mary helps the other family members with the preparation. Her uncle continues his studies, though he remains close to the house, for Elizabeth’s sake. And just as Elizabeth’s love is evident in her face, so is his love for her. Mary finds herself contemplating that kind of love, allowing herself to think about Joseph, to imagine him as Zechariah, still in love with the wife of his youth after many years of marriage. And even though her mother has repeatedly denied her request to return home, Mary hopes on the love she knows Joseph has for her.

“Mary.”

She looks up, aware she has been imagining again. The house is full of women, fussing over the very pregnant Elizabeth. Rona has taken charge of the chores and the meals, insisting Elizabeth rest.

“I’ve never seen anyone daydream so much,” Rona declares.

“Leave her alone, Rona,” Elizabeth says and pauses, her discomfort obvious. She sits up and back in the chair. “She takes everything in, unlike you who talks too much.”

The women laugh, as Mary smiles, happy to be a part of the group. Rona, though, narrows her eyes and glares at Elizabeth.

“Oh, stop being so dramatic,” Elizabeth continues and holds her arm out. “Help me up.”

Rona hands off the bowl of chickpeas to Mary and walks over to her cousin. She takes Elizabeth’s arm and helps her stand. Mary notes how big her belly looks, hanging lower now than it did even that morning.

“You should stay off your feet, bat-doda,” Abigail offers from across the room, where she sits mending a gown. She is Rona’s daughter and just a few years older than Mary.

Elizabeth paces to the door, her hand on her back.

“I feel better when I walk,” she says.

“Well, you better get your rest now while you can, because you’re going to need it, chasing a little one at your age,” Jess states. Mary recognizes her from the synagogue, the wife of one of the Levites.

“I thought that’s what you all were here for, to help me,” Elizabeth laughs, resting against the wall.

“No, that’s what you have young Mary here for,” Rona says, sitting beside her. Though they are family, Mary knows to not take Rona too seriously. The woman liked to talk, as Elizabeth said; no doubt one of the reasons Elizabeth stayed home for the first half of her pregnancy. And now that she was due to give birth; everyone was still talking, but it was about miracle conception—just as they should be.

“No, Mary is here to learn,” Elizabeth corrects her. “She’ll be embracing her little one soon.”

Abigail smiles and lays the gown on her lap. “Will you name him after his father?” she asks.

Mary feels her face get hot and picks at the chickpeas they would be preparing for dinner. This was something she had yet to get use to—being accepted as one of them. At home she was still a little girl and a helper, but here, she was a woman, with opinions and a mind of her own. They valued her words, even if they were few.

“We haven’t talked about it,” she says, truthfully. “Though my achichem was not named after my abba.”

“When I have my first son, we will name him after his father,” Abigail says, still smiling. “He’ll look just like him and he’ll be sweet, just like his father.”

Some of the older women chuckle.

Jess ribs the woman beside her. “Young love is precious, is it not?”

“What is wrong with that?” Abigail asks, offended.

“There is nothing wrong with love,” Jess replies. “It’s the husband you should ask about. Give it a few years and see if you still feel the same way, after Joachim has let himself go.”

Another adds, “And after he takes you for granted.”

Still another says, “Or he doesn’t talk to you or listen to you. See if you still love him after ten or twenty years of marriage.”

Chatter fills the room as all the women start talking at once, comparing their husband’s indiscretions and habits. Mary can’t imagine Joseph doing any of those things, but worse is the expression on Abigail’s face. Her face red and she is ready to cry. Mary looks around the room at her peers and decides to speak up. She clears her throat and says, “Doda has been married for many years and she and dod are still in love.”

The women get quiet. Mary feels her face grow warm again as all eyes rest on her. Then the women break out in laughter. Mary doesn’t understand and tries to find reason in the faces around her.

Still laughing, Rona touches her arm and says, “Dear, your dod is…different; isn’t that right, Elizabeth?”

Amidst the chatter, hers is the only voice missing. Rona turns to the door where Elizabeth stands, holding her belly, the expression on her face pained.

“Nothing to say?” Rona adds, her voice light, the concern audible.

Elizabeth doesn’t respond.

All the attention is on her now, as she grips the door and a puddle gathers at her feet.

“Elizabeth?”

Taking in a breath, she finally turns to everyone and states, “The baby…”

Rona and Jesse rush to help Elizabeth to her room as two of the other women go for the midwife. Mary had been younger when Oprah and Kyla were born and only remembered the anxiety of not knowing what was happening…much like now.

Well, this time she was going to find out.

As the chatter continues between the other women, Mary makes her way to the room, staying out of everyone’s way. She watches as Rona removes Elizabeth dress, leaving her covered in her undergarment, a white, sleeveless gown that gives Mary a glimpse of her perfectly round belly and protruding navel. For a moment, Mary can only stare, until Elizabeth stiffens up and lets out a muffled scream. She is shocked by aunt’s response; she was normally so calm.

“Mary,” Rona calls to her.

Mary tears her gaze from Elizabeth and turns to her. Rona motions for her to come over.

“Walk with her,” Rona instructs her.

And for the next hour, Mary obeys. While the midwife prepares for the birth, the young girl keeps step with Elizabeth, stopping when the pain strikes, walking when it subsides. There are few words between them and this is fine with Mary, as she is unsure of how to comfort Elizabeth. She had been curious about this event, but now that she was in the midst of it, she was scared—not just for Elizabeth, who seems to be waning in strength, but for herself as well. She would be in this same situation soon enough.

“Bring her here,” the midwife states, indicating the birthing stool.

Mary starts towards her, her arm around her aunt’s shoulder, but Elizabeth can barely walk. Her face is red with exhaustion and her body covered in sweat. Rona joins them, wrapping her arm around her back.

“Come on, cousin, you’re almost done. You were there when all the others were born. It’s your turn now,” she says.

Elizabeth tightens her hold on both of them and nods her head. They slowly walk over to the birthing stool and help her sit down, pulling her undergarment above her belly. The midwife opens her legs, exposing her private area. Mary blushes and stands back as the midwife speaks softly to her aunt, encouraging her to push. Elizabeth does so, once, twice, three times, when the midwife exclaims, “Your child is coming.”

Mary watches as her aunt pushes once more, screaming with every breath, as the head of the baby comes out of the center of her womanhood. Elizabeth rests while the midwife cleans the child’s nose. She proceeds to hold down the head and instructs Elizabeth to push again. With one final thrust, the child is out and in the midwife’s arms. She cleans his face, causing him to wail, loudly.

“You have a son!” Rona announces, as Elizabeth relaxes against her.

Turning her attention to the child, Mary notes how the midwife wipes him down and rubs a mixture of salt and olive oil on his skin. She cleanses him with water and rubs him down again, before wrapping him snuggly in a blanket and handing him over to his mother. Her eyes light up when he is placed in her arms, as though every pain she endured had been forgotten. She cradles him and stares down into his face, with a smile brighter than anything Mary had ever seen.

“Welcome, little one,” she says, touching his face. “I’ve waited a long time for you.”

Full of Grace (May 12)

The story of Mary continues. Last we left her, she was feeling down because of her situation. Her aunt encouraged her to write a letter home. Today Anna receives it.

You can go here to read previous entries. Follow my blog so you can get notification of new postings (see sidebar). Or the book is available for purchase if you prefer not to wait. Note: there are Hebrew words sprinkled through it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here. The next post will be May 25.


 

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12 Sivan

Anna balances the jug on her hip, as Kyla and Oprah run ahead of her. Getting water from the well often proved challenging, as the girls either ran off or got into a fight, causing her to momentarily abandon her task to deal with them. Today isn’t so bad, though, and Anna is thankful.

Oprah runs ahead, leaving Kyla behind her. The younger girl tries to keep up, but her little legs can only carry her so far. She stops and turns back to her mother with tears in her eyes. Anna is glad for a break and sets the jar down. She offers her arms to the youngster and picks her up. Kyla wraps her arms her. Anna feels the wet, warm tears trickle down her neck and can’t help but feel hurt for her.

“Did Oprah leave you all alone?”

Kyla nods her head.

Anna rubs her daughter’s back, remembering when she was the younger sister, running after Elizabeth the way Kyla ran after Oprah. The cycle never ended, it seemed.

She turns Kyla’s face to hers, peering into her teary, black eyes.

“Let’s get home before your abba and achichem get there and you can help me make sweet bread.”

Kyla’s face brightens up just momentarily, before she asks, “And not Oprah?”

Anna laughs.

“This time it will be just you and me, okay?”

“Okay,” Kyla agrees and wipes her face with the back of her hand. Anna sets her down on her feet and picks up the water jar. They begin walking back, keeping a steady pace until they reach the house. Anna stops when she sees Oprah standing there, her gaze fixed on the stranger waiting at their door. Still several feet from him, Anna sets the jar down beside Oprah, quietly instructing her to watch her sister, and approaches cautiously. Going by his dress, he appears not to be Roman, but that was not always the case. Anna clears her throat to get his attention. He turns towards her and smiles. He has a kind face. Anna doesn’t recognize him but is calmed by his disposition.

“I am looking for Anna, wife of Heli ben Matthat,” he says simply.

“I am she.”

He pulls a letter from his cloak and hands it to her.

“Elizabeth asked me to get it to you since I was passing through Nazareth.”

Anna looks down at the letter. Even without opening it, she knows it’s from Mary, asking to come home. This wasn’t possible though. For her sake they sent her away and if Mary was safe in Hebron, then she would stay there until the danger passed.

Shalom,” the stranger says, turning to leave.

Anna breaks away from her thoughts.

“Forgive me; I am not being very hospitable. Can I get water for your animal? For you?”

He shakes his head.

“I am just passing through.”

“How is Elizabeth?”

“She is well.”

“Thank you…for bringing this.”

Shalom.”

Shalom,” she reiterates as the stranger leaves, her gaze following after him. Oprah and Kyla approach her and take her hands.

Full of Grace (May 1)

Welcome back. We continue with the story of Mary and Joseph and the nine months preceding the birth of Jesus in real time. Mary has been sent away to have her child, and while being around her aunt has encouraged her, she finds the situation and her lack of control of it starting to wear on her.

You can go here to read previous entries. Follow my blog so you can get notification of new postings (see sidebar). Or the book is available for purchase if you prefer not to wait. Note: there are Hebrew words sprinkled through it. You can find a listing of them and their definitions here. The next post will be May 12.


 

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20 Sivan

Elizabeth takes a break from washing clothes to stretch out and enjoy the cool breeze. The work is back-breaking enough without the babe kicking her. It seemed he couldn’t wait to be born. Truthfully, though, she was ready for him to be born. Selfishly, because she was tired; of course, she couldn’t wait to meet him and hold him and introduce him to Zechariah and Mary and…

Speaking of which, where was Mary?

Elizabeth looks around her. Wading just at the river’s edge is a handful of other women, chatting and washing clothes, but Mary is not amongst them. With a sigh, Elizabeth stands up and waddles up the path to her house. It is quiet, as always. Zechariah, she knows, is studying, but Mary is not in the main room, eating, as Elizabeth thought she might be. She finds her, instead, in her room, lying down on her bed with her back to the door. The sun streaming in through the window illuminates her small figure.

“Are we going to rest all day?” Elizabeth asks, keeping her tone light so Mary knows she is not chiding her.

Mary rolls over and looks at her for a moment, before turning back to the wall. Elizabeth notes how red and swollen her eyes are. She walks over to Mary.

“What’s wrong?”

Mary shakes her head. Elizabeth uneasily lowers herself onto the bed, unable to find a comfortable spot. She ignores her body for a moment and turns her attention to Mary, wiping a tear as it falls from her eye.

“Tell me what’s wrong, child,” she softly pleads. She had always felt a motherly connection to her sister’s children. And even now, with Mary being as old as she was, expecting her first child, the sentiment was no different. “Are you ill?”

“No more than usual,” she quietly states.

Mary had excused herself from dinner the previous evening after throwing up the contents of her stomach. Elizabeth knew she was embarrassed, but it was all part of the process: the child within her was growing and her body was making the necessary adjustments. Still, it had to be hard on her, being so young and away from home.

“Talk to me, nechadnit,” Elizabeth says.

Mary lies back on the mat.

Doda, I am grateful you’ve opened your home to me, but I’m supposed to be in Nazareth, getting ready for Joseph, not hiding from him. I’m supposed to be celebrating this pregnancy, enjoying the blessings and honor Adonai has bestowed on me, not hiding them from the world. Everything is so out of order; this is just not the way things are supposed to be.”

The hurt in her voice is apparent. Elizabeth desires to be sensitive to her, but she knows Mary is still young. She still has some growing up and learning to do. Wisdom would come with age; until then, Mary would have to rely on the understanding of others to help her, which was where Elizabeth came in: the pain, she couldn’t take, but the wisdom, she could certainly offer.

“Life was not always as we think it should be. Look at our history: since the days of Abraham, many have tried to annihilate our people. Even as Adonai’s chosen, we are subjected to a cruel master. But we are still here. We are still multiplying, despite our children dying at the hands of the goyem. This is what it means to be favored and graced of Adonai. Not that life is supposed to be a certain way, rather that his strength and his mercy are available to us for our survival.

“Mary, look at me. I am still here. And because I am still here, I have lived to see the day when the stigma of barrenness was removed from me. The child will be a blessing to me and Zechariah and to the world. It is because of the grace of Adonai that we’ve survived long enough to see this day and now we can praise him for it. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Mary nods.

“I know this situation is not ideal, but there is no precedence for it either. We can’t say, this is how it should be. However, we can decide, with Adonai’s grace, to live long enough to see the end of what he started. You believed, now see it through,” Elizabeth finishes with a smile. Her heart always soared when it came to the things of G-d. She could talk about him forever.

Mary’s countenance doesn’t change though.

“Your parents were doing what they thought was best for you,” she adds, hoping to lift her spirit. “They love you. They were just trying to protect you.”

Mary shrugs her shoulders.

“Tell you what; we’ll write to your imma; perhaps she’ll listen to reason. But it is Adonai you must put your faith in. He is the only one who can fix this, alright?”

Mary nods in agreement.

“Good. Now help me up, we have clothes to wash.”