from the West Wing

Last week my thoughts were from the perspective of Joseph. You know, Mary’s betrothed; Jesus’ step father. As I have continued to think about Joseph, I continue to be in awe of what a truly amazing man he must have been. This week, however, I would like to share some of my thoughts about Mary.

Although scholars disagree about Joseph’s age at the time of his marriage to Mary, the general consensus of Mary’s age at the time is between 12 and 14. While this seems quite young in our day and culture, it was the accepted age for betrothal and marriage in Bible times. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph were betrothed, which was more binding than what we would consider an engagement. They would have exchanged vows and promised to remain pure until the marriage was consummated between six months and a year later. This gave the groom time to prepare a house for his bride and the family they would have together.

But we all know that God had chosen Mary to give birth to His son. The Bible tells us that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel. He greeted her with these words, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” The young Mary was understandable confused and troubled by these words. Gabriel continued by saying “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Even though the angel had told her not to be afraid, I’m sure that Mary was fearful. She responds with the obvious question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” His answer was “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the son of God. . . For nothing will be impossible with God.” At this point in the story, Mary gives a truly amazing response. She says “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

What is so incredible to me about her response is what it could ultimately mean for her. Under Jewish law, a betrothed woman who became pregnant before the marriage was consummated faced death by stoning. Even so, Mary’s faith allowed her to agree to the awesome privilege to bear the Son of God.

There was one exception to the law of death by stoning; and that was the response of the betrothed man, in this case, Joseph. Can you imagine with me what must have gone through Mary’s mind as she thought about how to tell Joseph this unbelievable news? Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us that is was Mary who initially told Joseph the news,  in my thinking it had to have been her. We can only imagine how that conversation must have gone, but we do know that Joseph did not give her a favorable response immediately. The Bible does tell us that he was originally going to “divorce her quietly.” He would have been within his rights to do so, no one would have blamed him, but that would not have saved her from stoning. However, after he also heard from an angel, he took Mary to be his wife, saving her from the shame of being found pregnant before the wedding took place. It is actually a wonderful representation of Grace. By taking Mary as his wife, he not only spared her shame, but he kept her from certain death. He extended both Grace and Mercy, exactly what her Son would extend to the whole world: Grace and Mercy and the escape from certain death.

So the stories of Joseph and Mary come full circle. They are examples to us of unconditional faith in God. Their stories are not to be read lightly. I know as I have thought more deeply of what they might have gone through, I have come to a greater appreciation of what it cost them to follow God’s plan.

Have a wonderful Christmas season. May you take some time to contemplate the story of the birth of our Savior in a new way. God bless.

Mrs. West