1—MARY & HEROD
- BC 23
- Nazareth, Province of Galilee, Palestine
It is night. It has been night for a long time. Forty years night. Self-rule taken from the country. This time for good. Bitter, bitter night.
Mary has just been born. There is not much gladness. They name her Bitterness. That’s what Mary means.
Since Mary’s mother was a toddler, the country has been ruled by a madman. He killed half of the citizens of Jerusalem in order to take over—many of them right there in the holy temple itself.
And just two years earlier when Mary’s parents were married, things got worse. One of King Herod’s spies uncovered a plot to assassinate him. He had the would-be perpetrators tortured and executed. The people in turn tortured and executed the spy. Herod in turn tortured some women until they confessed who had killed the spy. Will it never end?
How will such innocence, as that which baby Mary has, ever survive in a world like this?
Baby Mary begins to fuss and cry in her little bed. Her little heart-shaped face contorts, wrinkles form around her eyes, and her little mouth puckers in readiness for an out-and-out wail.
Her mother, hair falling down around her eyes, leans over and picks up her baby. She sits on the well-worn cushions nearby and rocks, hums and dreams of better days for her little one.
Silent night? Holy night?
Sarah only wishes it were. Her eyes grow misty and she looks up as though searching through a blackness.
“God, why aren’t you saving us from all this?” she whispers. God knows and understands. But does he care?
Satan is laughing. He is in control. He will always be in control.
But heaven is stirring. It’s almost time. A thousand years have come and gone. Another thousand. Another. And another. It’s almost time.
In a heavenly realm somewhere, a conversation is taking place.
SON, I’VE SELECTED YOUR MOTHER. SEE HER DOWN THERE? SHE IS STILL A BABY, BUT SHE WILL BE STRONG. SHE WILL LOVE YOU THROUGH IT ALL.
And I will love her, Father.
- BC 19
- Antioch, Syria
Julius Caesar, sovereign ruler of the world, has just been assassinated. Now Augustus Caesar rules. He is a friend of Herod. He’s visiting his friend. They have been celebrating. People worry they are also plotting for who knows what. Will things grow worse?
Caesar is on his portable throne, gold embellished with inlaid mother-of-pearl, holding audience. Next to him is a table with silver chalice for his wine. He sets his square jaw, lowers his head and lifts his eyes as though bored with the whole thing.
The self-appointed ambassadors of the common people among the Jews bow prostrated before him.
“You may rise,” Caesar growls. “Now, what is it that is of such importance that you would interrupt my holiday?”
The group of men rises and their spokesman steps forward. He has dark hair mixed with gray, and his brown eyes are clouded just enough to make one wonder how much he can really see. He leans on his cane, trying to hide trembling hands.
“Your Majesty, King Herod is bringing atrocities on our people in Gadara. And, uhhh…”
Caesar waves his hand at them as though shooing away a fly. “Wait outside,” He orders. “I will send for Herod and find out if this is true.”
The ambassadors bow and back out, still bowing low.
The ambassadors, now waiting in an anteroom, hear Herod ranting through the thick walls. They know they are doomed. Revenge is inevitable.
They look at each other knowingly. They had understood from the beginning it might come to this. They scatter. Rather than be tortured for treason until dead, they take their own lives—swords, high bridges, cliffs—anything to escape the torture.
Bitter night. Deep bitter night
- Nazareth, Province of Galilee, Palestine
Mary is now four years old. She does not understand the violent world she has been born into.
“Right down the road,” Heli, Mary’s father, tells his wife upon hearing the news. “Just twenty-five milles from here our own countrymen have to resort to suicide rather than face the wrath of the very one who is supposed to be our protector. There’s no escaping Herod and his power.”
Mary crawls into her father’s lap. He acknowledges her only briefly as she snuggles in and leans her head against Heli’s chest. She has trouble getting his attention.
Mary watches her mother, Sarah, set down a bowl of raisin cakes for refreshments near Heli, then return to her seat.
As her parents resume their talk, impetuous Mary wiggles loose of her father’s hold and steps over to her mother.
Sarah takes her into her lap. Mary looks up at her mother’s sad face. In confusion, she reaches up and wipes a tear from her mother’s cheek. That is the way it had always been done when Mary had cried.
“Don’t be sad, Mother. Mary will take care of you,” she says in her soft voice.
“Oh, sweetheart, you’re too young.” Sarah manages a slight smile.
“How am I supposed to protect you and Mary?” Heli continues. He takes a raisin cake, rises, and paces. “If the leading men of the city cannot stand up against King Herod, who can? Who are we?”
He seats himself again, hangs his head, and whispers, “We are nothing.”
He raises his head and slams his fist on the table beside them. “Where is God?” He shouts. “He has got to pull our country out of this mess!”
Mary is pulled out of her reverie in her mother’s lap by her father’s sudden outburst.
God, where are you?
WELL, SON, DO YOU THINK YOU’RE READY FOR THIS?
“Oh, yes. I’ve thought it through many times over the past centuries. I’m definitely ready to travel to earth.”
- BC 18
Mary is now five years old and much too young to understand the turmoil that is going on outside of her little world.
“Why can’t we go to synagogue, Mother?” Mary asks.
She is seated on the floor, rolling a little ball between her feet while her mother puts some loaves of bread to the courtyard oven.
“Why can’t I visit my friends on the Sabbath?” Mary asks.
Her mother shakes her head. Her work done with the bread, Sarah turns her full attention to her very inquisitive daughter.
“Well, because King Herod will not allow us to assemble in groups any more. He’s afraid we’re planning his downfall.”
Mary stops playing with her ball and looks over at her mother. “Is he afraid of falling down?” she asks.
Taking Mary’s hand, her mother walks over to the steps that lead to their flat roof. She turns, sits on the bottom step, looks into her daughter’s eyes, and smiles.
“I’ll teach you a new song if you promise not to sing it in public.”
“But, why, Mother? Why can’t everyone sing the song?” Mary’s little brow crinkles into a frown.
Sarah forces herself to keep smiling. “Our king is afraid of the happiness in the songs. I think he’s just afraid of happiness.”
“Doesn’t he ever laugh?” Mary is confused because all the grownups around her laugh, at least part of the time.
Sarah puts her arms around Mary’s waist and puts her in her lap. “Probably not, sweetie. I heard he spies on us personally. Puts on a disguise and spies on us.”
“What’s a disguise?” Mary’s inquisitiveness never wears out.
Her mother sighs. “It’s where you put on a mask,” she replies patiently, “and don’t let people know who you really are.”
“Can we wear masks sometimes, Mother?”
“I think we already do,” she whispers, looking away from her daughter, her eyes seeing nothing much.
Now Mary’s dander is up. She jumps off her mother’s lap, puts both hands on her hips, and pronounces, “If I ever see that mean King Herod, I’m going to tell him he’s being naughty.”
“Oh, sweetheart, you’re too young to understand,” her mother responds. Then, quickly changing the subject, and putting her smile on again, she announces, “This is a song about love…”
Satan is growing nervous. He has heard things are not the same in heaven. That always makes him anxious. Indeed, he has every right to be.
…WHAT ABOUT THE ADJUSTMENTS? THEY’RE INFINITE. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN HANDLE THEM?
Like giving up streets of gold for streets sometimes littered with putrid garbage? I can handle that, Father.
- BC 17
- Rome, Italy
“And so, Sovereign Ruler Caesar, it is with the greatest of regret that I bring my two oldest sons before you—Alexander and Aristobulus—for trying to overthrow the country.”
It is Herod’s day at the highest court in the world. The charges being brought by himself against his sons are, of course, normal. Everyone will understand his position. After all, kings must defend their kingdom.
He is dressed in tunic with purple stripe edging and wears a small crown in deference to the emperor. His beard, grown out to please his Jewish subjects, has been carefully trimmed and combed.
“Sir,” Alexander begins when given a chance to defend himself to Caesar, “he is listening to lies!”
His father stands aside with a smirk. He knows his sons will never convince Caesar. He and Caesar have been friends far too long.
“Why would we want to assassinate our own father?” Aristobulus continues. “Would we have more wealth or prestige than we have now? No. He is our father. We love him.”
Tears in the eyes of his sons and in the eyes of Caesar.
No tears in the eyes of King Herod. He has no feelings. Instead, he is stunned. Has Caesar now turned against him? Has his old friend sided with his incorrigible sons instead of him?
Herod’s brows furrow down toward his eyes as he looks in disbelief at his emperor. His teeth clench. He leans his head forward to hear better, hoping he has misunderstood what Caesar has just said. But his sons are smiling. He had heard right. Indeed, Caesar must be turning against him now.
Suddenly Herod thrusts his head high as though trying to make himself taller and more imposing. He clenches his fists at his side. He wants revenge against Caesar, but dares not, lest he lose his throne and perhaps even his life.
But revenge will come. How dare his sons defy their own father! Some day they will be executed. So he begins the wait. Herod is frustrated because he cannot have his very own sons executed. Not yet.
But he will continue to execute lesser men. For the sake of the country.
- Nazareth, Province of Galilee, Palestine
Mary is now six years old and is being taught happiness at home, even though the kingdom she lives in is not very happy.
She has a baby sister named Salome. “Can I hold her, Mother?” Mary asks.
“Come over here and sit on this cushion close to me. Then you can hold the baby for a little while,” her mother replies.
Carefully the exchange is made. Mary runs her hands over the baby’s thin, silky hair. “I’m going to have a baby someday, aren’t I, Mother?”
“Yes, indeed, you will, little Mary. I hope you have a house full of children.”
“And I will never let anyone hurt my children. I will always protect them like you and Father protect Salome and me.”
“If it were only that easy,” her mother whispers.
“What did you say?”
Her mother sighs. “Oh, nothing. Isn’t little Salome beautiful?”
Moments later, Mary becomes wiggly and her mother gently takes the baby from her.
She stands and twirls herself around the courtyard.
“Mary, you’re going to be dizzy and fall,” her grandfather admonishes with a frown and a smile.
Mary is so happy her grandparents have moved in with them. It had become harder for Matthat to bring in fire wood and do all the other necessary things to keep his house in proper condition. His legs aren’t as strong as they used to be, and his hands tremble.
Matthat looks over at his daughter. “Why in the world did you name that little girl Mary? Bitterness just doesn’t seem to fit our happy little girl.”
Mary stops twirling, puts her hands on her waist, and glares at her grandfather in mock disapproval, the twinkle in her eyes remaining bright.
“I’m sorry, little one,” Matthat responds. I shouldn’t have been thinking out loud.”
Not sure what thinking out loud means, Mary brightens at a fresh new thought.
“Do you want to hear my song, Grandfather?”
“You composed a song? How bright you are, Mary. Yes, indeed, I want to hear your song.”
Mary stands at her grandfather’s knees, hands down by her side, eyes sparkling.
I am excited with God.
I am so thrilled with him.
Matthat applauds appropriately while his wife, Eve, waves a handkerchief in approval with her arthritic hand.
Mary grins proudly.
“How can King Herod hate his own children?” Mary’s father interjects, spoiling her shining moment.
“Doesn’t he like his children?” Mary asks. “I’ll be their friend. Do you want me to go to Jerusalem and be their friend?”
“Oh, sweet Mary,” Grandmother Eve responds. “You could never have any influence over the most prominent family in the country. Besides, you’re too young to travel so far from home,” she adds, reaching out for Mary’s little hands.
Satan does not like what he is hearing. He must make people more bitter. He wishes he could make Mary bitter. Doesn’t she realize that’s what her name means? Maybe when she is older he can make her bitter. He must work harder. Harder on Mary. Harder on the world. Before it is too late.
YOUR POWERS, SON. YOU KNOW YOU’LL HAVE TO GIVE UP MOST OF YOUR POWERS MOST OF THE TIME. CAN YOU HANDLE THAT?
You mean like when I’m angry at sinners and tempted to call lightning down on them? It wouldn’t serve my purpose. I’ll use my powers only when necessary to prove I am from heaven, no more.
- BC 9
- Jerusalem, Province of Judea, Palestine
“Here we are, gentlemen,” King Herod announces to his closest and most trusted associates. “We have a supply of torches. Everyone should have one.”
It is dark once again. It always seems dark. Tonight it is worse.
Each one in the small entourage wears a hood to camouflage their identity in case they are discovered.
They say nothing. They are dumbfounded at what is about to take place. But they must follow orders.
Their king walks among the night-time shadows through the royal cemetery to the vault. “Break the seal,” he orders, looking at one of his Levitical temple guards.
The seal broken, Herod leads the way into a large vault. His lusty grin broadens, despite the dust that grabs at his breath.
It is the tomb of King David and his son, Solomon. In the back is a door opening into a tunnel. Herod orders the soldiers to enter the tunnel first. It is musty. The air is stale and thick. Thick with death.
“The national treasury is back here. At least, that is what I have been told all my life.” Herod tells them.
A little farther back, torches held high and going strong, they see ahead another door. Passing through it they see a large room, much of it containing gold plated furniture. Everyone searches among the furnishings for hidden treasure as Herod drools unabashedly. Deeper and deeper into the room. Closer to the actual crypts of David and Solomon.
Suddenly a flash.
Lit torches. Gasses ignited. A hideous scream.
Clothes on fire. Put it out! Stop the fire! Save him!
A second man throws himself on the first.
Both on fire. Both in flames. Running. Screaming. Tortured beyond endurance.
Then it stops.
The others back up in horror. Away from Herod. King or not, they will pursue no farther. What price for money?
Herod looks at the remains of the two men and watches as the others leave him behind.
“Stop, deserters! Traitors! I’ll have you flogged for this!” Better yet, they need to be executed. To keep his secret. The secret of a madman.
- Nazareth, Province of Galilee
Mary is now fourteen years old. She understands now how bad things are out there.
“Greetings Mother! Greetings, Grandmother! What’s for dinner?”
Her heart-shaped face is now graced with high cheekbones and fuller lips, but with the same fiery eyes of her earlier childhood. She flings her shawl toward a corner, and it flies uncooperatively only a few paces away.
“Uh, Mary, wash your hands and help your grandmother finish cutting the bread,” Sarah says without looking up. She is almost through dishing up the lamb stew from a large pot by the oven into smaller bowls.
“Despite how much your grandmother’s hands hurt,” Mary’s mother continues, “she insists on helping anyway. I declare, Mary. You are getting more like your grandmother all the time. Always doing things your own way.”
The eyes of Mary and the elderly Eve meet in mutual satisfaction.
“How was your babysitting this afternoon?” Grandmother Eve asks.
“Oh, fine. I can’t wait to have children of my own. They are so much fun.”
“And work, don’t forget,” her mother adds.
“What about the Herod’s soldiers and Roman legionnaires? Did any of them bother you?” Heli asks walking out to the courtyard to greet his eldest daughter.
“Nope,” Mary replies. She places her hands on her hips and stares momentarily at her father. “No one pays attention to someone like me.”
Satan grows nervous over Mary. He has figured out Mary will have something to do with his overthrow.
HOW ABOUT GIVING UP YOUR SPIRIT BODY? YOU’RE GOING TO BE TRAPPED IN A HUMAN BODY THAT CAN TOUCH AND SEE AND HEAR ONLY A FEW FEET IN ANY DIRECTION. CAN YOU HANDLE THAT, SON?
Yes, Father. I can handle it.
- BC 8
- Jerusalem, Province of Judea
Spies everywhere. King Herod claims it is for the good of the country. He’s out of control. Therein lies his ultimate control. There is no stopping him.
People are tortured. Tortured to confess what they did not say, plot, see or do.
“It’s my sons. They’re trying to take over again.” Herod paces in his throne room.
He stops, glares at one of his aides, then resumes his pacing. His hair is disheveled, his beard unkempt, and his eyes bloodshot. He has not slept all night again.
“I knew not to trust them. My own flesh and blood.”
His robe flies behind him as though the faster he walks, the faster his problems will go away. And his sons.
“We’ve got to find eyewitnesses,” he declares to one of his puppet advisers.
He whirls around and charges toward the door. “Take their friends into custody,” he shouts at one of the Levitical temple guards on duty. “Make them tell you what Alexander and Aristobulus are up to. They must be stopped.”
He turns back to his adviser, as though having to prove his decision is the right one. “For the sake of the country, they must be stopped!”
- Jericho, Province of Judea
Things are no different in his summer palace.
“Even here people are against me.” Herod declares, brooding upon his throne.
“Everyone’s plotting to take away my crown, even though they know in their hearts I love my people and want only what is best for them.”
His sister, Salome, is seated on a lesser throne next to him. No one else is in the room. She has just passed on more bad news.
“How many of the women in my family are in on this?” Herod asks.
“A hand full. Small, but dangerous,” Salome explains while running her fingers around the golden chalice holding her wine.
“But they all hate each other”
“Only in public, dear brother. In private, they have their meetings and make plans for the next step to dethrone you.”
Herod laughs. “Others have tried it and failed. These women are nothing.”
Salome gets up from her throne, bored with playing royalty for now, and faces her brother. “They’ve found allies among some of your officers.”
Herod’s smile disintegrates.
More executions. The women. The officers. Eliminated. No more threat. For the sake of the country.
King Herod grows more irrational. Irrational with power and control. He does not know true power nor true control. The time is close. Time for the true Power to arrive.
- BC 7-5
- Nazareth, Province of Galilee
“How could he do it, Father? How could the king have his own sons executed? Will he stop at nothing?”
Mary is now sixteen years old. Sweet sixteen, and engaged to a young man named Joseph. Sometimes she thinks about whether she should bring children into such a world as this.
Mary will receive her answer soon, in a few moments. She is not aware. Nor is the world. Satan is. Is it too late to make Mary bitter?
“He’s a monster, Father. How could he just sit there and watch them snuff the life out of his very own sons?” Mary stands with her hands on her hips. “I could never allow anyone to execute my son.”
Heli has just arisen from his afternoon nap. His hair is mussed and his eyes are only half open.
“Father, did you hear me?”
Eve brings her son-in-law a mug of juice. He takes a swig, and looks over at his daughter.
“King Herod has become a slave to power,” Heli finally says. “I’m just glad my father didn’t live long enough to see all this.”
“To think,” Mary continues. “That while we were having lunch yesterday, just a hundred milles away he was sitting there watching them execute his sons.”
Heli looks down and shakes his head.
“Was he this bad before I was born?”
He looks up at his innocent daughter and nods.
“He’s sick, Father. How can God let this go on?”
Mary plops down on a cushion near her elder. She speaks softer now. “Maybe people are right. Maybe there is no hope.”
Heli puts his strong hand on her shoulder and forces a smile. “Never give up hope, sweet Mary.”
Mary’s father stands and announces, “Who wants to walk to the city square and back to get some fresh air?”
Heli’s skin is more leathered now from his years working in the sun as a stone mason.
“Son,” now-widowed Eve responds, walking over to him. “You just want me to exercise more. I’ve known you since you married my daughter. Well, if you walk slowly, I guess I can go along.”
The summer days are long and the heat extends into the evening. Everyone decides to go but Mary.
“I want to go over my wedding plans some more. Is it okay if I don’t go along?”
“It’s okay as long as you keep the gate barred,” her father replies.
“No problem. I’ll be fine.”
The family leaves and Mary is alone.
BUT, SON, HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF THE CROSS YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO ENDURE FOR THEM? CAN YOU KEEP YOURSELF FROM CALLING ON YOUR POWERS TO DELIVER YOURSELF FROM THE TORTURE? CAN YOU HANDLE IT, SON?
Father, we love those people. Only when they see I am really dead can you step in with the powers of life to resurrect me and show them you’ll do the same for them.
Mary gets out her swatches of bridal fabrics and goes up to the roof where there is a slight breeze.
She takes along a clay tablet on which she has written a list of things that must be done before the big day. A few of the items have been scratched out, but not near enough. Everything must be planned precisely. Her wedding will be the perfect wedding. People around town will be talking about it for months.
She reads over her list, then moves her attention to the colors of fabric she’s considering wearing on her wedding day. Her wedding with Joseph. How she loves him. How lucky she had been that her parents accepted her request to marry him and that his guardian, Simeon, had agreed to Joseph’s request to marry her.
Suddenly she hears a man’s voice behind her.
Mary jumps up and turns around. How did that man get in the house? Trembling, she backs away from him.
“Don’t hurt me,” she blurts out.
“Hurt you? Never in a thousand years.”
The man stands where he is a moment, then wanders over to a bench, sitting with his hands loosely in his lap.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?” Tears of fear escape from her eyes.
“I just came to congratulate you, Mary.”
Summoning up a little more courage, she puts her hands on her hips and demands, “How did you know my name?”
“Oh, I know all about you. Please forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is Gabriel. Actually, I’m an angel.”
Mary snickers deep in her throat and her eyes flash in disbelief. She inches over far enough to put her hand on a club used to clean rugs.
“You’re not kidding me. Who are you? Just leave before I scream.” Her eyes flash, but she knows she does not sound convincing.
“Please listen to me just a moment. Then I promise to leave. See, I’m not getting any closer to you. Just stand there by the wall. If I try to come any closer, you may scream all you want. Then all the people down on the street can come rescue you from me. Fair enough?”
Mary isn’t answering. But she’s not moving either.
“I just wanted to give you my congratulations.”
“How did you know I was getting married?”
“Oh, not about that,” the angel responds.
“Well, that’s the only important thing I’m doing these days.”
“Mary…” He grows more serious. “Mary, you are a very favored lady, for the Lord is with you.”
“I know God is with me at all times. He’ll protect me from you unless you really are an angel.” She tries to imitate the way her father sounded once when a thief disguised as a peddler tried to break into their house.
Gabriel resumes. “But God has decided to wonderfully bless you, Mary, in a special way.”
Silence. What is he talking about?
“Very soon now, you will become pregnant and have a baby boy.”
“Well, very soon now I will be married. So, yes, you’re right. I’ll probably become pregnant right away. But a boy? How can you know that?” she responds, momentarily forgetting she could be in danger.
Gabriel reassures her. “Remember, Mary, I’m an angel. God has told me everything. Furthermore, you are to call your baby Jesus.”
“Jesus? But my husband will be Joseph. I plan to name my first son Joseph.”
Gabriel continues as though she has not responded. “He shall be very great and shall be called the Son of God.”
The words grab hold of her heart and will not let go. Son of God…of God…of God…
Mary’s mouth opens, but in speechlessness. She does not understand.
Oh, Mary. Listen to what he says. Really and truly listen.
The angel continues. “He shall govern this nation forever; his kingship shall never end!”
His words echo through her mind and are trapped there in a confused abyss. She sits on a bench by the wall, her trembling hands grasping its edges.
“The child will not belong to Joseph. You will become pregnant miraculously before you are married. Remember the prophet Isaiah saying a virgin will bear the Son of God?”
Indeed, Mary does remember. Her father had been talking about it just the day before.
Gabriel continues. “And when I said his nation would never end, I was quoting from the prophet Daniel. Daniel even predicted exactly when he would be born. His birth year, Mary, is next year. Do you have a scripture scroll? I will show you.”
Mary, he’s offering you proof now. He’s helping you believe.
Her confidence has grown enough that Mary replies there is a set of scrolls in the first room downstairs on a shelf where her father always keeps it. Then she remembers the knives for skinning meat which he also stores nearby, and interrupts herself. “Uh, there’s a closer set at the bottom of the stairs in those tall jars with lids.”
Gabriel smiles in understanding, goes to the bottom of the stairs and randomly—though not randomly—chooses one of the jars. He takes the tattered scroll out of it. He turns the scroll as he walks back up the stairs. He sits back down. She is surprised at how fast he has done all this.
“Here it is. ‘Pay attention! It will be 49 years—that’s seven weeks’ times seven days in a week—plus 434 years from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the crowned One comes!’”
“That’s a total of 483 years,” he explains. “Mary, it has been 452 years since our capital city was rebuilt. The descendant of David is due to be born next year and become priest-king when all priests are eligible—at age 30. That will be the 483rd year.”
Grasp what he’s telling you, Mary. Can you do it?
Mary tries with all her heart to believe him.
He has proven himself with scripture, with the Word of God. The final proof is yet to be given.
“But I’m a virgin. How can I have the baby? How can I conceive?”
Okay, Mary. Can you handle it? Can you comprehend what he’s about to tell you? Try, Mary. Really try. Don’t let the moment slip by, Mary. It’s. dynamic. It’s spiritual.
Gabriel remains seated and smiling. He stands now, and walks slowly toward Mary, then kneels in front of her so he can look into her eyes. Full of excitement, he whispers as though telling a special secret.
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon you!”
“The Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit helped David write his psalms.” Then, thoughtfully, she adds, “He does other things too?”
Gabriel’s exhilaration swells. His words trip over each other in excitement.
“Mary, the power of God will overshadow you.”
Come on, Mary. You’re almost there. Don’t stop now.
“Therefore,” Gabriel continues, “the baby born to you will be thoroughly celestial.”
“Celestial?” she manages to say.
What is happening?
Hang on to your seat, now, Mary. Here comes the rest of it. You didn’t get it when he told you before. Grasp it now.
“Your baby will…your baby, Mary, will be the Son of God!”
That’s it. That’s the final thing you’ve got to believe. Do you believe it, Mary? Can you? Try hard, Mary.
Divine truth descends to her mind. Dazzles her soul. Ignites her spirit. “I want to believe you. Somehow I do believe.”
Day dawns in the mind, soul and spirit of Mary. And of Mankind.
Gabriel looks into her eyes a little longer then stands. Slowly now he backs away.
“By the way,” Gabriel adds, “six months ago, your elderly cousin Elizabeth—‘the infertile one,’ they called her—became pregnant! God’s promise to you will come true also.”
He continues to back away. Slowly… Slowly…
Mary wants to believe him. In her heart of hearts somehow she does believe. If she could just talk to Elizabeth herself.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” she states taking a deep breath, “and always have been.” Mary knows now that the angel is really an angel, and that she actually believes him.
Now for the final commitment. Mary, can you do it?
“I am willing to do whatever God wants.” Mary stands to walk toward the angel. “Somehow I believe. Everything you said. It will come true. Finally it will come true.”
His work done, Gabriel backs through the bench…through the rooftop wall…suspended now over the street below…fading…fading…gone.
Mary steps to the bench where the stranger had sat and feels it. It is solid as ever. He indeed was an angel. Then she turns and sits on the bench where he had sat only moments earlier.
She picks up the family’s old scripture scroll turned to the passage in Daniel. She reads it and re-reads it, then she prays silently. She reads through the passages in Isaiah.
She prays again. “Me, Lord? Me?”
“Mary, it’s nearly dark! You’re going to ruin your eyes reading like that. You’re too young to lose your eyesight. Light a candle.” Her mother is standing at the top of the stairs.
Quietly Mary follows her down and to the courtyard.
“Everyone, I love you all.”
“You’re a good girl, Mary, but you look a little worn out.”
“I’m going to bed early.”
“Be sure and say your prayers.”
“Oh yes, Father. I will.”
WELL, SON, I GUESS THIS IS IT. YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE REDUCED TO A MINISCULE FERTILIZED EGG, HIDDEN DEEP IN MARY’S LITTLE WOMB. BUT, SON, I WON’T FORGET YOU EVEN THERE. MARY IS ABOUT READY FOR YOU.
Heavenly Father and heavenly Son embrace. The angels stand around watching, some brushing away tears. But Gabriel smiles.
Yes. It is night. But Satan has been silenced. Now it is indeed silent night. Indeed, holy night. The dawn comes. And with it all that is calm and all that is bright.