She shifted awkwardly in her seat. She was uncomfortable after sitting so long for so many days in a row. She wanted to ask him to stop. To let her stretch her legs for a bit. But they had already stopped so many times she didn’t want to inconvenience him any more. She let out a small sigh as she reached a hand up to rub at her sore neck. The sigh caught his attention and he turned his head to look at her. He smiled knowingly and looked lovingly at his bride. He didn’t say anything but let his eyes linger on her stomach.
His silent was reassuring and calmed her a little bit. As strong as her physical discomfort was it didn’t even compare the emotional turmoil of the past few months. Her heart tugged as she thought about her parents, so trusting. So convinced that she was a special girl. It was difficult knowing that she was leaving them behind to suffer the ridicule of the community.
She knew what they were saying. The kind ones whispered rumors that she had been raped. That one of the soldiers in her town had taken advantage of her innocents and attractive dark skin. Others were less gracious and spoke loudly when she walked by. Speculating that she had betrayed her beloved.
She looked at him and tears welled up in her eyes. Her gaze lingered on his hands. Such strong hands they were. They had made most of the furniture in her fathers home. That is when she had first met him. She had been but a child of 10 maybe 11 joining her father on an afternoon trip to pick out wood. His hands had intrigued her then. They were so strong and skilled. Over the next few years her father’s home grew and Joseph's skills were often acquired to fill the rooms. He had watched her grow up and it had not escaped his noticed that she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
And then everything changed. She remembered the day vividly. She had been in her mother’s kitchen working. She had been keeping her mind busy by pretending she was attending to her own home. It was a childish game perhaps but it kept her occupied during long days of chores. She was still glowing with the thought of her betrothal to Joseph.
And then it happened. A light filled the room and she experienced the visit that had changed her life. During the visit she was filled with a peace. “May it be done unto me as you say,” she had told the angel. But then he had left. Leaving her in a dark room wondering what to do next. She had told her parents who at first had not believed her. However, as the weeks followed and her eating patterns had changed they were forced to accept the truth. Mary never was sure what made them decided to believe her but she was grateful they had.
Her heart wrenched as she remembered the day her father had told Joseph. She had watched from a window as Joseph walked away from her fathers home. She was sure he would never return. She was lying on her bed still awake from the night before when she heard a commotion the next morning. She was sure it was a messenger from Joseph divorcing her. But it wasn’t. It was Joseph’s voice. And he was calling for her! He too had received a message from God!
The next few months had been difficult. She was grateful for the support of her parents and Joseph. It was their love and the memory of the angles message that kept her going. “Highly favored one” that is what the angle had called her. He had called her blessed among women. He had promised her that God would be with her. She clung to these promises much as she had clung to Joseph after he had taken her into his home.
There were nights when she doubted. When she would wonder if she had imaged it all. Maybe she really had been raped and had just come up with this story to cover it up. Maybe she was crazy! Joseph would often wake up and night and find her crying over such thoughts. He would come into her room pull her onto his lap and whisper to her God’s promises.
Joseph noticed her restlessness and stopped the donkey. “I need to rest,” he said as an excuse. His arms reached up and encircled her waist and helped her down. He held her tight against his chest for a moment before setting her on a boulder.
She felt weary. As a teenager she felt so young, so inadequate of what was asked of her. She felt like she had sacrificed so much already. Her heart sank at the thought of giving birth to a child so far from the love and comfort of her mother. She wondered what other sacrifices would be required of her in the future.
A gentle breeze brushed by her face. A sweet fragrance surrounded her. As if right by her ear a small voice whispered, “Rejoice, highly favored one, God is with you.” She lifted her eyes to heaven and saw the flicker of a dove flying overhead. She let out a long breath and recited again the prayer that had been so readily on her lips the past nine months “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”