This month has a been blur of Christmas parties, ministry, outreach, and work at Charming Charlie’s. I was sitting in church today trying (unsuccessfully) to keep my boys quiet and still. Family Service = torture for mom. Anyway, in a moment between hushing my children, I glanced up at the screen and saw “December 23rd, 2012″.” How did this happen?”, I thought to myself.
Two more days til Christmas. Wow.
Last Thursday I got an opportunity to tell a Christmas Story for a Heart For Her Christmas Party. I decided to write one because, well – why not? That and I wanted to tell it in a way that the girls would stay engaged in and maybe make it more real for them. If you find yourself with a few quiet moments sometime in the craziness of family fun, here is the Christmas Story from Mary’s perspective:
More Precious Than Gold
By Cindy Grasso
This story has been told many different ways, through song and poem, play and paper. It is a story that is not legend but history and it is perhaps the most important story ever told because it reveals to us the heart of God and the worth of men. It is a story that holds scandal, mystery, miracle, wonder and heartbreak.
Today, our story begins with an old woman at the end of her life sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. In her hand she holds a single gold coin. Sitting across from her is a gentleman who has come to ask her questions. He is a doctor named Luke and writing down the account of what happened. When she closes her eyes, she is not sleeping but remembering how it all began…
“It could have been yesterday”, she says with a smile, “and not so many years ago. I was a young, fresh faced 15 year old, ready for anything life would bring. When you are 15, you wonder what your life will be like. You hope and pray, dream and wonder. There are moments you feel that anything is possible and then there are moments that feel like nothing is.”
“It all began the night an angel visited me. A being wrapped in robes of light appeared in my room I was terrified. In calming tones,he told me to “Not be afraid”. He told me that I was going to become pregnant with a son. How, I wondered. I was engaged but not married and had not been intimate with a man. The messenger from heaven told me that “with God all things are possible” and that the child would be the very son of God. The last thing the angel said was that my barren cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant and in her sixth month.”
“I got up the next morning and went to see Elizabeth. True to the angel’s words, she was indeed pregnant and already in her sixth month. Her aged face was resplendent with joy as her belly was swollen with child. Soon I realized that I was pregnant as well as the morning sickness became a part of my daily routine. I helped Elizabeth through the last months of her pregnancy and she helped me through the first months of mine. Right before she gave birth to her miracle child, I went back home to my own village.”
“I didn’t tell anyone because I feared what might happen. The penalty of being pregnant out of wedlock was a gruesome death by stoning and it would bring disgrace to my family as well as dishonor my fiancé. I was not showing yet and when I told my future husband that I was pregnant, his face fell and I saw his heart break. It was a nightmare. He did not speak to me for the rest of the day and when he finally did, he told me that he would break the engagement quietly. He was a good man but what was he supposed to do? What was I going to do? How was I going to take care of a child by myself? No one would believe that I was carrying a miracle child. They would think I was just lying or worse…crazy. My pillow was wet with tears that night.”
“When I got up the next day, my own heart was breaking when my fiancé came to me. He told me that he had had a dream. In the dream a being wrapped in light came to him and had told him to marry me, for the child I was carrying was indeed the son of God and a miracle. He told him what to name the child and revealed to him the great plan we were a part of. I was relieved and amazed.”
“My husband-to-be had to register in Caesar’s census, and so we decided to leave Nazareth and depart for Bethlehem immediately. I was grateful to be with him and for the first time in a long while, I thought maybe things would be alright.”
“I would like to tell you that things got easier but they did not. We made the 80 mile journey in good time but when we arrived the city was crowded with people everywhere. We were not the only ones coming to register for the census. My fiancé was a good man but he was not a rich man. He was a tradesman and hard worker. After walking the streets of Bethlehem and knocking on every door, we resigned to the fact that we could not find a place to stay. Discouraged, hungry and tired, we finally found a place on the outskirts of the city. It was not a home or hostel but a cave. In a cave being used as a stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem, we made a home for ourselves. It was better than nothing. I was thankful for the shelter.”
“I’ve often wondered why the Prince of Heaven would be given to a humble working class couple who often struggled to make ends meet. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was because He was sent for all men and women, not just for the privileged ones. He would know hunger, hurt, hard work and humility. He would know a trade from his earthy father and have a mission from His Heavenly one.”
“In the last days of my pregnancy, I worried and feared what might happen. I did not have my family close and no midwife would be there to help me. I felt so utterly alone. But then, deep in my heart, I heard the echo of words the angel spoke to me that first night, “Do not be afraid”. When the first pains began, a peace came over me. There was still pain but I had God’s peace in the midst of it. There are not enough words to describe the emotions of giving birth that night. It was frightening, exciting, heart wrenching and amazing. It is a miracle whenever a new life is brought into the world but for this one moment, this one time- the Savior of it was being brought forth. The power of it alone overwhelmed my soul and when I heard his first strong cry, I began to cry as well. My tears of pain turned to tears of joy.”
“My fiancé cleaned out the feeding trough and it became a crib for the heaven’s sent son. Other than my own cries of pain, the night was quiet.”
“As I held the newborn baby, we gazed down at the face of God and wondered why the arrival God’s son was only a secret for a poor couple in cave? We got our answer a few hours later when shepherds who had been in a nearby field sought found us. They told us that an angel had appeared brimming with the glory of God in the night sky. There were terrified, of course. The angel told them, like he told me, not to be afraid. He told them that the Savior of the world had been born that very night and that he would be found sleeping in a feeding trough of a Bethlehem stable. Suddenly a great choir of angels lit up the night sky and rejoiced in the news that heaven’s plan to redeem mankind had finally begun. I suppose heaven could not contain itself and had celebrated with a moment sheer exuberance. We did not see it but we had no doubt that the shepherds had. Why did they only appear to lowly shepherds and not wake up the entire city sky with the news? We found the answer to that question a couple years later.”
After the baby was born, we got married. We found a small house in Bethlehem and my husband worked his trade there. We decided to stay for a while as there would be to many questions if we went back home too soon.”
“One evening, we got visitors. Not from heaven this time, but foreigners from another country. Three men who had traveled for years looking for the child who was prophesied in ancient texts to become the King of the Jews. When they saw the child in my arms they fell down on their faces and worshipped him. We invited them in and they brought with them gifts to honor the young King: gold, incense and an expensive anointment called myrrh.”
As if she was suddenly brought back to the present, the old woman opened her hand and looked down at the piece of gold in it. “This is the last one I have, she said. “I’ve kept it all these years as a reminder of the wonderful and strange things that happened during that time.”
“That night we found out why the Savior’s birth had been such a secret- the three foreign wise men told us that they had first gone to King Herod’s palace to find the new prince. King Herod was a evil man who was so paranoid that someone would take his throne that he had his own sons killed. Surely, he would not hesitate to kill my son. Our fears were confirmed that night in a dream given to my husband. An angel told him to leave and take us to Egypt right away for Herod was going to search for the child and murder him.”
“So we did. We used some of the gold to get out of the country. While we were in Egypt, we heard the awful news: Herod had ordered that all boys in and near Bethlehem who were 2 years old and under to be killed. I wept for all the mothers who had lost their sons. So many children were murdered because of that evil king. When Herod died, an angel came in a dream and told my husband that it was finally safe to return to Israel.”
“We went home to Nazareth. Over the years, we sold or used the gifts the foreigners gave us to survive. I have not told my story to very many people. I’ve kept it close to my heart and treasured them for years.”
“As you know, my son grew up and became a man. The things he did, the things I saw him do with my own eyes, were amazing. I saw him turn water into wine with a word. Bring healing to the sick with a touch. I’ve seen him straighten crooked limbs and bring sight to blind eyes. These are truly amazing things to witness but for me, they were just the beginning. More than what he did, it was what he said that changed people’s lives, including my own. It was his love for people and his message of heaven’s love for a broken world that impacted hearts. It was the words he spoke of more than a temporary world but of each person’s eternal destination.”
“And as precious as this gold is, it is just a reminder to me of something more precious. It is the message that the child who I carried and gave birth to, lived for and died for. The message that God in heaven loves each one of us so much that he sent His own son to earth. A son who told us that God’s kingdom was so close you could touch it. A son who showed the world that a soul cannot be bought by gold, but that it can be redeemed by the shed blood of it’s Savior. ”
Have a very merry Christmas, my friend. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for every comment, word of encouragement, hug and smile. I am blessed because you are a part of my life.