My Mom passed me a book the other day on Mary. Unafraid by Francine Rivers. It’s a novella about the mother of Jesus. It’s biblically based but there is some literary license to fill in some gaps.
I like the title. It’s not a characteristic that we normally associate with Mary, at least I don’t. We think, wrongly, how perfect she must have been. How holy. How meek and mild. I think we’d all agree that Mary was definitely a woman after the heart of God and lived a holy and righteous life. She bore a perfect son but she wasn’t perfect.
Was she meek and mild? Humble yes, but I don’t think she was any shrinking violet. That’s just my opinion. Accepting God’s call to be the mother of His Son was going to be a hard journey. God needed someone who was up for the job. Full of faith. Strong in the Lord’s strength. Someone who wouldn’t let fear be her master. I see this as I read the book.
Rivers brings some interesting points to light. The gossip and scandal. She indicates that it probably never really went away. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you can understand this concept. There’s always that lifted eyebrow or whispered explanation whenever that person’s mentioned. Mary and Joseph’s reputations were probably ruined. Tainted, at the very least. In that ancient society, how would you ever come back from it?
Rivers brings to the surface the danger that this small family was in at all times. They had a physical enemy in Herod but also in the spiritual realm, Satan was watching and waiting for his chance to strike. Did the danger ever really go away?
Reading Unafraid has caused me to stop and think much about things I thought I knew or took for granted. What has really stood out for me is in the midst of all the danger, is God did not let the birth of His Son, the Saviour of the world, happen in secret. Yes, it was a quiet birth in a cave. No palaces or paparazzi. But God still announced his birth. As the shepherds crowd into the cave, Joseph says to Mary, “The Lord has announced Jesus’ birth, Mary.” (p. 32, Unafraid).
I’ve read the story so many times, it’s become mundane. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. The Angels’ song was a declaration of the birth of God’s Son to those who were seeking Him. Who were willing to look for it.
The real WOW factor? For me, even though there was a murderous king who wanted Jesus dead and Satan was on the prowl, God didn’t put this announcement on the back page. He proclaimed the birth of His Son with a musical extravaganza that would beat any Broadway musical. Not just an angel but a host of them. They shouted it from the skies. No, God rejoiced in the birth of His Son and he let all who wanted to, know it. Even Satan. Herod may have been fooled but Satan knew exactly what was happening.
I was surprised as I read. It’s fiction but it makes you think. It makes you want to examine scriptures a little bit more deeply. Take a second look. As we mature in our faith, we need to really look at scripture and understand the context of many of the stories. The historical context. The religious context of what was happening. They become so much richer when we know what’s really going on. It expands our knowledge of who God is and what He is capable of doing. Our faith grows.
Mary, Joseph, Jesus. Their lives weren’t easy. Shouldn’t they have been? I mean they were raising God’s son. You’d think God would want to make it easy for them. Wouldn’t He?
He didn’t. Their lives were fraught with danger, pain and confusion. Should we expect anything less? God doesn’t run from a battle. From danger. From a mess. But He doesn’t make us go it alone either. He never took His eyes off of His Son or Mary and Joseph. He is present. Even in the danger. The mess, the fear or the confusion. Don’t back away from it. God is right there in the middle of it.
Emmanuel. God with us.
PS (If you have a little extra time this season, get a copy of Unafraid by Francine Rivers. You won’t regret it.)