(This dramatic monologue sermon was written by Rev. Roy Knight and presented by his wife.)
It’s time again. We are on the way to the Feast, camped near the Holy City, Jerusalem. There are so many people here! The road is thronged with families and friends making their way to the Temple. And how beautiful it is with the morning sun gilding it! Oh Jerusalem, city set on a hill, crown of all nations!
Joseph’s tent is near ours. I am so glad Joseph’s tent is near. Dear Joseph! I can see his face even now.
One of the rabbis in the Temple today read from the prophet Isaiah about the wonderful child who was to rule upon a throne like David’s, and of whose kingdom there would be no end. How my soul lept under the portrayal and image of that coming glory! Through all the humiliation that hope sustains our people, Israel.
We are on the way home now. Mother asked me last night about Joseph, and I fell into her arms and told her I love him. I was overjoyed to learn that our marriage had been arranged years before when I was but six. I told my mother how frightened I was to leave home, but I suppose all girls feel that way at first. Then she said, “Joseph is a good man.” And, of course, I agree!
Joseph and I are betrothed. What beautiful days! Life passes like a dream. Joseph comes often now to talk with father and mother about his hopes: for us and for the nation of Israel. Nothing can touch our happiness!
I tremble. I know not what to think, yea, I cannot even think! For as I knelt at my evening prayers an angel appeared to me and told me I was to be the mother of Messiah! Seeing my confusion the angel hastened to reassure me:
And you shall call his name Jesus; and he shall be great; he shall be a king, like David; and his kingdom will have no end.
“But I am a virgin yet in my father’s house,” I pleaded, “…it cannot be!” “There is no cannot with God,” the messenger replied, and vanished…leaving me alone.
I think of Joseph — it would be months before our marriage, when we would begin to live together. O my soul, my soul is in ecstasy! Words too large for my tongue to frame! Can it be? It cannot… It is a dream! It would not come to one in such a humble station in life. 7b be the mother of Messiah!. Oh, that is an honor only for the rich and the famous and the great!
But what of Joseph? How can I tell him? For that matter, can I tell anyone? The secret of our nation between God and me. Shall I go back to Jerusalem to the High Priest? But I would be laughed to scorn. To whom may I go? Who will understand my dilemma, my joy?
I yearned to tell my mother this morning, but could not. It seemed too presumptuous, so unbelievable, yes, impossible! And still there is Joseph. How can he understand?
My secret oppresses me! If there was only one to whom I could unburden myself, one who could listen and hear, one who could understand!
I can stand it no longer and have received permission to visit with my cousin, Elizabeth, in Hebron. We have heard wonderful stories about Elizabeth and Zechariah and their coming child. It is good for me to visit with her anyway. At her age she may need my help while she is with child. Perhaps if I can tell her……she may understand. To her I can pour out my soul.
Elizabeth greets me at the door and before I had spoken she broke into rapture, calling me the mother of the Most High and pronouncing blessings on me! It has been revealed to her in a dream about my baby, she says.
Three months with Elizabeth. What glorious days! We live in another world — a world far removed from this one — and unburdened to each other our bursting hearts. Two babes were to change our nation and maybe even the lands and those babes would call us mother!
Farewell, Elizabeth! I am sorry to leave. You only can understand the torment and the ecstasy. I must go back now to the outside world where explanations will be asked and no one will believe — perhaps not even mother — perhaps, worst of all, not even my Joseph!
Home in Nazareth once more. I lay on my pallet tonight thinking about the changes taking place in my body. I know now my childhood is gone even though I am but twelve, but I do not feel like a woman let alone a mother! There is so much love between us, but it is such a fragile thread. Is it strong enough to hold us together? If Joseph does not believe my story, he has the right to see me condemned as an adulteress, stoned to death! My heart beats so hard and so fast that I cannot sleep. I can wait no longer. I must know! If I do not tell him now I will never be able to tell him.
Slipping out into the night and keeping to the shadows I make my way to Joseph’s home. A small glow of light tells me he is still awake. I knock softly, holding my breath as I hear him come to open the door.
He is astonished to see me there! Though he scolds me gently for coming to his house alone and at night, his eyes and his smile tell me how glad he is to see me. With trembling heart and voice, I silence his words and unfold my long story: I tell him everything: about the light, the angel, the pregnancy, the birth to me (to us), of a child that is God’s, and a son who would be a mighty leader, Immanuel!
There is a silence so deep that I can still hear my heart beating. Joseph struggles so hard to believe me, fearing, I think, that I have gone mad, or that I have contrived this tale to cover some act with another man. In that silence, I know for the first time the meaning of despair. I begin to weep. Joseph, too, is in agony, his own kind of agony. He tells me in a hoarse voice to go home, that he has to be alone. We part as if strangers, my heart like a stone within me.
Somehow I make it back to my house, my room, my pallet. If I had said “no” to the angel those three long months ago, would I have saved us this terrible pain? My only comfort comes as I place my arms around my abdomen in the still of the night. The knowledge of that life within me brought a strange peace, a comfort I cannot begin to describe….
O my God, time will vindicate me, but meantime what? Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me; my friends stand aloof; my confusion is ever before me, and the shame of my face is a covering. How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? How long wilt thou hide thy face from thy handmaiden?
Mother is not feeling well this morning, so I am able to throw myself into the household chores: filling water jugs, milking the goats. And in taking our sheep out to the pasture, there waiting…waiting for me was…is…Joseph!
He takes my hands in his. I can still see his eyes so tired, yet clear in a way I’ve never known or seen before. And so gentle! He tells me of the terrible night he has gone through, of his anger and how at first he had wanted to see me humiliated and punished. But then of his tears and despair because he once loved me and… loves me still and did not want to see me hurt. Yet he could not in good conscience proceed with our marriage while I carry this child. Finally, he tells me of his decision to divorce me quickly and quietly and to send me away.
“But an angel appeared to me in a dream,” he says. “It must assuredly have been your angel, Mary,” he continues with a smile, “and it said to me,
‘Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy betrothed; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.'”
We gazed at one another for a brief moment and then we bowed together in the pasture. Joseph prayed brokenly, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for thou Lord, has dealt bountifully with us, and we shall walk upright before thee all our days.”
The following weeks were a blur. My condition is now apparent and Joseph, bless him, takes all responsibility on himself. He tells my family and his family that the child is his. Oh, yes, in our small town there are whispers and raised eyebrows, but I am too busy and too happy to pay much attention. Joseph and I are together and give each other company and courage.
Our wedding day! Elizabeth and Zechariah come — and their angel-promised child whom they for some strange reason have named John. Elizabeth and Joseph talk much together, about dreams I think… And Joseph looks long and hard into the face of her baby. What does he see? What does he think?
Elizabeth, Zechariah, Joseph, and I talk much about the Writings of the Great Prophets of Isreal. We are trying to understand the words and meaning of a certain passage concerning a promised Messiah. We ponder over and over one Scripture that tells of a young virgin that would bear a son and that his name would be called “God-with-us.”
I ponder the words more than do the others. These things, these thoughts, these feelings all come over me in waves. What do they mean? What will they mean to Joseph and me…to our friends…to our nation and land…and maybe, just maybe, even to those yet unborn?