The Annunciation
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by Christine Marciniak

And the Angel of the Lord Came to Mary

I sat at the loom daydreaming, oh, I was working as well, it wouldn’t do for mother to see my hands idle. She’d just say I must not have enough work to do—and I do. Anyway, I was daydreaming about Joseph. We were betrothed last month, and in 4 months, when I turn 15, I will move into his house and we will be man and wife.

            It is lovely being betrothed. Joseph comes over and we take long walks and talk—and no one worries quite so much about our being chaperoned, se we even hold hands when we walk.

            At first my father wasn’t convinced of Joseph’s suitability for me. Oh, he liked him well enough, but Joseph had been married before and has two small sons, James and Matthieus. His wife, Hannah, died when Matthieus was born. That was two years ago. James is three. They are sweet boys and Hannah’s parents are raising them. I told Joseph that once we are married they could come live with us. Joseph wasn’t sure. He says the boys are happy where they are and he doesn’t want to disrupt them. But anyway, since Joseph had been married before, my father hesitated when he asked for my hand, but he saw that Joseph was a righteous man and that he would be good to me, so he agreed.

            For my part, I must admit, I was more than a little bit nervous when I was told that I had been promised to Joseph. After all, I really didn’t know him that well—I’d seen him around the village and he seemed nice enough, but being promised to him in marriage was a whole different thing. But he came to dinner and I found that I liked him well enough.

            So, I sit here weaving linen for my new home and thinking about how it will be to be in charge of my own house. I’ll have to practice my cooking.

            A shadow fell across my loom. I looked up and saw a large man standing there. Only it wasn’t really a man, not like any I’ve ever seen before. And then he spoke.

            “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

            I couldn’t speak. Who was this? What did it mean? Favored one? Favored by whom, God? Many questions swirled around in my head, and now my heart beat wildly.

            “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” I felt myself start to relax. I was pleased that God found favor in me, but still I had many questions—like who was this standing here?

            “My name is Gabriel,” the being answered, as if in response to my unasked question. “And I am an angel of the Lord.”

            An angel. I’d read about angels in the scriptures, but never had harbored any hope of seeing one myself. I didn’t know they still made personal appearances in modern times.

            “Behold.” Gabriel continued, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

            I’m not sure I grasped everything this angel told me. I was hung up on the fact that I was going to conceive and bear a son—and I didn’t get the impression that Joseph would be the father. My mother had told me the basics of reproduction and I understood you had to lay with a man in order to conceive. Finally, I found my voice.

            “How can this be, since I have no relations with man?”

            Gabriel put his hand on my shoulder in a reassuring gesture. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

            God wanted me to be the mother of his child? God was going to be the father of my child? I didn’t know whether to be stunned by the awesomeness of the possibility or laugh at the sheer preposterousness of it all.

            Gabriel knelt on one knee in front of me, so that we were face to face. Looking into his eyes was like looking into pure love and kindness. “And behold,” he continued gently, “Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is her sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”

            All desire to laugh left me and my heart was filled with wonder at the magnitude of what the angel was telling me. It was true, Elizabeth was expecting a child, and she was older than my mother. Nothing was impossible for God. I would be the mother of his child. I bowed my head and closed my eyes. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” When I looked up, the angel was gone.

            Suddenly the ramifications of what I had just agreed to hit me—and I felt frightened. Sure, I believed that nothing was impossible—and the angel of God had told me what to expect. But what about my parents? Would they believe I was carrying God’s child and not that of some forbidden lover? And Joseph? How could I explain to Joseph? He would know he was not the father, and my pregnancy would be proof of adultery in his eyes. He could have me stoned. My stomach clenched at the thought.

            But no, if God wanted me to carry his child, he wouldn’t allow me to be killed before it happened. I had to believe that. I had to trust in God. I began to relax a little.

            Then I began to wonder about the mechanics of it all. “The power of the most High will overshadow you,” the angel had said. Would I know when it happened? Would it hurt? How would I know when I was actually with child? And whom could I ask? I couldn’t see going to my mother and asking her. Trusting in God or not, I wasn’t ready to tell anyone about this quite yet.

            My mother entered the room then and noted the idle loom. “You will not have any linen for your new home if you do not stop daydreaming about your Joseph.”

            “I’m sorry, mother. It’s all just so very exciting, isn’t it?” I hope my voice didn’t betray anything.

            My mother smiled gently. “Yes, it is dear. I dreamed too, when I was betrothed to you father.” Her face took on a more serious look. “I received a letter from our kinswoman Elizabeth today.”

            “How is she?” I asked politely.

            “Having a difficult time I’m afraid. She writes that she is pleased that God has chosen to bless her with a child at her advanced age, she just wishes he could have blessed her with some youthful energy as well. Zechariah is being helpful, but he is old too—and tormented by the fact that he still can not speak—your remember, Mary, how talkative Zechariah can be?
            I did indeed remember.

            “Mary, I know it’s not fair to ask, since you need to prepare for your move, but I’d like you to go to Elizabeth.

            “Of course I’ll go,” I answered. Of course there was no question of my going, it was family responsibility. It also would give me a chance to think about what had happened this afternoon from a safe distance.

For the second part of this story go to The Visitation

Feedback, ideas? Email christine.marciniak@gmail.com.

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