New Insights From An Old Story: God Is Present
Have you ever wondered how Mary felt? Jennifer reflects upon Mary’s story and character, remembering that God is present in all of our trials.
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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 she’s taken some literary license to ﬁll in a few gaps. I really like the title. It’s not a characteristic that we normally associate with Mary, at least I don’t. I think how perfect she must have been. How holy. How meek and mild. I think to myself that I really have nothing in common with Mary. 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 saw this new dimension of Mary’s character 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?
How Did Mary And Joseph Feel?
Rivers brings to the surface the danger that this small family was in at all times. They had a physical enemy in Herod but in the spiritual realm, Satan was watching and waiting for his chance to strike. The danger never ceased. Can you imagine the stress of it all? As a parent, the threat of danger to my children at the very least keeps me up at night. It also brings me to my knees when I realize I have very little control. I have to trust God or it will crush me. How do you think Mary and Joseph felt? Reading Unafraid has caused me to stop and think about things I thought I knew or took for granted. What really stood out in the midst of all the danger, is God did not let the birth of His Son, the long-awaited Saviour, happen in secret. It was a quiet birth in a cave. No palaces or paparazzi. No spread in People magazine. But God still announced his Son’s birth.
In Unafraid, as the shepherds crowded into the cave to see the newborn king, Joseph says to his wife, “The Lord has announced Jesus’ birth, Mary.” (p. 32, Unafraid). I’ve read the story so many times, it’s become mundane. I’ve never 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. God rejoiced in the birth of His Son and he let the world know it. Even Satan. Herod may have been fooled but Satan knew exactly what was happening.
God Is Present
I was surprised as I read Unafraid. It’s ﬁction but it got me thinking and examining the scriptures a little bit more deeply. As we mature in our faith, sometimes taking a second deeper look at the context of those familiar stories helps us understand them on a whole new level. The historical and religious contexts make the Word of God so much richer. It expands our knowledge of who God is and what He is capable of doing. It grows our faith, our hope as our relationship with God deepens. He becomes so much more real to us when we take the time to get to know him on a more intimate level. 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? No, we shouldn’t.
But that’s not the end of the story. God doesn’t run from a battle. From danger. From a mess. Neither should we. The hope is that He doesn’t make us go it alone. He never took His eyes off of His Son or Mary and Joseph. He is present. Even in the danger. In the dark, in our fear and confusion. He is right there beside us as he was for Mary and Joseph. We can be “Unafraid” too because we are not alone. Emmanuel. God with us.
Jennifer Willcock grew up dreaming about being a writer. A voracious reader from a young age, she knew she wanted to tell stories like the many authors she read. She blogs her stories at jenniferwillcock.com and wrote a book, Whole: Hope for the Broken Pastor’s Wife which was published in February 2017.
Jennifer’s husband, Mark, is lead pastor at a church in Kitchener, Ontario. They have two boys and a dwarf rabbit, Whiskers. Jennifer enjoys a piping hot cup of coffee and going to the ballet or symphony. Someday she hopes to retire to a secluded mountaintop.