Mary, the mother of Jesus.
That's what everybody calls me these days.
Dr Luke started it, when he wrote his first book, to distinguish me from the other Mary's.
I love the name. There is something beautiful in being identified in relation to him, since my whole life is defined by him. From that long-ago night in Nazareth, until today, what I am is because of him and for him.
Every now and then, when I'm talking to people, they'll drop their voice and ask, almost as if uncovering a conspiracy, "How was it to be the mother of God's Son?", and I guess they expect some profound, mystical answer. Unfortunately, there's very little mystical to it. Apart from its origin, carrying him in my womb was like any other pregnancy: Lots of morning sickness, discomfort as he grew bigger, all sorts of funny cravings to drive poor Joseph crazy! Giving birth was like every other birth: Painful enough to make you swear you'll never be pregnant again, until you hold your child and totally forget about all the hard labour. I had to take care of him like I did for my other children: Feed him, work out the burps, walk up and down in the middle of the night ...
In short, there was nothing special to it. But at the same time, everything was special.
I was destined to be just another mother in just another small town - until that night. From the moment Gabriel touched my hair, nothing was ever the same. My life, my whole world, was reborn that night.
What do you say when an angel sit next to you and calmly tell you that "God is pleased with you...you will have a son ... Jesus ... he will be called the Son of the Most High ... his kingdom will never end..." Right there and then, somehow I knew that God will move heaven and earth to make his word come true, but I had to ask the obvious question: "How can this be, since I have never been with a man?"
He smiled at me, a smile that seemed to start in his eyes before his lips moved, and gently he said, "The power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." And then, without me asking, he gave me the proof I was looking for. Elizabeth was going to have a son! Dear childless Elizabeth, who became a mother to me when my mother died, she was going to have a child! If that was true, everything was possible.
And before I had time to think, my heart spoke: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." Gabriel looked at me, winked, and then he was gone.
I didn't sleep any more that night. I couldn't. My mind was racing like the wind, painting frightening scenarios in every direction, but I was strangely calm. Every time fear tried to take hold of me, I heard his comforting voice: "You are highly favoured. The Lord is with you", and peace descended on me.
By sunrise I knew what I had to do. My father and Joseph tried to put me off, but I knew I had to see Elizabeth - not only to confirm the angel's words, but she was the only one I could tell about these strange things. Would she believe me? I was afraid she wouldn't, but I had to take that chance.
I shouldn't have worried. The moment I stepped into their house, my highly pregnant cousin jumped up and started prophesying. "The mother of my Lord has come to me!" The last whisper of a doubt disappeared as I listened to her, tears streaming down my cheeks. She was hugging me, crying and laughing simultaneously.
Something exploded within me, and I started singing, praising the Most High, not quite knowing what I was doing, but I couldn't care. Like a river, joy and peace and laughter were flowing through me, and I just had to sing. Me, little Mary from Nazareth, I was chosen by God for a task I didn't quite understand. But being chosen was enough reason to sing. And somehow I knew that I was set apart by the Holy One, blessed beyond understanding.
Fortunately Zechariah was there, with his little tablet, to scribble down the words gushing from my mouth. Just the other day one of the brothers put music to it, and some are even singing it when we gather, but I didn't plan it that way: I was just pouring out my heart to the God of our fathers, the Mighty One, who had done great things for his lowly servant.
The next year was filled with wonder. I was fully prepared to walk the road alone, but an angel of my Lord brought Joseph back to me. Far away in Rome the Emperor decreed a census, sending us to Bethlehem, and my Son was born in the town of our father David. Three foreigners travelled for weeks to bring us the gold we needed to take care of my son. Shepherds came and told us about a choir of angels out in the fields.
But it all began on a dark night, when an angel sat down next to me and turned my world upside down.
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