A Christmas Story

Mary felt her heart race as she stared at the lines on the plastic pregnancy test she held in her hands. It wasn’t like she needed a test to tell her what she already knew, but she had needed some form of tangible assurance, something apart from her vision of the angel. Because how else was she going to tell everyone that the baby she was carrying had been given to her in a vision?

Her mother, no matter how devout she was, committed to her faith, would not be able to fathom this. She would not understand it one bit.

And then Joseph, her fiancé. What would she tell him? She might as well give up the idea of marrying him because there was no way he was going to accept her with these new circumstances. Her life as she knew it, was over.

She clasped her fingers around her abdomen, hoping to feel something. Anything. She did. She felt a weird undercurrent of excitement amidst the fluttering nerves. No matter what happened from here on, she was no longer ordinary, she was carrying someone precious. The Messiah. She wanted to laugh and cry. She wanted to tell everyone and yet she wanted to keep it to herself, a sacred secret hidden from the world until the right time. That she was deemed a worthy vessel for such a holy act was beyond understanding. Who was she that the Lord had deemed fit to bring the The Messiah through?

Blessed and highly favoured, was what the angel had called her.

She remembered then the angel’s words. About Aunty Lizzy. Perhaps this was someone she could tell – her cousin, Aunty Lizzy.

The angel had told her that Aunty Lizzy was pregnant. Pregnant! Aunty Lizzy was eighty-eight! Very much past the age of child-bearing. In fact, whenever they had family gatherings, some of the younger children that belonged to her extended family, called her ’Ma Lizzy simply because they had been warned not to refer to her as Grandma Lizzy. Mary had watched Aunty Lizzy wear her barrenness as a cloak of reproach, she was the one other women pointed out when chiding their daughters.

Do you want to end up like ’Ma Lizzy? They would say.

Mary liked Aunty Lizzy because there was kindness in her eyes, and warmth in her embraces. She was also quite beautiful, Mary thought – albeit, a bit sad.

The thought that she was pregnant at eighty-eight was almost as impossible as a virgin conceiving a child. It was no wonder that the angel had pointed her in Aunty Lizzy’s direction – they both had something practically impossible going on.

Mary gently laid the pregnancy test on the shelf in the bathroom and rinsed her hands. She was going to see Aunty Lizzy.

With God, nothing shall be impossible.

With God, nothing shall be impossible.

Lizzy pondered on the words as she sat in the rocking chair on the porch, enjoying the view, while knitting the sweater she had been working on for their child. Her husband was at the temple – he insisted on going every day despite his current situation. It was a miracle this baby had lived to see its sixth month in her belly, because it was a jarring experience to suddenly find your husband unable to speak.

Once I could speak, but now I am dumb

  Zac had refused to say anything to her about what happened, not that he could even if he wanted to. These days he communicated with words on paper, making daily inquiries about the baby, placing his hand on her abdomen whenever they crawled into bed together. She was still in awe of the life growing inside her. She had long given up hope of having her own babies, had had to become content with being a mother to her nieces, nephews and cousins’ children. It did not stop her from going to bed every day with a deep longing for her own. Her home was empty of laughter, the pitter-patter of small feet, of loud voices, of scolding and apologies. Sometimes, when she baked treats for the little children in her church and neighborhood, she pretended to be baking them for hers.

And now, now…she was heavy with child. An almost impossible feat. She smiled to herself, humming as she wove the thread through the sweater. Nothing could take her joy away from her.

With God, nothing shall be impossible.

“Aunty Lizzy?”

“Oomph!” she gasped as she felt a jerk in her abdomen, like the child within her was kicking…or punching, or both. It wasn’t the first time she had felt the baby kick, but this was different. It was like this child was dancing in there. She reached out and rubbed her abdomen, but the dance did not stop.

“Aunty Lizzy?” Mary’s voice wafted into her ears.

Lizzy looked up and knew.

“Blessed are you among women, Mary. And blessed is the fruit of your womb,” Lizzy said, with a smile.

“How…how did you know?” Mary’s voice was a whisper as she knelt beside Lizzy.

“The child inside me began to dance the moment you stepped in. My darling, believe. For when you believe, there will be a performance of those things that God told you.”

Mary reached out and clutched Lizzy’s free hand.

“I believe,” she said.

Joseph sneezed as the dust from the wood wafted through his nose. He glanced outside and realized it had grown darker.

He had been working nonstop since Mary had told him the news. Work was the only way he could process the news that his fiancée, (who, by the way, had given him the impression she was a virgin) was pregnant. Pregnant, not with possibilities, with a child!

“You have to believe me, Joe,” Mary had said. “I would never see anyone else behind your back. I love you,” she pleaded.

“Then help me understand,” he asked. “How can this be?”

“I…I had a vision. An angel told me I would conceive a child by the Holy Ghost.”

He had laughed then, a pitiable sound.

“I know,” she said, softly. “I know how unbelievable it sounds. But believe me, Joe. You know me.”

“I thought I did,” he gave a disappointed shake of his head.

The conversation had ended there and they had not spoken since then – two weeks ago. It was the longest they had gone without speaking to or seeing each other.

He had been thinking. He still loved Mary and he didn’t want to disgrace her, so he had decided he would break up with her quietly to avoid any public embarrassment.

You will do no such thing; a voice spoke out of the emptiness in the store.

“Who’s that?” Joseph asked, reaching for a piece of wood in case he needed to defend himself.

I am a messenger from the Lord, with a message for you, Joseph.

Joseph felt his legs tremble. Everywhere was dark but in a corner, there was a streak of bright light shining through, almost blinding.

Do not be afraid to marry Mary. She has done no wrong, for the child she carries is indeed conceived of the Holy Ghost. He is special. His name is Jesus, and he shall deliver the world from their sins.

“But…but what will people say?”

When Jesus is born, what they say wouldn’t matter. Simply do as I say. Marry Mary. She is but a vessel.

Joseph opened his mouth to speak but the light disappeared just as swiftly as it came.

And then Joseph awoke. He had fallen asleep on his work bench. He stood, looking around for a sign of the angel, for he had no doubts, he had been visited by an angel.

And now, he knew what he must do.

The baby lay in her arms and she didn’t want to let him go. He was not just beautiful on the outside, he radiated purity of heart and soul. She loved him already, deeply.

“Hey, do you want something to eat?” Joseph peeked into the small room they decorated for Baby Jesus.

It had been three weeks since his birth and they were still both in awe of how ordinary and extraordinary this baby was.

“Yes, please.” She replied, looking up from Jesus’ face. “I can’t believe he is going to be the savior of the world someday.”

“Best believe it, babe. Because there was nothing normal about his birth, I’m sure there will be nothing normal about his life.”

Mary nodded, a sheen of tears covering her eyes. “Is it weird that I love him so much?”

Joseph leaned forward, stroking the baby’s hair. “No, what’s weird is that he loved us first.”

Mary shut her eyes and felt God’s love wash over her.

“I love you, Jesus,” she whispered.

JOHN 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

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