Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent 2 - Mary letter 7


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”Mark 1:1-8

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I was trying to write to you yesterday but things really fell apart. Joseph and I walked to a neighbor's house, after dark, in order to make arrangements to purchase their burro. He wanted me to go along, but is still afraid of us being seen together after all the troubles. These neighbors are elderly and very kind. They wanted to make sure that the animal wouldn't throw me off when I needed to ride. It was only use to bundles being put on his back. The burro was actually very sweet and when I got on he sighed and walked slowly around their yard. He let me feed him some carrots and rub his nose. We already felt like friends.

On our way home, leaving the burro to be collected in a few days, Joseph noticed we were being followed. He tried to hurry us up but it wasn't enough. These men, actually they were probably still boys, started saying terrible things to us and pushing Joseph around. They had their faces cover so we couldn't see them well in the dark. He told me to hurry home and get my father. I was amazed that I could move as fast as I could. Papa went running as soon as I got home. He and Joseph returned about a half an hour later, but it seemed like hours later. Joseph was roughed up pretty bad before Papa got to them. Papa knew the boys and called them by name and they panicked. He was a real mess but Mama got him cleaned up. I couldn't help but cry.

Why is it that the places that should be safe, like home, become a danger zone? What do these people who profess to love God, try to destroy the work of God? These are my neighbors, my community, and they used to be my friends! I am heartbroken at the lack of compassion and forgiveness.

I know you have faced some scandal and ridicule as well. And you know that God is working through you and that child - I cannot wait to see him! How do you cope with the cruelty of this world? We have been given wondrous promises which seem to make everyone hate filled!

I best get up since I slept in after such a terrible night. I think we will start making our travel plans and move sooner than later.

love always,

Mary

Friday, December 8, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary letter 6

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
   give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
   let your eyes see the right.


If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
   if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
   my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
   I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.


I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.


Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. They close their hearts to pity; with their mouths they speak arrogantly. They track me down; now they surround me; they set their eyes to cast me to the ground. They are like a lion eager to tear, like a young lion lurking in ambush.


Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them! By your sword deliver my life from the wicked,
from mortals—by your hand, O Lord—from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.
May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them; may their children have more than enough; may they leave something over to their little ones. Psalm 17


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

it has been a wonderful and overwhelming day. It seems that every day is now a mix of goodness and terror. Our family gathered around as we shared our vows and we were made man and wife. There was plenty of food and the whole gathered clan was happy and joyous. Maybe a little too loud, as one of the neighbors must have complained! We were not breaking the Sabbath, we were not away from home by sundown - we were just a family together to celebrate. It seems as though we have become criminal in the eyes of our neighbors and therefore everything we do is wrong. The constable came and gave Papa a stern warning. Really??

On the other hand, we were given many lovely gifts, both for us and the baby. We were so touched by everyone's generosity! We have plenty of money for our trip down to Bethlehem, and to purchase a donkey, so I do not have to walk all of the time. That made Mama's heart very glad! She has been so afraid for me, and I understand her worry. None of us planned on being instruments of God, nor the consequences that we would have to bear.

I hope you are growing stronger every day. The cousins reported that you were in good health and John was very big and strong! I am so glad. I hope I can be strong like you and this baby, this little boy is big and strong as well. I think he must be, since I am enormous.

It's time for bed now. Joseph will continue to stay in his house until we embark on our journey. They all feel this is for the best, but I could really use his comforting voice near me tonight. I can hardly sleep for all the feeling stirring in me and the baby kicking like crazy! Guess he's happy for us too!

I am a married woman, but I guess I'll have to wait for what that fully means. Everyone tells me it's for the best! I wish they would ask me just once what was best for me. Well, that will never happen, I guess.

Sending much love,

Mary


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Advent 1- Mary Letter 5

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
   my God, my rock in whom I take refuge,
   my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
   so I shall be saved from my enemies.


The cords of death encompassed me;
   the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
   the snares of death confronted me. 


In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice,
   and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth;
   glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens, and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.


He rode on a cherub, and flew; he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering around him, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him
   there broke through his clouds hailstones and coals of fire.


The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.


He reached down from on high, he took me; he drew me out of mighty waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a broad place;
   he delivered me, because he delighted in me.


The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me. Psalm 18:1-20


Dear Auntie Elizabeth,

I heard the good news! Papa read us the letter at the table this noon. We all laughed and cried as we heard of John's birth and the restoration of Zechariah! What an amazing story! The Lord is so good, even when people and situations overwhelm us. You told me that all would be well, and yet it is hard to imagine the days ahead for us. Please keep up your prayers.

The cousins and extended family are arriving this afternoon and we will exchange our vows tomorrow. We have to keep everything quiet so that the town's people don't come and interrupt us. Papa thinks we will have to start packing for our trip after a few days. I am looking forward to seeing Ruth and Sarah. They have promised to stand with me and make the day very special. I have no idea what they are up to, but I am assuming no good. I need some fun and frivolity right now. Everything seems so serious and often scary.

Auntie, please take care of yourself and send me word of your life as a new mother. I cannot go and speak with the girls here who have married and given birth. They will not talk to me and when I approach in the market, they have turned their backs to me. I know the Lord is working good through all of this. I only wish my life could be a bit more normal. It is hard to be so very isolated and alone.

Mama is calling me to come get ready for our company!

Sending much love and happiness to you, Zechariah and baby John,

Mary

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary Letter 4

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. I will observe your statutes;    do not utterly forsake me.


How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. I treasure your word in my heart,
   so that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.


Deal bountifully with your servant, so that I may live and observe your word.
Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
I live as an alien in the land; do not hide your commandments from me.
My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments;
take away from me their scorn and contempt, for I have kept your decrees.
Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.
Your decrees are my delight, they are my counsellors. Psalm 119:1-24


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

It has been a day! I am writing to you, right before bed since today was so full. First was a big surprise when I got out of bed, eagerly this morning. I thought Joseph and I would have time to ourselves, but instead, our cousin Simon arrived and will listen to our vows in two days. If that wasn't enough, my mother had invited the wise women here today to examine me to make sure I could travel! Oh, it was so embarrassing and overwhelming! To have my relative here and to have all these old women pouring over me. They took me aside, into my room, and tried to be as private as possible. They couldn't help talking, though, and they were so loud! They measured and prodded and poked at places that made me feel so ashamed. I kept my eyes closed the whole time as if that would help take my embarrassment away. Then all of the sudden they were clapping and running to tell my Mama I was still a virgin. Of course I am, although the rest of the town thinks otherwise. No one ever listens to one girl like me.

Papa told me that he is putting supplies together for the journey to Bethlehem. He has been corresponding with relatives along the way who can take us in and keep us safe. He is worried, I can see it on his face but he talks like everything is great. Why is it the men cannot show us their hearts very often? I am glad that Joseph seems able to show me his heart, even though he is very shy, especially around my family. He too is afraid, taking a girl like me on such a journey, and yet he talks to me about his fears and tells me how hard it is for him to know how to pray. We will lean on each other, I guess.

Please know we are awaiting good news from you! It must be any day now, though maybe the boy has been born already? I think of you everyday and wish I was traveling to your house and not to the census. Why is it that grand people far away are always given poor people orders? I admit to not understanding politics at all.

Much love always,

Mary

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary letter 3


Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God,
   for to you I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.


For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.


But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
   will enter your house, I will bow down towards your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.


For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues. Make them bear their guilt, O God;
   let them fall by their own counsels;because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Things are moving very rapidly and I do not know how to think about it all. Every day there is some new twist, so new challenge to try to understand. I try to pray and cannot find the words. Joseph and I sat up late last night in the garden, trying to make plans in reaction to his news. He was summoned to Bethlehem for the census! Can you believe it? Before my time has come we are to travel there to join with his extended family in order to be counted. He has never even lived there! He insists I go with him, after we are married, so that I am safe. At first I was upset but really do understand he is trying to protect me, actually protecting us. Before I go I will have to be examined by the wise women to make sure I am safe to travel. His goal is to get me back here so Mama and the wise women I have known all of my life can assist me in the birth.

Auntie, I know I should be more calm, and lay my complete trust in the Lord, as you do. I hold you in my mind as a model to follow. Too often, though, I fall apart. Mama just says it's part of being with child. She says there are moods we all have. Is that true, or is she just trying to make me feel better? She has been very loving, despite the lines that seem to deepen in her face daily. This is taking a toll on all of us.

Papa and Joseph are getting together tonight to make a plan for the trip. They are really worried about safety and want us mostly to travel at night. If we took Mama and Papa with us, I would feel safer, but last night Joseph thought it might draw too much attention if we all disappeared. Ah, well, I keep trying to pray and find words that are stuck deep in my heart.

much love,

Mary

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 1 - Mary Letter day 2


Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.


The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the
Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Well, I had a horrible night, barely sleeping at all. We had a nice supper as a family sitting in the garden in the cool air. Then some men came shouting for my father and Joseph. We hurried inside as the men went to see what was the matter. There were some angry men, fortunately none of them leaders, who wanted us gone from here. When the story came out finally, a small lamb had died in a neighbor's pasture and they thought it was my sin, so therefore fault. I guess because I had been out walking under the trees this afternoon, they thought I had done something. They think me a witch! Oh, the words that were said! And how brave Joseph and Papa were!

It has been decided that I should stay inside, at least well into the evening, when darkness is everywhere. And they want the wedding to happen immediately, so there can be no more talk. I cried so much, I just couldn't help myself. I know that this is from God. I never knew how cruel people can be! It hurts so much coming from those I have known all my life. Mama sang to me, repeating the old psalms to calm me. That helped and I must have fallen to sleep, but I kept waking up, hearing those hurtful words from such familiar voices.

Mama is worried since I am looking do drawn and haggard this morning. We will stay inside and sew the finishing touches on the marriage garments. Mine has to be let out (again!) sine the baby seems to grow my belly by feet instead of inches. I want to be so strong for this little one. Already, I feel like I am so weak. What would I do without my family?

Please stay strong and know we are all praying for your safe delivery!

much love,

Mary

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent One - First Mary Letter



Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?

You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have given them bowls of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbors, and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself. And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

I guess I am really na├»ve. When you said you expect attacks from the most unlikely places, I didn't believe you. I guess I thought God would protect me from that, after all an angel was sent to me. It has started in earnest. Leaders of the synagogue have said very harsh things and Papa and Joseph have been shunned. We hid it well for several months but now I am like a big sign. They believed we have sinned. I heard Mama crying last night and it made me cry too.

Joseph and I are preparing to be wed, but we have to keep it very small. Fortunately, his cousin can perform the ceremony. I wish we could be more public, but everything we do brings ridicule and shame. It is so hard to be faithful when the world around thinks we are misguided and corrupt fools.
I had tried to be very strong, yet some moments are just unbearable. My friends won't even talk to me or come to visit anymore.

I know your time is very close. I pray for you that you can be strong and survive all that is ahead of you. I take heart in knowing we are both carrying promises from God, miracles of a holy making. I only wish  our neighbors weren't so judgmental and cruel.

Sending much love,

Mary