Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Mary Letter Day 32 - The Holy Name


When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:15-21

Dear Auntie,

It has been quite a day! I am so overwhelmed and in wonder. Today was the time to circumcise the child. I wanted to wait until we were home, but Joseph felt we better follow the law. His family here includes several rabbis and they made the arrangements for us. The women of Joseph's family  made a wonderful spread of food. I have never experienced the ritual. I have to admit I was a bit horrified! I kept my wits about me, but wanted to grab my baby from the brutality! I know it is what is done, but the reality was so different! The women were very understanding and surrounded me and held my hands. His name will be Jesus, just as the angel had told us. It feels so strange to be doing all of this so far from home, so far from my family.

I have to admit that Joseph's people have been very kind and understanding. They have so many people staying with them, they could not put us up, but they have helped us in so many other ways. Today was one of them, a huge party with delicious food and wonderful music. They hired musicians! They did not have to do that but they have been so very generous.

Everyday this motherhood is wonderful and a total surprise. I am so blessed to be Jesus's mother and so terrified that I will do something wrong. He is so precious and to be so important. I am just a young woman, with no training and no real station in life. But here we are. And God has helped us throughout, so I guess we can keep going day to day, surprised and overwhelmed in equal measure.

Much love,


Mary

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mary Letter Day 31


 Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
 Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.
 You turn us back to the dust and say, *
"Go back, O child of earth."
 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past *
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream; *
we fade away suddenly like the grass.
 In the morning it is green and flourishes; *
in the evening it is dried up and withered.
 For we consume away in your displeasure; *
we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.
Our iniquities you have set before you, *
and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; *
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.
 Who regards the power of your wrath? *
who rightly fears your indignation?
So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Return, O Lord; how long will you tarry? *
be gracious to your servants.
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; *
so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.
 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us *
and the years in which we suffered adversity.
 Show your servants your works *
and your splendor to their children.
 May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork. Psalm 90

Dear Momma and Papa,

The winter here in the city is nothing like at home. It is muddy and cold on the streets. We went out walking in the market yesterday, and were chilled to the bone and filthy. Fortunately, our little home in this barn, is warmed by animals and the heating for the inn attached. We are all three doing well, although this little boy is remarkable. Hungry and active and a good sleeper. Folks have heard about him and come by all the time, bringing us little gifts of food and baby clothes. We are aching to come home, but the wheels of government are grinding slowly. Actually, I think things have come to a halt, completely.

Joseph is a wonderful husband, so patient with both of us. He doesn't lose his temper, even though learning to be parents is confusing and infuriating at times. I lose it, but he keeps it together and find ways to change my sour moods. I  am so amazed by all the ways he can make me happy when I am trying so hard to be miserable. He has taken us both on with such great joy and he loves the baby, so willing to hold him and change him. The wise women told me their husbands would never change their little ones. They were somewhat shocked by our unusual lives together, I think. It works for us.

I hope you are praying for our swift return, as I know I am. This is a bearable situation, but it is not home. I have no desire to stay here any longer than we need to. As soon as the paperwork is finally filed, we will run all the way back. 

Love always,

Mary

Mary Letter Day 30

In your strength the king rejoices, O Lord,
   and in your help how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart’s desire,
   and have not withheld the request of his lips.
   For you meet him with rich blessings;
   you set a crown of fine gold on his head.
He asked you for life; you gave it to him—
   length of days for ever and ever.
His glory is great through your help;
   splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
You bestow on him blessings for ever;
   you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
   and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. Psalm 21:1-7

Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

We are fine but stuck in the city for a while longer. Little baby Jesus is so wonderful and he occupies my day and night. I don't mind at all except that I haven't slept nearly enough since he arrived. The city is noisy and dirty but people have been kind to us. I am planning to venture out in to the market just to bet some sunlight and walk around a bit. Joseph insists he goes with me to keep me safe. Our innkeeper, Leah, has become like a mother to me and she will watch him for the time we are out. I really don't want to leave him at all, but I do need to stretch my legs and get out of these cramped quarters.

We had hoped that the paperwork for Joseph would go more easily than it has. The backlog is terrible and the government seems to move so slowly. Twice Joseph has gone to keep an appointment and twice they have rescheduled it after he arrived. The people around us have been very kind, which makes up for all the frustration and paperwork. We have bought very little. Our neighbors have brought us meals and gifts for the baby. They treat us like family, which makes it a bit easier to be so far from home.

He grows bigger and stronger everyday, Auntie. His face shine with such love that I can't stop being grateful to God for this incredible gift. Our lives are nothing like we expected or planned for. Yet, God has blessed us in ways that are so astounding and undeserved. I am so thankful for you and all you taught me when we were together.

love always,

Mary

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mary Letter Day 29 - First Sunday after Christmas


First Sunday after Christmas December 29th, 2019

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. John 1:1-18

Dear Momma and Papa,

I got word through Aunt Elizabeth that you were trying to find a way to come see us and meet the baby. I would love for that to happen! The accommodations here are very primitive, though, and I am afraid that you would both be uncomfortable, even miserable. It is too far to come and the city is crowded, noisy and dangerous. As soon as Joseph can conclude his business, we will head on home. I cannot wait to be home again and to see your smiling faces! I know you have both worried so much, but everything is good! We are well taken care of, safe and well fed. Please don't worry!

This little boy is so wonderful and good. He eats well and sleeps even better. His eyes are bright and he coos and make the most delightful sounds. He looks right into my eyes and my heart melts! We have been told to be very careful since the King seems to on the rampage. Joseph gets the shopping done and Leah, the innkeeper's wife helps me with the laundry and cooking. She and her husband are so generous! They have no grandchildren of their own, so they are intent on spoiling Jesus and us as well! 

We are warm, dry and well fed. The challenge here is how slow the wheels of government turn. Every time Joseph goes to the government office, with all the right paper work, they send him back with more to fill out. When he comes, back he is very discouraged. He has to wait days for his next appointment. The good news, if there is any, is that everyone from out of town is in the same boat. We try to make the best of it, praying all the time. Pray that we can get through this and get home quickly. I miss you so!

love you both and miss you so,

Mary




Collect
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Mary Letter Day 28



Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country. Jeremiah 31:15-17


Dear Aunt Elizabeth,

Some days I am so afraid and have only strangers to comfort me. The city is a place of rumors and fear. I am told it is not safe for me, or any woman to walk the streets alone. I am told never to go outdoors at night, ever. And the newest rumor is that Herod seeks a boy king recently born in this city! Infant kings are born in palaces, I told them, but they still insist that I keep inside. Who is going to look for a baby prince inside a cattle stall, I ask you?

Some nights I sit outside in the cool air and sing to this beautiful boy by the light of the moon. I don't care what people say. I am less afraid with him beside me. I protect him, of course, and keep him bundled against the cols, but he loves the wind on his face, and the moon and the stars. He will often gaze up and reach to the stars, as if he can touch them. I believe he can some nights.

Joseph is a wonderful father. He is so gentle with Jesus and me. He isn't afraid to clean up after a diaper! And he is so helpful, watching our baby when I need to rest. I hear Joseph talking to the boy, telling him funny stories and all about out lives. Joseph is also willing to run to the market stalls and buy our food. We have many gifts of food, as well. Despite the fears of this city, people have been quite generous and kind. There are soldiers everywhere, turning things upside down, yet in the midst of all of this, we can still sit out by the moonlight and remember all the ways God has cared for us and brought us to this place.

love always,

Mary



Thursday, December 26, 2019

Mary Letter Day 27

O sing to the Lord a new song,
   for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have gained him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
   he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
   with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
   make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
   let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
   to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98

Dear Momma and Papa,

We will be here for some time, I believe. Joseph tried to go to the registration office today and was turned away. They said they have been overwhelmed with the number of people coming in. They gave him some papers to fill out and an appointment next week some time. They told him that doesn't mean he will be seen and get through everything. That will just be the initial intake. Wow! I didn't know something pretty straight forward to be made so complicated!

This little boy is hungry all the time and growing by the hour. I could sit and hold him for hours, watching his sweet face as he sleeps. The wise women here keep reminding me to sleep when he does and are making sure I eat all the right things and drink plenty so I will have enough milk. They have been so kind and helpful. I sure do wish you were here, Momma! They can't replace you two at all, but they have been like kind family to us. We haven't wanted for anything and the innkeepers have doted on the baby, as if he was their grandson. I hear them boasting to the whole neighborhood about the wonderful baby boy born under their roof! They are also very protective of us, making sure that visitors only stay for a while and give us time to rest.

I have so much to tell you, my heart is so full. I really am sure that God is with us And, I don't know what that means, truly. Moment by moment we are surpised by kindness and generosity, even in this crowded and dangerous city. We have great peace, even when all around us is chaos. Please know I miss you both terribly and pray for you constantly. Please pray for us!

love,

Mary


Mary Letter Day 26


I will exalt you, O LORD, because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.
 LORD my God, I cried out to you, and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
 Sing to the LORD, you faithful servants; give thanks for the remembrance of God’s holiness.
For God’s wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, God’s favor for a lifetime.
Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.
 While I felt secure, I said, “I shall never be disturbed.
You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”
Then you hid your face, and I was filled with fear.
I cried to you, O LORD; I pleaded with the Lord, saying,
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?
 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me; O LORD, be my helper.”
You have turned my wailing into dancing; you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.
Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever. Psalm 30
Dear Aunt Elizabeth,
I am writing to you from Bethlehem. The baby is here! He is perfect, healthy and beautiful. I am sore and have slept very little but otherwise fine and happy. I had wanted to be home with Momma and cried for her during the labor. And it was so intense and painful! There were these wonderful women that helped me through! I am in their debt, as they knew how to keep me focused and calm. They took care of Joseph too, giving him things to do and items to gather. We have been overwhelmed with kindness from complete strangers.
The women came to check on me and the baby today. I seem to be healing well and the bleeding has decreased greatly. I didn't expect quite the mess and pain that it was! I wish you had warned me, but then again, what difference would it have made? We are through it and have this wonderful little boy to hold. I love watching him sleep and Jospeh has to make me put him down. We have been overhwlemed with visitors. It seems everyone has heard of this child and wants to rejoice with us. There were moments on the journey and in the labor when I doubted God was with us. When I look on this child, I know for certain GOD is with US!
I must try to sleep since he is sleeping. We have been so well by so many that all I need to do is take care of me and baby Jesus.
love,

Mary

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Mary Letter Day 25 Christmas Day

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:1-20

Dear Momma and Papa,

He's here! Little baby boy Jesus was born late last night, really early this morning actually. He is perfect, healthy, beautiful and very hungry. He has a full head of dark hair and such bright eyes. I am so overwhelmed, so very happy and so exhausted that I cannot sleep.

The pains had started early yesterday and the innkeeper sent Joseph to get the midwife and her helpers. I told them it was just an upset stomach, but the innkeeper's wife laughed and said not to worry! I was terrified, especially when the pains cam very regularly and so intense. Some took my breath away. Fortunately, the midwife, Sarah, was amazing. She held my hand and helped me to breathe. The other women shooed the men away and kept wiping my brow and rubbing my back and shoulders. It was a very long day, and into the deep part of the night. Just when I couldn't take it any longer Sarah told me to start pushing and the women held me up. In just a few short minutes - there he was! All of the pain was gone and my heart is overflowing.

Everyone gathered around, after we were both cleaned up, and gave thanks to God for a safe delivery. They left us with so much food and wine! We were so tired we all fell into a deep sleep. That didn't last. We were awakened by a young shepherd boy asking to see us. He had a remarkable story. Out in the fields,  angels had told them of the birth! The had come rushing into town. All of the sudden, there were shepherds and sheep crowded into this tiny stable! They brought us figs, dates and cheese, and we sat around again with these overjoyed and happy strangers. We finally got back to bed as the sun was rising and slept until the baby got hungry. It seems as if sleep will be in short supply. I pray that as with everything else, God will provide. 

Momma, I cannot wait to bring him home to you! And Papa, you would be so proud of Joseph! Despite all of the challenges, he has remained calm and strong - even when I've fallen apart. I am so grateful for all the people God has brought to us. And today, I am especially grateful for both of you.

Sending love and missing you both so much,

Mary


Collect 

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Mary Letter Day 24 - Christmas Eve


God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
         
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
           
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46


Dear Auntie,

Joseph and I arrived in the city and it was crawling with people. The noise and the crowds made me sick. We looked all over for a place to stay since Joseph's relatives had no room. Everywhere we checked there was no vacancy! People slammed doors in our faces. How rude they were! One kind innkeeper named Esau, took pity on us and brought us into the stable. His wife, Leah, made us beds of straw and covered them with soft blankets. I cried with gratitude and exhaustion. I will forever remember their compassion in this horrid sea of selfishness and greed.

This morning when I woke I felt very odd. Soon I realized that the pains had begun. Gentle and irregular at first, they are now coming more often and more powefully. I am so scared and so wish to be home with Momma! You didn't tell me the birth pangs would be so awful, Auntie. I keep breathing as you taught me and try to sing or pray the songs of King David in between. Leah, the inn keeper's wife has sent Joseph to get the wise women and a midwife. She has been so kind and helpful. She knew he was getting more and more frightened as the day has gone on. She promises me there will be a baby before long and reminds me that first babies always take their time. She also told me that I will have the help of several women very soon. They are all strangers to me! I wanted you and Momma by my side through this!

Oh, Aunt Elizabeth, please pray for me. I am so far from home, and in a barn no less. Nothing is familiar and nothing is comfortable. I cling to my faith and all your words of support these past months. I am so afraid!

love,

Mary