“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
She had said it, and she had meant it, and she meant it still. She would not falter from that commitment, that obedience to God’s miraculous choosing, but now she was learning that the saying was much easier than the living. It was not true, of course, that every Jewish girl dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah, some of the girls she knew would not have given it a moment’s thought, there were far too many other things that interested them, but she certainly had, and wasn’t the first to do so either. But it had been a little girl’s dream, full of gentle-toned holiness, soft voices, and the admiration of everyone she knew. The reality was far different, and she would never be that little girl again.
Who knew how the Messiah would be conceived? She supposed that the rabbis and wise men might well have discussed such things, but, if they had, it had never occurred to them to share their thoughts with young women who were, after all, the most likely people to need to know. It had certainly never occurred to her that He would be born outside of the ordinary ways of marriage, in a scenario that invited gossip and condemnation. It cost to be the Lord’s servant.
Nor, in that strange, marvellous conversation with the angel, had she thought of how difficult the conversation with Joseph was going to be. If she had thought about it at all, it was with a vague notion that God would have already explained it all to him. After all, wasn’t she under God’s protection? Only now was she beginning to understand what God’s protection actually looked like: glorious and marvellous, but also rather terrifying to normal flesh and blood. Because, of course, God had sorted it out, but only after she had faced the loneliness and shame of Joseph’s disbelief. But then, she reflected, wasn’t that the way it had always been? The priests had to step into the water before the Jordan receded; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had to endure the terror of being cast into the unbearable fire before they met the One who walked with them in the flames; Abraham had to lift the knife against his son before the ram was given to be offered in Isaac’s place. It was always the same: the Lord called His servants to walk into wonder and great joy, but also into trouble and fear and great labour, for how else shall flesh and blood keep company with the Holy One, the Maker of heaven and earth?
And now, having endured the common ardours of pregnancy and the sideways glances of the women of Nazareth as they watched her growing larger, she must set out on an uncomfortable journey just when she was nearing her time. Her mother said she was mad to do such a thing (and Joseph was mad to allow it), but she knew that this journey was absolutely right. For where else should David’s greater descendant be born but in David’s own town? The one who set the stars in place had set these events in place as well, and she could rest against the reality that this was of God and He would utterly provide.
She was the servant of the Lord, a small but necessary participant in the miracle, and it would be to her in accordance with His perfect love.