Matthew Keranen | The Voice of Zion December 2019 --
In my living room, the Christmas tree spreads its familiar light. The tree lights are faint, like a distant inkling of those that already shine in that land of eternal joy. Their light brings to mind that light that shone from the manger.
In my living room, a star-shaped lamp shines in the window. On that first Christmas night, the starlight was bright. The star of Christmas shone above the stable. Its light shone into the manger, lighting the baby’s face. But brighter still shone the light from the manger. Jesus brought light into the world’s darkness.
In my mind, I hear Mary sing a lullaby. On the hay he sleeps, an innocent baby. What would I have brought him as a gift? I am too poor to bring anything but my heart. You will sprinkle grace on my pathway, I marvel.
Do I hear the whisper of angel wings in the stable? Angels watch over the child of heaven with gentle love. They worship with joy.
Mary picks up her baby, holds him to her chest. She has a tear in her eye. A faraway cross casts a shadow on mother and child. They will build him a cross, she thinks. Little one, are you too cold? This world is so cold.
But that boy loves the world so warmly. He sleeps on, cuddled in his mother’s embrace. The Son of God sleeps. I, too, feel the warmth from the stable. My heart-frost melts.
Did Mary know? I wonder. What did Mary know?
Mary and Elizabeth are well-known mothers in the Bible. Bearing new life and becoming a mother is always special and precious. It was especially precious, even miraculous, on the part of these two mothers.
Elizabeth was an elderly, childless woman. The angel Gabriel told her husband Zachariah in a vision that she would have a child, one who would make ready a people prepared for the Lord. When Elizabeth became pregnant, she avoided other people for five months, but she was thankful nonetheless.
Some months later, the same angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would also bear a child, one who would be the Son of the Highest. Mary was chosen by God to fulfill this duty, and she obeyed God’s invitation. Mary pondered the repercussions of saying yes. She could lose Joseph, lose the respect of her family and community for carrying a child out of wedlock. Mary trusted God would take care of her. She likely knew and understood the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 7:14.
In the first chapter of the Gospel According to Luke, we read how these two mothers met. The child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped. Elizabeth was joyful. She wondered aloud how she could be so fortunate that the mother of the Lord would come visit her.
Both women were part of God’s salvation plan, a plan which was perhaps both thrilling and confusing. They likely had the need to be together, share experiences and discuss what was happening to them, what would happen to their foretold sons. Mary stayed with Elizabeth three months. Perhaps she was even present when John was born. The Bible tells that neighbors and cousins rejoiced when Elizabeth’s baby was born.
Six months later, the time was fulfilled that the Son of the Highest should be born. Joseph and Mary were not with neighbors or cousins that night. They were alone, sleeping the night in a stable, far from home. Jesus was born. Mary pondered those words Elizabeth told her some months prior: “Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
The circumstances of Jesus’ conception and birth were foretold in the Holy Writings that Mary was familiar with. The prophesies had come true, she knew. Angel Gabriel had told her many things concerning her son: “that holy thing which will be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
It is probable that Mary’s husband Joseph told her what the angel of the Lord said to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to hesitate in taking Mary as his wife, because the baby within her was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and that furthermore the baby Jesus would “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Mary herself acknowledged in her magnificent song (Luke 1:46–55) how she would be remembered by all future generations.
When Mary was in Bethlehem, caring for her newborn baby Jesus, the stable was not empty of other people for long. Soon shepherds appeared from the fields, bringing joyous news of a heavenly proclamation. They told her what they had seen and heard, how the heavenly beings had told of their Savior. They called him “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Yes, Mary knew. She was told all throughout her pregnancy and at the time of the holy birth. She believed the Word of God and its promises.
The promises of salvation that God gives us are firm and everlasting. They carry us yet this Christmas and every day to come.
On behalf of the LLC Publications staff, I wish you a blessed Christmas. May the light from the manger light your pathway all the way to heaven’s home!