Mary felt the fear leave, replaced by a queer curiosity. “What do you want?”
“Mary you are going to be with child.”
Mary laughed nervously and blushed at the thought of Joseph, now her fiancé.
The angel continued, “No, Mary, not of Joseph. Not of any man.”
Mary was confused at the angel’s words.
“The spirit of the Lord will come upon you. You will bear a son, the son of God.”
Panic gripped Mary’s chest. She wished her mother was home with her. “I don’t understand.” Her thoughts began to race as they gave shape to words she didn’t realize she was saying. “No, no, no. No, this cannot be. My father-he will disown me. Disown me! My mother…they will throw me out of town, or worse.”
She sank down to the chair. “What will Joseph think? What will he say? He will never have me if…this cannot be.” She rose to her feet, “Do you know what you are saying to me? I can’t do this to Joseph. I love him. LOVE him. And the town…” she stared at her hands as they began to tremble.
* * *
Her hands were trembling when her father and mother called her to the table. She held them in her lap, under the table, hoping they would not notice.
“Sit down, Mary”. Her father smiled and her mother looked upon her with love.
“Is this what you want? Are you in agreement?” her mother asked. Mary had not told her mother of her feelings but she was wise enough to notice the blush on her daughter’s cheeks when Joseph’s name was mentioned. Her mother had not forgotten how her own cheeks had blushed in the days of her youth.
“We don’t need her agreement, what does she know? She is but a girl!” Her father said but he was teasing her. He was tenderhearted and though arranged marriages were customary and usually only considered the will of the parents involved, he adored Mary and would never force her to do something she did not want. He had suspected a mutual affection between Mary and Joseph for months.
Mary smiled and rushed to give her mother and father a hug. She normally held her emotions in reserve but this time she was over joyed. She knew Joseph had come to ask for her hand in marriage. It was the happiest moment of her sixteenth year.
Her seventeenth birthday was marked by a day spent in the marketplace with her older sisters. They laughed and giggled like little girls, though her sisters had been married and nursing babies of their own for years already. They touched all the different woven fabrics; cottons, wools and silks spun with mysterious threads that shone like gold. One of those fabrics would be her marriage gown. Mary couldn’t stop smiling at the thought.
“Mary, I bet Joseph would like this for your marriage night.” Mary’s oldest sister teased her as she held up a sheer panel of fabric.
“Or better yet, this.” Her other sister held up empty hands. The two sisters laughed together knowingly. Heat rose to Mary’s cheeks and her chest tightened with naïve anxiety. Mixed emotions and thoughts filled her heart and mind. As usual, she kept them to herself.
* * *