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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Time-Warped Christmas


A Time-Warped Christmas

A Note From MarJ:

Dear Readers, please be patient with me this Christmas season as I do some imagining.  No, I am not trying to rewrite the best story that ever happened.  No one can do that, for Jesus came to earth at the perfect time and at the perfect place; but I often wonder what it would have been like if Jesus would have been born December 25, 2014.  That’s what I am writing- just a simple story that all of us can place ourselves in so we stop and think about who we really are and what we truly believe.  Do we as women live so close to God and His principles that God would have chosen us to be Mary?  Would we as men have been able to step up to the commitment that God required of Joseph?  Would we as humans awaiting a Messiah have believed and had enough faith to trust that “God’s ways are not our ways”?  Enjoy this Christmas story, and I pray that each of you may have a blessed Christmas full of love, peace, and the joy of Jesus!




Hi, you don’t know me.  I’m just one of those mysterious messengers that God appoints to fulfill special purposes in peoples’ lives.  I was on a special mission this time.  I was to ready the way and tell the “Good Tidings of Great Joy”.  It was going to be the greatest thing yet, for The Messiah was finally coming down to earth.

——————-
I was on the street corner watching as Maria came walking out of school.  She did not notice me fall in step behind her because she was busy cramming books into her backpack, tying her scarf tighter around her neck, and sending her boyfriend a quick text message.  We walked down the street for a couple minutes until we reached the cafe where she worked part-time after school.  I waited a few minutes outside before entering and selecting a little table off to the side.  I then pulled out a laptop so I would fit in with the rest of the internet networkers around me.  After making sure I could pass as college student from the next-door university, I walked up to the counter and gave my order to Maria was now in her apron and busy waiting on customers.  “A tall caramel macchiato, please,” I said as I handed over a five-dollar bill, “and would it be a problem if you could bring it to my table over in the corner?”  I pointed to my little station.

She smiled, “Not a problem, Sir.”

That’s why she had been chosen.  The One Who had sent me knew all about Maria.  He knew how caring she was, but He also knew how strong she was.  She would have to be for this calling.  She was the one left out of many a party and friendship because her standards were high.  She loved God with her whole heart, mind, and soul.  Even her relationship with Joe, her boyfriend, was pure and above criticism.  No, she wasn’t any angel (no pun intended), but she sincerely tried to follow God.

“Here’s your drink.”

I jolted back from my thoughts as Maria set the steaming cup next to me.  “Thank you,” I said as I gave her a tip.  “Would you mind sitting down for a minute?  There’s Someone I know that you know that would like to pass a message on to you.”  I could see the bewilderment in her face as she looked at me and then back at the register.

“I don’t know.  I’m supposed to be at the counter.”

“It will only be a minute.  Jenny is covering right now, and business is slowing down.”

“Okay then,” she replied, “who did you say that we both know?  Is someone hurt or something?”

I laughed, “Oh no, nothing like that.  But what I have to say may shock you; however don’t fear.  You have been chosen!”

“Chosen?” she questioned, “like for a trip or prize or something?”

“No, chosen to be the mother of The Messiah, God’s Son, the One Who has been prophesied to come to earth and save mankind.”

Her mouth was hanging open.  I wasn’t quite sure what her reaction would be to this news.  “This is a joke, haha, very funny.  Are you filming this for ‘America’s Biggest Pranks’ or something?”

I looked deeply into her eyes, “Maria, this is no joke.  I know God has placed in your heart a calling and in your mind discernment.  Even now you are starting to realize that you are the chosen mother.”
She seemed to grow calmer and more at peace.  Slowly reality was starting to get through.  “But, how can I have this baby?  I have a boyfriend, but our relationship has been good-truly,” she leaned forward as if making sure I realized that this was impossible.

I once again smiled, “No, Joe isn’t the father.  God can do the impossible; He can do miracles.”

She shook her head as she stood up, “I gotta get back to work.  This is just too much for one evening.” 
I listened to her muttering to herself the whole way back to the counter about such craziness and I’ll soon wake up out of this.

—————-
I heard the notification beep from my phone.  I had been busy running other errands over the last few weeks since telling Maria the news.  Now it was time to observe for a while and see if Maria would stand the test.  I took a taxi to the park and proceeded to play frisbee with a dog named “Rex”.  I made sure I was conveniently close to where Maria and her friend, Lilah were doing homework.

“Man, girl, I’ve been worried about you.  You’ve been skipping the morning classes, and that’s not like you.  What’s wrong?” Lilah asked.

Maria looked down, “Um, I’ve just not been feeling very great.  I get really sick when I wake up.”

I had forgotten to tell Maria that while being the Savior’s mother was an honor, it didn’t make pregnancy easier.

Lilah exclaimed, “Girl, you’re pregnant!  I’d know the signs anywhere.  It happened to my two sisters, but I didn’t think it would happen to you.  You better hope your parents don’t find out- them being preachers and all that.  What’s your momma think about you being sick like this?”

Maria shook her head, “She says it’s a stomach virus which is what it has to be….” Maria stopped unsure if she should continue to tell everything she knew.  “Listen, Lilah, I don’t know what’s going on.  Some for guy said that I was going to have a baby- The Messiah; but definitely Joe is not the father.  If I’m pregnant it’s because of some kind of heavenly conception.”

“Well, I’m taking you to the doctor tomorrow cuz you can’t keep missing class, and a flu would have went away by now.  You can bet that I’m not gonna buy your lousy excuse though if the test comes out positive.”

—————————
I was casually picking up trash as Lilah and Maria walked out of Dr. Closupt, M.D.’s office.  I didn’t know that anyone could look so exuberant and depressed at the same time.  “They’ll never believe me.  You don’t even believe me.  What’s Joe going to say?” Maria plopped down on the curb and buried her head in her hands.

Lilah put her arm around her friend, “Listen, I know you don’t want to admit that you weren’t perfect; but at least come up with something better than you being pregnant with God’s Son.  I mean, who’s gonna believe that?  Let’s view your options- as far as I see, you have two.  Either you make Joe step up to responsibility and make him marry you right now or you have an abortion.  It’s simple that last way.  You’re eighteen so you don’t need to worry about a guardian’s signature, you can go ahead and graduate, and no one but me and the doctors will even know.”

Maria looked shocked, “Abortion?  To kill a little life?  I don’t have the right to do that.”

“Lots of girls do it.  It’s no biggie.  It’s just a blob of tissue.”

“It’s a blob of tissue with a brain and a little heart already,” she said softly with a smile.

“I’m just trying to help.  It’s what I’d do.  I’ll take to the clinic if you want to go, but you should do it soon if you decide to go ahead with an abortion.”

——————————–
Maria’s bedroom window was open to let in some of the early spring air.  I could picture her pacing the floor as she poured her heart out to God.  “Oh God, why me?  I can’t go through with this.  My reputation, my family, Joe- I’ll lose them all.  What kind of example will I be?  No one will believe the truth, but I can’t kill this life.  I will bear him and be his mother.”  All went quiet as if Maria was listening to God’s still small voice within her heart.  Then she clapped her hands in excitement.  “You have chosen me.  No longer will I view this as a burden, but as a blessing.  Blessed am I.  I am able to do something that no other woman has ever done.”  She took a deep breath, “But now to tell.  Lord, give me strength and courage.”

I heard her open and then close her door behind her as she walked down the hall, calling for her parents to meet her in the kitchen.  I quickly moved to the side of the house and knelt beside the door so I could press my ear against the in-out cat door flap.

“What’s this all about, Maria?” her mother asked.

The sounds of a chair scraping against the tiles meant that her father had sat down.  “Is there something wrong that you called us to a meeting in the middle of the day?  If not, I should get back to preparing the sermon for tomorrow.”

Maria’s voice sounded shaky as she started talking, “Yes, there is something important I need to tell you both.”  She paused and then began to ramble faster, “You see, I’ve been chosen.  It really is an honor.  There was this guy who told me, and then Lilah took me to the doctor, and I’m just so scared and happy at the same time.  I hope you’ll understand because I’m going to have a baby.  But this isn’t any baby, this is God’s Son, The Messiah.”

There was complete silence.  The cat door pushed against my face as a furry feline tried to make her escape from the heavy air.  I moved aside to let her through but quickly moved back. hoping I hadn’t missed anything.  I hadn’t.  Two minutes passed, by now there were sounds of crying.

Maria’s mother sniffed between her tears, “How could you?  We tried to teach and raise you properly.  How could you disappoint us like this?”  I wanted to rush in and comfort Maria, but I had been told that at times like this it was up to her.  She had been being prepared for this, and I now needed to sit back and hope that she endured.

“This is ludicrous!  You are the example to the rest of the young women at church.  What about your Sunday School Class?  No, we cannot have this.  You’re going to marry that slum, Joe, this evening.  I’ll perform the ceremony.  You get him over here right now.  No man does this and then walks away from the responsibility.  If you get married now, people might not assume the worst when they find out that you’re pregnant,” Maria’s father decided.

“But, Dad, I’ve been trying to tell you.  Joe isn’t the father.  This baby is a miracle, it’s God’s Son.  The Scriptures say that a Messiah will come.”

“You expect your mother and I to believe that?  I know the Scriptures; I’ve studied the prophecies.  You, yourself, have watched movies and listened to sermons on how He will come.  He will be a King and set the world at peace.  He will save the faithful that are imprisoned and persecuted and begin a new country.”

“What if God has a different plan?  What if we thought we had it all figured out, but what if our thinking has been humanly confined to the extent of our limited wisdom?” Maria replied bravely.

“Well, I can’t see that His plan would be to send a baby and for my daughter to be His mother.  If you won’t marry Joe then you’ll just have to go stay in Florida with your cousin, Ellie.  Your mother and I will find some truthful excuse to tell the church for your absence.  You’ll have the baby, find parents to adopt it, come back here, and no one will ever know.”

I sadly got up and walked away.  Why was it so hard for these humans to understand?  What made them think that God had to fulfill prophecy according to their understanding?  He would come to earth according to His way because His way was always perfect.

——————–
I picked a table partially hidden by decorative shrubbery.  I slowly ate my cheeseburger while waiting for Joe and Maria to arrive.  Her trial was only beginning.  I pulled on my sunglasses as they walked through the door.  They were seated at a table within hearing distance of me.  Joe quickly decided on his entree choice, but Maria looked like she was going to be sick.  Their drinks arrived.  Maria stirred her straw nervously around in her soda, “Joe, I need to tell you something.  Please believe me.”

He gently smiled, “Sure, anything.”

She seemed to try to think of the best words to use for explaining the situation.  “Joe, I love you, and I need you to trust me.  I’m pregnant; I’m going to be the mother of God’s Son.  The Messiah is coming!  A messenger from God told me, and it is true.”

Joe paused for a second before exploding, “You’re what?!”

Maria looked around at the other tables who were now watching them.  “Shh,” she hushed, “I said that I am going to have a baby.”

Joe leaned back on his chair as if he had been punched.  He drummed his fingers on the table then ran them through his hair.  He leaned forward and gulped some soda.  “I don’t know if you’re trying to play some kind of April Fool’s Day trick on me, but it’s not funny.  You say you’re pregnant; I know I’m not the father; so it must be someone else.  You’ve been cheating on me, Maria.  I’m glad for this baby- I really am.  Otherwise, I would have married you once I got out of college, never knowing that you were unfaithful.  Is it Todd or Mark?  Wait…don’t tell me; I don’t want to know,” he shakily got to his feet and left some cash on the table to pay for the uneaten food.  “I really thought you were the one I would spend my life with.  I really loved you.  I was faithful to you, but I guess you didn’t feel the same way.”  He looked at her one more time before leaving.  Maria just sat there and cried, oblivious to the fact that she was still in the restaurant.  The deepest of sadnesses can make you feel completely alone even when surrounded by a crowd.

I finished my fries, passed by Maria, and briefly lay my hand on her shoulder while breathing a prayer of peace for her soul before leaving her alone.

————————–
Maria stepped out of the airport into the sunny state of Florida.  I was wearing a bright floral shirt and straw hat as my new disguise.  A camera hung around my neck for added effect.  I scanned a paper map while also watching for Ellie to arrive.  Maria’s face lit up as she saw her cousin running towards her.  She dropped her suitcases and also ran.  They met in a huge embrace and were both crying.  Females, I could never figure them out.  They cried when they were happy, and they cried when they were sad..

Ellie stepped back and looked at Maria, “It’s so good to see you.  Your parents told me all about it, but I knew even before that,” she winked.

“What?” Maria asked, “how could you?”

“Well, you know my husband and I haven’t been able to have children.  We prayed and prayed and had finally given up hope when some angel, I guess that’s who he was, appeared at our house and told me that I would have a son, John.  He said that this son would be special because he would be a news reporter and announce the coming of the Messiah.  But that’s not all, he said that you were going to be the mother of The Messiah.  Well, I thought I was going crazy, but soon afterwards I found out that I was pregnant.  Then your parents called; I tried to tell them that this is really The Messiah, but they didn’t listen.  I mean, common sense says that God’s Son should be sitting on a throne in England or something, not being a little baby being formed inside of a high-school girl.”  Ellie stopped suddenly.

“What’s wrong?” Maria worriedly asked.

Ellie laughed, “Oh, this child.  Ever since I met you, He’s been jumping around.  It’s as if he knows he’s near his Lord.”

I smiled.  Yes, he knew.  Even I knew from where I stood.  Anyone that had an open heart and mind would know that Maria’s child was Royalty.

————————
It was now time for me to move to Step Two.  Joe’s part in the story wasn’t complete yet.  Maria had been at Ellie’s place for a few months now, and she would be having the baby in a few weeks.  I pulled my jacket tighter against the biting November cold.  I was back in Pennsylvania and about to walk into the office where Joe worked.  He was bent over a construction design that he was drawing and didn’t even notice me enter. 

I cleared my throat.

He dropped his pencil and hastily looked up, “I’m sorry I didn’t see you.  May I help you?  Justin, the boss, is away right now, but I can probably answer most of your questions.”  Joe had been called to play in this world-changing event because he was responsible and hard-working.  This guy was going to be the perfect step-father for The Messiah.

“Well, Joe, (I always liked to watch the look of confusion when I called someone that didn’t know me by their name) I’ve actually been sent to help you.  I know you feel betrayed by Maria.  The last eight months you have poured yourself into college and work hoping to forget, but you haven’t.  She really is a good girl- that’s why she was chosen.  She has been faithful in all areas of her life, and yes, she has been faithful to you.  She really is going to be the mother of God’s Son.  It has been prophesied for years, and now is the time for fulfillment.  Maria is going to need someone to support her, to supply for her and the baby, and someone to raise and train this special child.”

Joe was silent.  The clock echoed through the office as time passed.  Finally he spoke, “But how do I know that this is true?”

Dear Joe, so thoughtful and responsible, he wasn’t one to jump into anything without careful consideration.  I looked deeply into his eyes, “Because of faith and trust.  You trust Maria and know that she is virtuous, and you have faith that God can make His plans come true in any way He pleases.”

“But if I marry her, everyone will think that I am the father.  I have lived my life purely.  At times, I have fallen, but by the strength of God I have fought for a good reputation that pleases Him and others.”

I knew this.  I had seen his clean internet history, his avoidance of certain parties and places, and his faithfulness.  By marrying Maria now, it seemed to ruin everything from his viewpoint.  “Joe, when you follow God, there will always be someone who is against you or who will judge your life.  But if they were truly in tune with the Heavenly Father, they would see the truth and know you for who you really are.  You have been chosen because of good personal choices, but now you are going to have to trust God completely.  Give Him your pride and reputation and let go.  If you make this choice, you will go to your grave with people still thinking the worst of you, but one day everyone will know the truth.  For now, all that matters is that God knows.”  I handed him an address, “Maria is staying with her cousin.  She was told by her parents to have the child and give it up for adoption, but she has decided to keep him.  She is going to need some help.”

Joe seemed to suddenly understand everything as he stood up so fast that his chair fell over behind me.  “Thanks for telling me.  I should have believed Maria and been with her so she didn’t have to face this alone, but she won’t have to anymore.”  He grabbed his keys and headed for the door.

“Don’t forget to name the baby, Jesus,” I called after him as I turned off the lights and locked the door.

—————————
I didn’t want to miss the reunion, and was an eager spectator as Joe pulled his rusty pickup truck outside of Ellie’s house and walked to the door.  Maria answered the knock and looked shocked at the sight of Joe at the door.  He fumbled with his keys, “Maria, I apologize for not believing you.  I’m here to help you with Jesus.”

Maria’s tongue loosened enough to squeak out, “Jesus?”

Joe smiled, “Yes, I was told that we name The Messiah, Jesus.”  He then knelt before her on one knee, “Will you marry me?”

She gasped, “But Joe, I can’t do that to you.  People will think that you are the father.”

“Maria, you and I both know that God’s will is best no matter what may have to be suffered.  I love you, and I will stand by your side for the rest of our lives.”

Maria blushed that pretty woman-in-love color.  “Yes, Joe, I will marry you and love you for the rest of my life.”

——————
The wedding was small.  Ellie, her husband, and the new-born baby, John, were witnesses to the humble marriage between two people who were following God no matter what the cost.

———————-
Joe was busy loading the suitcases into the bed of the pickup.  “I wish we didn’t have to travel right now since you’re almost due, but I don’t have any other option.  We have to go to Wyoming and finish up the will and tax stuff from Dad’s death last week,” he apologized.  “I still think you should stay here.”

Maria shook her head, “You’re my husband.  Like Ruth said, ‘I will go where you go’.  You especially need my support as we go through the funeral and grieving.”

They were designed for each other- each one held the other up with strength that they did not have by themselves.  They would travel for days in that old pickup whose heat didn’t work and suspension was shot.  I knew where they were going to stop, and had arrived early to prepare a few things for their arrival.  The pickup rolled to a stop at the small fuel station.  The moon and stars watched from above.  All earth was holding her breath in anticipation.

Joe rushed inside the tiny convenience store.  “Where’s the closest hospital?” he urgently asked the man behind the counter, “my wife’s going to have a baby.”

The man didn’t act interested, “Thirty miles north up the highway.”

Joe rubbed his blood-shot eyes and pleaded, “Isn’t there anything closer?  Even a motel?  She can’t have the child in the truck.”

The man shook his head, “Nope, the motels are all booked from here till twenty miles further in all directions.  There’s a pro-game going on up at the capital.  Rooms have been booked for months in advance.”

The man returned to watching a late-night show on the little TV tucked under the counter.  Joe walked outside and looked around frantically for help.

I had donned some greasy overalls and a baseball cap and approached Joe, “Overheard your problem.  This isn’t much help, but the garage over here could be used.  The mechanics are gone, and it’s warmer in there than in your truck.”

Joe quickly went to Maria’s door, “Honey, we can’t get to a hospital in time, and the motels are full.  Are you okay with spending the night in the garage here?”

Maria smiled weakly, “Yes, Joe.  Any place will work.”  She then picked up Joe’s hand in hers as if she had read his thoughts, “Joe, you’re not a loser of a husband and father.  You are doing your very best, and I love you for that.”

I helped Joe carry Maria inside.  I gathered the rags that I had cleaned before hand and then left to get one of the neighbor women to help with the delivery.  Maria was strong, and this was God’s Son.  I knew everything would be all right.

—————
I had one more task for the night.  The new-born King would need a welcoming party.  None of Maria or Joe’s family would agree to come when I had called them.  Joe’s mobile facebook status update and tweet about The Messiah being born had only elicited mean comments, showing that no friends would show up for the King’s entrance.  I pulled out my phone and reread over what had been written.

Joe:  Maria is about to have The Messiah!  This isn’t a hospital or anything special, but at least God supplied a garage to keep us warm in=)  I’ll post pics when Jesus is born.

Randy:  Get a life, man.  We all know you’re the father.

Sam:  Don’t you ever watch the movies about how The Messiah will come?  Find a psychologist.

Lilah:  A garage?  Seriously?????  What kind of father are you?  Take care of Maria.  P.S.  Aren’t kings usually born in a castle?

I pushed open the diner door, and a bell announced my arrival.  “What can I get you, hon?” a waitress asked as she placed a cup of coffee on the counter where I was supposed to take a seat.

“This is fine, thanks.  But I would like some food made to go.  There’s a lady and her husband over at the garage.  She’s having a baby, and they’ll need some food later on.”  There were some truckers sitting around talking, but they stopped when I told about Maria and Joe turning the garage into a maternity ward.

“Poor thing!” the waitress exclaimed.

“Don’t be sad about this.  This is a miracle.  This baby is very very special.  He is our Messiah, our Savior,” I excitedly declared.

“You’ve been sniffing too much truck fumes, buddy,” she laughed as she walked back into the kitchen.

“You’re saying that this baby is The Messiah?  The One we’ve been waiting for?” a trucker in a Peterbilt hat asked as he sat on a stool next to me.”

“Yes, I have come to tell you about Him.  He is the hope of our future.  ‘Glory to God in the highest!'”

“Sounds crazy, but sometimes God moves in mysterious ways,” another man remarked.

A bearded driver stood to his feet, “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but my load is just gonna have to wait.  If there’s a King around, I’m gonna go see Him.”

I smiled as a group of about eight truckers headed across the road.  I grabbed the to-go food that the waitress had brought out and hurried to catch up.  I entered the garage and saw them kneeling around the baby.  I knelt too, there was no other option when one saw this child.  He looked like any other baby, but a Presence that was greater than the greatest power, strength, and wisdom surrounded Him.

A trucker wiped his eyes, “He’s so beautiful.  Truly this is our Messiah.”

I murmured in agreement, “Yes, Jesus, The Messiah and Savior for all of mankind, has been born.  The first Christmas has arrived.”