Ah, it’s Wednesday again, and what a wonderful Wednesday it is going to be. I logged on this morning and we did it! Because of you – my wonderful readers – we went past the 22,000 page view mark! This is more than I ever even hoped for in just under a year! It gives me incentive to keep on going and see what 2014 will bring. As for what’s on my agenda today? Well, today is going to be a day of baking, watching Christmas movies and just puttering around the house. This is one of my very favorite things about preparing for Christmas . . . when else do I have blanket approval from everyone to create as many decadent treats as possible with nobody complaining about calories and fat? It’s going to be a fun day for sure.
Today I want to talk about Mary, the mother of Jesus. In all the Biblical accounts of her, they cover the outline of what happened, but I want to think about what this amazing and blessed young woman went through emotionally. Let’s think about the culture in her region at that time in history and create a picture in our minds and hearts of her story. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. The Bible doesn’t state specifically how old she was when she was given the blessing of carrying Jesus, but we must assume that, because of cultural norms at the time, that she was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old. At that time, when a couple was engaged to be married, their promises to each other were as binding as an actual marriage, and as unbalanced and unfair as it was, if the woman in the couple were to cheat on her betrothed, the punishment could easily have been the death penalty in the form of being stoned to death. (for those of you unfamiliar with the term except in the context of recreational drugs – this means that the community gathered around and threw rocks at the accused until they died; a horrible, cruel and painful death) So here we have a young teenage girl, innocent and pure, from a poor family and engaged to marry a local carpenter. Mary was raised learning the prophecies and knew that God was going to send a blessing to His people, that He was going to save them with a Messiah, so when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary to let her know that she was going to conceive the Son of God, she was terrified, but the purity of her faith opened her heart and mind to the blessing being given to her. In the cold light of day though, what did she go through? She was unmarried, betrothed to Joseph . . . and she was pregnant. Unmarried pregnant girls are common today, so much so that nobody really gives them a second thought, but at THAT time, this was a HUGE scandal! HUGE! Everyone, justifiably, assumed she’d either cheated on Joseph, or she and Joseph had jumped the gun and consummated their relationship before their marriage – both a big no-no. Joseph was publicly humiliated and had a big decision to make. Was he going to break it off with Mary, effectively divorcing her and condemning her to a life of being unmarriageable, was he going have her killed, or was he going to just deal with it, marry her anyway and live a life with people thinking he was a fool to marry a woman carrying someone else’s child? What to do? I’m sure his family and friends were giving him all sorts of advice, and that the public condemnation of Mary was loud and perhaps even vicious. “Good” people would have crossed to the other side of the street and she would have been ostracized. It got so bad she went to live with her relatives for awhile. Joseph in the meantime was visited by an angel as well, and being a man of faith who was in love with Mary, he accepted the responsibility God gave him, and he stayed with Mary, with the intention of being the earthly father to the Son of God. Heavy responsibility! This likely gave the impression that the child was his, which would have – maybe – slightly alleviated the scorn, since they WERE betrothed anyway. What a LONG nine months this had to have been!
The time came for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem to report for the census. This census was required by the Romans, and no excuses were acceptable, which is why Mary found herself traveling about 70 miles on foot and by donkey, to Bethlehem. I don’t know about you, but for me, when I was that far along, there is absolutely NOTHING that would have felt worse than that trip when I was so close to delivering. She had to have been miserable! I’m sure her back ached, her feet were puffy, she was short of breath and every little bit she had to stop to do her business behind a rock somewhere. It was a LONG, difficult, miserable trip. When they arrived in town, it was packed to the rafters with people who were ALSO there to report. Every available space was full of travelers. Think about how cram packed cities are when the Olympics are in town, or Super Bowl! You have to make reservation months, even years in advance, just to insure you have a place to stay.
They didn’t have this option back at that time, so it was first come first serve, and since traveling was slow with a woman in the end stages of pregnancy, by the time Joseph and Mary arrived it was too late to find an inn. I’m sure Joseph knocked on many, many doors trying to find space and he had to have been feeling desperate. Mary was in labor – had to have been to have given birth so soon after arriving – which means her contractions had started and she needed to lie down as soon as possible. Finally, after what was a really long search, they found an innkeeper who would allow them to stay in the stable with the animals. A humble place to be sure, but think about it. It was warm, and staying with animals wasn’t a big stretch in those days. People’s farm animals meant the difference between life and death for them. They took care of them and spent a lot of time with them. So here they were, in a warm barn, heated with the body heat of the animals staying there, and in this humble space, Mary delivers Jesus, the Son of God, Savior to the world, with the help of her husband, Joseph. They wrapped the baby in strips of cloth that Mary would have packed to bring with her, knowing that she was so close to delivering. These swaddling cloths were something that mothers have used for hundreds of years, securely snuggling the baby up where he was warm and would feel secure. She was exhausted from her trip and from giving birth, so Jesus was laid in the manger – a feeding trough essentially – so she could rest. We see traditional nativity scenes showing the manger as a wooden box type object, but if you look at structures of those times, it was likely a cut out stone indentation in the wall of the stone stable. Either way, it was a humble place for the Son of God to lay His head in the first hours of His life. However, this difficult pregnancy, the trek to Bethlehem and the basic nature of their lodging, all worked together to fulfill the prophesies and bringing to us, the world, the Savior . . . The Messiah. I am grateful that God chose such a wonderful young woman to raise His Son, and I am humbled by her graciousness, her sweet spirit of acceptance and her strength. Would that we all could give ourselves over to God in such a way . . . the world would not be in the place it is today.
This video from The Nativity Story, with the song Breath of Heaven, sung by Amy Grant always touches my heart. Please, if you have a few minutes, contemplate Mary and what she went through so she could fulfill the purpose God gave to her.
Food Celebration of the Day –
National Noodle Ring Day – I really had to search to figure out what exactly this was! Apparently a Noodle Ring was at one time a really popular dish . . . before my time? Don’t know, but it’s interesting. So WHAT is a noodle ring? Well, it is a dish made by mixing eggs, milk, butter and seasonings together, then putting all the ingredients into a ring mold to bake. One suggestion was to add in cheese also. When the ring is baked, it is plated onto a dish and the center of the ring is filled with creamed chicken, vegetables or other ingredients of choice. The noodle ring was once a staple of mid-century cookbooks, but it has lost its popularity. Obviously – since nobody I knew had ever heard of it. It could be interesting to make this dish to see if your family thinks of it as a treat, or not.
3/4 lb. noodles (3 cups uncooked)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Cook noodles until tender (about 15 min.) in 3 qts. boiling water to which 1 tbsp. salt has been added. Drain. Beat eggs until light, add remaining ingredients, and noodles. Place in well greased 10-inch ring mold, set in pan of hot water. Bake 45 min. in a mod. oven (350°).
I hope that today you give some thought deeper into the story of the birth of Jesus, and to people God chose to bring about the fulfillment of His prophesy to give us a Messiah, a Savior who came to love us and to bless us. It is a humbling and serious story, and to be taken seriously, with gratitude and awe. Merry Christmas, God Bless You and I’ll see you tomorrow!