Only a few days left.

It had been a long time. A hard time.

Even now he could feel the shock that pulsed through him … body, mind and soul … when he’d heard that Mary was pregnant.

He knew he was not the father. He had kept the Law. To think that Mary would despise the Law … that was just as impossible, but that was the only explanation. There was no other option but to conclude that Mary had been unfaithful, that Mary had broken the betrothal vows, and with deep sadness and perplexity to set about terminating their relationship with as much calmness, dignity and consideration as he could muster.

Here, months later, a whole life later, he still felt that anguish.

But, even more, he also still felt the surprise, the unbelief, the hope, the fear, the wonder, the whole incredible and indefinable whirl of emotions, and the radical and overwhelming implications of what had happened next. He still wasn’t sure he really believed it. It was too huge. It was simply too amazing. Too awesome.  And way too deep. Way to impossible.

Through all of these months the words of the angel had occupied his mind … a human child conceived not by a human father but by the Spirit of God … a son to be named ‘Jesus’ – ‘God saves’ … one who would save his people from their sins.

And the even more puzzling things the angel had told Mary … that this unborn child was ‘holy’ and would be called ‘the Son of the Most High’, ‘the Son of God’, and would reign over an eternal kingdom.

Even now he still shuddered with the utter blasphemy of the thought … A human child described as ‘the holy one’. A human child called the Son of God Most High! A human child an eternal king! Amazement and dread mingled inseparably in his mind, in his heart. It was daring even to think about it, much too daring to talk about.

But Mary’s cousin Elizabeth believed it. And Elizabeth had gone beyond thinking and put it into words. Had not Elizabeth greeted Mary with the words ‘the mother of my Lord’? And no blast from God had stricken her down …

Again and again his mind had strained to recall the scriptures he had learned as a boy … scriptures about the promised Messiah … the anointed deliverer … the king in the line of David …

And here he was now packing their bags to travel to Bethlehem … the birthplace of the great king … the promised birthplace of the promised Messiah …

He looked at Mary … so soon to give birth … and thought again of the scriptures that both threatened and thrilled him - ‘a virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel … and he will be called … Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.

Only a few days and this child would be born … a few days to wonder … a few days to fear … a few days to think ‘what if …’

What if it has all along been just an enormous hoax, a clever deception … that would be bad. He would feel such a fool.

But what if it is all really true, that this child is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of the world … that would be … that would be the ultimate and final thing …

The ultimate and final joy to thus see and know God.

The ultimate and final opportunity for all of Israel, for all mankind.

The ultimate and final grace.

Scriptures: Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-45; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; John 12:44-45; 14:7-9; Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:14,18.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2010, 2015