This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.Matthew 1:18 NIV
Mary’s song is very deep. You wonder where this knowledge of God comes from for a girl who is so young? What type of household has she grown up in to be exposed to this understanding of God.—Roberta
I am still pondering this. I am wondering how her parents felt when she told them? Did they believe her? Did they have a similar experience to Joseph to help them accept this miracle? Did they just want to protect their girl and their family?—Jayme
These comments from the readers of Favored, Blessed, Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth got me thinking about the parents of Mary and Joseph.
I have two young adult sons. During their teen years, my husband and I frequently prayed that we would not have to hear a report such as Joseph had to share with his parents.
In such cases, what’s a parent to think? If Joseph was right (“I swear, we haven’t done it!”), then Mary was either raped by an unknown third party or she deceived everyone with her good-girl image. If Mary was right (“I can’t explain it, but God visited me and I’m miraculously pregnant”), she was either deluded or speaking the truth.
Down deep, both sets of parents must have thought (at least at first) that Joseph and Mary just did what many others before them had done—given in to temptation. But maybe they knew it couldn’t possibly be true since the two hardly knew each other and hadn’t yet spent any time together.
I realize all this is speculation. But I am a mother. No one ever talks about Mary’s mother or Joseph’s mother in my faith tradition. What was this experience like for them? How did the young couple tell them? Did God have to come to them separately to reassure them of his plan as he had for Joseph?
Perhaps their thoughts ran along this vein:
Well, the deed is done. Mary is pregnant and the best case scenario is to get them married quickly. The community will accept that this is Joseph’s child. They’ll wink a bit about how impatient he must have been and then they’ll move on. They certainly aren’t the first couple rushed into finalizing the marriage and they won’t be the last.
We raised her right. She knows God. Listen to her song of praise. She is not a girl given to imagination and day dreaming. She would not make up such a thing. We have longed for the Messiah. I just didn’t think it would be my girl and I didn’t think it would happen before she married.
We taught her God’s word. She knows Scripture. She understands the God of our ancestors. I will trust that she heard him correctly.
He loves God and follows him closely. He says that an angel spoke to him. I want to believe him. In fact, I’m inclined to because I know my son‘s character.
They will have a hard life. There is no precedent for this. But we are here for them. We will love them and protect them and help care for their son.
Will my grandson really be the Savior of the world?
As a straight-laced good girl, I expected my sons to “tow the line” as well. So when one came home with bruises because he had gotten into a fight at school, I had no words. This didn’t even fit my grid. It was so unexpected and uncharacteristic. That same son later told us, “I quit my job and I’m going to live out of my truck and drive around the country.” Also not what I expected to hear. (For more of this story, see Favored, Blessed, Pierced: Hear and Obey.)
Countless parents have had children announce unexpected and “off the grid” information: Mom, I’m pregnant. Dad, I’m gay. I’m moving in with my girlfriend. I’m dropping out of school. I’m joining a rock band. I’m going to be a global worker in India. I’d like to pursue seminary, not the family business.
But none of our children can say, “God visited me and I’m expecting his son.” How does a parent handle that news?
I suspect Mary and Joseph’s parents each had to wrestle with this (as any parent would), talk to God about it, trust the teaching that they had passed on and allow God to work on behalf of their children.
Parenting in this unique situation would not have been easy. When the census was announced, they had to release the newlyweds (and their pregnant daughter) to journey to Bethlehem. When Mary and Joseph escaped in the dead of night, they lived with no word from the young family, perhaps for several years. And when Mary and Joseph did finally return to Nazareth, they continued to love and support the new parents and help them raise and care for Jesus.
All this, of course, depended on their faith which the Biblical narrative doesn’t explicitly describe. We know that young people can choose to follow God even if their parents do not model an obedient life. Or they may choose to reject God even though raised by the godliest of parents.
Mary and Jospeh’s parents were ultimately responsible for their own faith, their own reaction to Mary’s pregnancy, their own words of response to the news. They too had to come to believe that their grandson was the Savior of the world, as the angel foretold.
REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
How do you respond when your children (or nieces, nephews, mentees) tell you unexpected things?
If you need to, how can you respond differently?
Lord God, help me to believe that you have a plan for my children and you will reveal it to them. Teach them to obey and follow you.