Carole Crossley is the author of a daily devotional book entitled ‘Are you Listening.’ Carole has kindly agreed to share on our website; exploretoinspire.uk a number of her devotions for your encouragement (2019 Jesus Joy Publishing used by permission) and if you would like to order a copy of Carole’s book, go to ‘Are you Listening’
This devotional is about MARY one of many Bible Characters that she has shared over the months and we hope you enjoy it.
The icy tendrils of despair gripped my heart in an overwhelming burden of emotion. It is inconceivable that any mother should witness the cruel devastating scene that I was now forced to look upon.
My beautiful, perfect Son, was nailed brutally on a rough splinter-ridden cross and left in enormous pain to hang in an agonising death.
My constricted throat stemmed the animal wail I longed to scream. The arid hot sun was beating down on my dropping shoulders; the strength was slipping out of my dear, dear, Son.
I shrunk in torment. My tortured thoughts travelled back to the promise of His birth, thirty three years ago.
The excitement of my betrothal party to Joseph had brought our two families together in such joy. Joseph was older than I but that was a good thing; it meant he would have the means to take care of me, to provide for me and I would serve him as a wife should, with faithfulness and love.
It had been while I was skipping along in my dreams of flowers and wedding feasts that the strangest thing had happened.
Fleetingly, as I turned my head, out of the corner of my eye I saw a bright vision. The brightness automatically caused my eyelids to close tightly in protection. Falling to my knees I covered my face and bowed as low as the rough path would allow.
I curled up in terror against the atmosphere; something immensely powerful was present. The vivid light had announced a presence – a presence that made me tremble. If my shaking limbs would have allowed it, I would have run from there with all speed.
The quietness echoed and my tension held me in a terrified grip. With clear authority, a reassuring voice penetrated my befuddled mind.
The message was, in essence, clear, but I struggled to make sense of it. I understood the words but not the meaning. I was told about the birth of a son; my first born. I was informed that I would become pregnant with the Holy Spirit.
It took some time for that to sink in! Even then, I had no concept of what it meant. I asked how that would be possible to a virgin; I worried what Joseph would say and I wondered what it all meant.
In retrospect it was all surreal, uncanny, unexpected, unknown. I had heard of others having visions but I had never experienced anything like this.
The voice speaking these things to me introduced himself as Gabriel, an Angel; the message he brought had come directly from God.
My fear overcome, I knew that God was asking something of me, anything He wanted! I would obey! Indeed there was no doubt in my mind; I would do whatever God asked of me, no matter what the cost to myself.
I had tried in vain to hide my changing shape. The long cloak-like clothes which I was familiar with wearing were helpful in the early days. Joseph was amazingly understanding about the situation. He cared enough about me to try and hide my disgrace. He decided to go ahead with our marriage and then quietly divorce me.
I know that something happened to change Joseph’s mind because we remained together for the rest of his life and we gave my son Jesus our love and, in time, brothers. He grew up in a loving family and Joseph cared deeply for Him, teaching Him a trade and bringing Him up as his own son.
I always knew that my first born would be special – the Angel had said so – and the circumstances of His birth were unique. I had kept each memory safely locked in my heart.
A short time before His birth, we were all told there would be a census throughout the Roman Empire. It meant we had to register in our home town (our place of birth). This had been ordered by Augustus, the Roman Emperor.
We travelled over rough terrain for many days. I was riding on the back of an elderly donkey; poor Joseph had to walk. We arrived in Bethlehem one clear starry night. The journey had been long and we were exhausted, just longing for rest and a good night’s sleep. My lack of personal experience didn’t interfere with my instinct; I knew the journey of birth had already begun several hours before.
Bethlehem had been oozing with people; the small town had never had such crowds descend upon it. The inns were full; every room was taken – too many people for too few places to stay. Joseph had tried to find us somewhere with weary patience, being turned away time and time again.
He led me on the donkey up to the last inn on the road. In answer to his request, there was a kindly face smiling in welcome. The smile meant so much. No, there was no room but on seeing my distress, the innkeeper offered us a dry stable at the back. We were both so grateful.
Jesus was born during the night; such a precious time, such a lowly, humble place to make His appearance. We were surrounded by animals – cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. The animals were so quiet during His birth, until His first breaths were taken; then it was so strange – they raised their voices, they cried in unison, they sang, they howled so sweetly, the volume brought excitement and joy. My heart overflowed.
Within the following hours we were visited by shepherds who had travelled from nearby where they had been looking after their flocks. The atmosphere in the stable was one of tremendous joy and thanksgiving. I was grateful for the safe delivery of my baby; but to have strangers celebrating and praising God for His birth, well, it was truly amazing. I hugged myself in awesome wonder, savouring all those feelings of love and peace. I had thought about His birth many times and I know it was special.
It was the custom for a new born boy to be taken to the temple so, at 8 days old, we went along with our Son. He was named, ‘Jesus’ – just as the angel had instructed – circumcised and dedicated to God as we gave two pigeons in sacrifice.
Later the Eastern Kings arrived! They brought presents out of their riches for my baby – gold, frankincense and myrrh. They had been led in their journey to find us by following a star! I knew then, without doubt, that my Son had God’s hand upon Him. I savoured every moment.
Very soon, Joseph was warned of danger in a dream and we had to leave and hurriedly go to Egypt. I remember feeling afraid as we left the warmth and safety of the stable. God had told Joseph we needed to escape from King Herod. He wanted to kill my baby!
We did however return to Israel after Herod’s death and we settled in Nazareth which is where Jesus grew up. The excitement of Jesus’ birth receded into the background and we got on with our lives but I often thought in wonder at the events.
I don’t think anyone has had a more perfect Son! He has given us so much joy. His wisdom, even from an early age, touched all who came into contact with Him. He studied God’s word and always seemed to have an insight into the scriptures. I proudly watched as He grew.
However, there was one time, when He was about 12 years old, He became separated from us. We had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Joseph, Jesus’ brothers and I had gone on ahead presuming He was travelling behind us with friends. It was late when we discovered that He wasn’t with our group. The knowledge that no one had seen Him had us both trembling in fear. The terrible knotting up of my stomach muscles, the vivid imagined accidents, horrified us into action. We turned around to retrace our steps.
After three days searching, we found Him in the Temple. Jesus was with the religious teachers; He was in discussion with them and showing such wisdom and knowledge that belied His years. He seemed surprised that we were worried and that we didn’t know where to look for Him. The years passed all too swiftly.
At the age of 30 He had gone willingly into His ministry. My heart had been so very sad but a mother knows when it is time to let her precious children go; but it hurts and my heart clenched in grief.
My lovely innocent son; His teaching had blessed all who had listened and had a heart to hear and receive God. His touch could heal and save. When anyone looked into His eyes, something beautiful happened in their souls. His touch was gentle, encouraging. He brought truth and love. Peace followed in His path; the lives He changed and the faces of His followers, spread the joy that was theirs. Yes, from the moment the angel told me about Him, He had penetrated my heart.
Yet look where that had brought us! My son was dying on a cross! Whipped, humiliated, beaten – a cruel thorny crown tearing into His head, spit dripping down His face and blood running from the deep indented nails driven mercilessly into His flesh. I could not bear to look!
My anguish pulled me to my knees; I clawed at the air, hardly able to draw breath, my heart split down the centre. Something died in me that day.
Piercing my grief, I heard His voice. Suddenly, there was silence all around; something forced me to look up at my son. The deep brown pool-like eyes were not in pain, they summoned my attention.
He looked down at me and all the love, with which I had cherished Him, was etched in His expression. His voice was clear as He said, “Woman, this is your son,” I became aware of John besides me.
Jesus turned to John saying, “She is your mother.” Even in His great suffering He was still putting others before Himself; He held my gaze for the last time.
Peace flooded my heart; the pain was no longer acute. This was God’s will. My love would never diminish but God’s hand, which was placed so gently on my heart, would see me through this trauma. I had to let my son go. His death would bring freedom; I would still have Him in my heart even though His physical presence would be absent.
Love of this kind, of this intensity, would never die. Trials would come and go and God’s peace would comfort and ease the pain.
I now knew that God’s will had, and would, be done.