Her heart pounded as she willed her legs to go faster up the long hill. Her strides were full and her breathing was rapid, but she could hear him closing in behind her. Cresting the hill, she turn right and ran along the narrow trail into the shadow of the outcropping of large rocks just above her. "Just a few steps more," she thought as she gasped for breath.
She suddenly realized that she no longer heard his footsteps nor his hard breathing that had been so close behind her. He must have slipped and fallen. With renewed hope, she rounded the hill and saw her family's small home just a hundred yards away. She stretched out her stride and ran for safety.
Suddenly, she heard him again. He had taken the short cut, the treacherous path over the top of the hill. He was running down hill with legs several inches longer than hers. She cried out!
"Got you!" he yelled as he grabbed her by the shoulder. They both stopped, too winded to go on.
Hands on their knees, trying to fill their lungs with oxygen, they heard their father laughing a short distance away. "It's good that you will soon be Joseph's wife, Mary! Your brother Isaac is a full two years younger and this is the first time he has caught you. Perhaps you should relinquish your running championship to him!"
"Oh, Papa," she yelled back between breaths, "he never would have caught me if he hadn't cheated with the shortcut!"
"Just remember," her father said, "that's the same shortcut you took the first time you caught your cousin!"
As they entered their old house, Mary went to the small room that had been "home" her whole life. She looked on the shelf her father had built and noticed again the exquisite shawl which Joseph had given her for a betrothal gift. She pick it up, placed its softness against her cheek and thought of how her life was changing.
Her family and the family of Joseph the carpenter had made arrangements for their marriage when the children were too young to decide for themselves. There had always been some mystery in her mind about the arrangement because it happened when she was two years old, but Joseph was already eleven. Somehow their fathers had believed that this arrangement was the will of the Eternal, blessed be His Name.
The tradition said that the couple, when they reached the right age, could go through a time of engagement in which they got more acquainted with each other. During that time, the children could decide to call off the planned marriage.
If the children decided to accept their parents' choice, they entered a year of betrothal, in which they were married in every sense except one. During that year, they did not come together as husband and wife. Joseph was now legally and financially responsible for Mary and they saw each other almost every day. They both were anxious for the year to end so they could belong to each other completely.
"Our day will be soon, Joseph," she whispered quietly to herself. "Then we can be together for the rest of our lives. Oh, how I long to be with you!"
She smiled just thinking about it.
To my readers: the events surrounding the birth of Christ are given extensive coverage in Scripture. The parts we don't always know about are the human elements, especially from the viewpoint of Jesus' participants. My attempt this Christmas is to stay true to the Biblical text, while shading in what it may have been like "between the lines." Please distinguish my ruminations from God's Word by reading the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke. My hope is that reading my words impacts you even a tiny percentage as much as writing them has impacted me.