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A Special Delivery

Posted on December 23, 2018 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (608)

I wrote this in 2008 and have "performed" it as a dramatic reading and sermon in various settings. It is obviously a figment of my imagination, but there are surely some truths to be found, and reflection to be gleaned.  Enjoy, and be sure to let me know your thoughts.

A Special Delivery

 

Joachim! Joachim?? Where IS that man! Joachim, we have a letter! A special delivery from our Mary!! Come quickly Joachim! Oh, where is that man when you need him. Well, I can’t wait. I will read it to him later.

 

(Carefully unfolds the parchment and adjusts glasses—reads out loud)

 

Dear Mama and Papa,

I am sure that by now you are beginning to worry because Joseph and I have not yet returned to Nazareth. Please let me explain. It’s been such a long journey in so many ways.

 

Thank you for sending the extra blankets and food with us for the trip to Bethlehem. The census couldn’t have come at a worse time with the baby coming due, but Joseph took it slowly and chose the steadiest donkey for me to ride.

 

I thought we’d never get there. We stopped often so that I could rest and have nourishment. There were times when the road was clogged with other travelers, and then times when we seemed to be the only people in the whole world.

 

We were drawing near to the city when the pains began. You were right, Mama, there’s nothing like labor pains! They came on so sudden and they were sharp-- I thought for sure I would scream. My teeth are surely ground down from clenching them so tightly.

 

Joseph was terrified! My poor, poor dear husband. His greatest fear, of course, was that we would be all alone under a sycamore tree, when the baby came. I can just imagine your horror, Papa, as you think about Joseph serving as my mid-wife!

 

I can’t explain it, but I had that same sense of peace come over me, you know, the same one I told you about, on that night the angel visited. Somehow, I just knew that everything was going to be alright. But then another pain would come and I’d have a momentary lapse of faith! And then that peace would return; a peace that passes all understanding. It was like riding a big wave on a stormy night out on Galilee.

 

By the time we got to Bethlehem there were no available rooms to stay in. It took us so much longer with me in my condition, that everyone just seemed to pass us up! Joseph went to the inn and some make-shift inns begging for a place for us to stay, but there wasn’t one to be found.

 

The pains were coming much more quickly by then. I hardly seemed to get past one when the next one started. The waves were beginning to crash in upon themselves and I was in desperation to lie down and free my body of this baby!

 

Poor sweet Joseph was beside himself! I’m sure he must have wondered for the 100th time what he’d gotten himself into. Finally, he pleaded with the innkeeper for a space. I’m sure he had tears in his eyes as he begged for a place for his baby to be born.

 

He said in desperation, “We’ll sleep with the animals! Just please give us someplace where my wife can deliver this baby.”

 

Joseph, of course, told me all of this later. At the time, he simply came out of the inn and said, “I have a place for us. It isn’t what we expected, but it will have to do.”

 

“Oh Joseph!” I exclaimed in pain, “Please hurry to get us there. I trust you and in God to provide for us. Let’s go!”

 

“Well, it’s an interesting provision,” he muttered as he led the donkey and the doubled-up me down the road toward the edge of town.

 

I had a moment of surprise when I realized we were heading through Bethlehem to the other side of town. I was sure Joseph had heard wrong—likely hadn’t asked for directions—and now was leading us beyond the lights of the city into darkness.

 

In that moment, my faith in both God and my husband began to waver. None of this made sense. But then what part of this whole journey had made sense? From the time the angel visited me, life had taken a strange twist.

 

Finally, and mercifully, we arrived. At first, I was shocked, but truth be told, I was in so much pain by then, that I was ready to have the baby in a ditch alongside the road. I just wanted OFF that donkey!!

 

I don’t know how to break this news to you, Mama and Papa, but the place God provided for us was a stable; a simple cave where the innkeeper was stabling the animals of his guests. It wasn’t very big, but with the cows and horses, mules and sheep and such, it was warmer than you might think. Again, I thank you for those extra blankets.

 

Joseph made me a place on the soft straw with a blanket under me and one over me. He kissed me on the top of my head and then set out to find a mid-wife and perhaps some musicians from the neighboring homes and make-shift inns.

 

It must have been comical to see the looks of the ox, the ass and the sheep as we joined them.

But, Oh God, another pain hit just then! I tried so not to scream, as I didn’t want to startle God’s creatures around me, but I couldn’t stifle the moans that shook my body.

 

Mama, are you sure that the first baby is the worst, and that it will get better with the next one?

 

Joseph finally returned with not one but two mid-wives. It seems he was yelling for help so loudly that the whole town heard him. By the time they got back to the stable I felt as though my back was going to break.

 

How I wished for my mother to be there at my side. It seems strange doesn’t it? I am about to become a mother and all I want is MY mother.

 

I’m sure my sweet beloved Joseph was ready to take his leave out of doors. Compared to my pain I suspect that the cold biting night air was refreshing to him, the poor man.

 

I would like to say that this was the end of my labor, but of course, (and forgive me papa for speaking so boldly about such things) this was just the beginning.

 

I found that while my body experienced little or no peace over the next hours, something in my heart kept reminding me that everything was going to be just fine.

 

Papa, do you think that “something” was God? After all that had happened with my being pregnant and not yet living with Joseph, and then the trip to Bethlehem, and having to give birth on a bed of straw…… I think it was God. I just kept the words of the angel going over and over in my head: “Mary, God is pleased with you.”

 

Well, finally little Jesus made his appearance! It certainly took him long enough, and it was far from a pleasant experience for his mama, but he came out whole and appears to be healthy.

 

Once he was cleaned up, he had a big appetite!

The midwives helped me get him washed and swaddled. I could hear the musicians striking up the band as one of the mid-wives went out and announced, “It’s a boy.”

Again, thank you for sending me everything I could possibly need on this trip, Mama.

 

Joseph came in, then, and I saw the look of wonderment in his face. I was exhausted, but also exhilarated sitting there on fresh straw with my tired aching back resting against several bales. I couldn’t help but beam at this new life I was holding in my arms.

 

Joseph thanked the two mid-wives who had just finished hauling out the old violated straw. I had them throw away one of your blankets too. Trust me when I say, “you wouldn’t want it back.”

 

They promised to come back within the hour with food and drink for me, though I assured them we had food in our saddle bags. They laughed when someone outside said loudly, “Let your husband eat the old food.”

 

Joseph laughed too and said that he would gladly eat year-old food so that I had the best. He thanked the women over and over again for their help.

 

One of them said, as they were leaving, “I’ve delivered a lot of babies in my day, but I swear, there’s something special about this one.” The other said, “I agree! What did you say his name is again?”

 

Joseph replied quietly, “His name is Jesus.”

 

One of the mid-wives muttered, “Hmmm, sounds like a name we’ll have to listen for over the years.” The other patted her on the back as they stepped out of the cave together, and were embraced by the cool night air and the brightest star they had ever seen.

 

Oh Mama and Papa, it’s hard to explain, as I am feeling a myriad of feelings all at the same time. I know that every parent hopes and believes their child will be someone great in the world, but I just know in my heart of hearts there’s something very special about our baby, Jesus.

 

I have a not so good feeling about it as well. Sometimes bad things happened to very special people.

 

But for now, I am going to rejoice! I am getting stronger each day, but still not ready for the trip home. The gracious innkeeper sent his wife out with food for us today, and he refuses to charge us for the stable.

 

Joseph found an extra manger lying there against the stone wall. It was obviously in dire need of repair, so, he spent a day or so cleaning it up and using his carpenter skills to repair it. You’ll never guess what we did with it! We made it into a cradle for little Jesus! It works beautifully lined with soft straw, one of your blankets, and him in his swaddling clothes.

 

All the animals seem captivated with him. Joseph and I laughed and laughed when a tiny lamb, also new born, found his way over to the manger this morning and nuzzled the baby.

 

Jesus will think his family is made up of the ox, lamb, cows and sheep! Oh, and of course shepherds and other townspeople as well!

 

I forgot to write about the shepherds who appeared the night he was born. As it turns out they’d been tending their sheep on a hill overlooking Bethlehem, when an angel appeared to them and told them to come and find the baby! They looked more than a little awkward, but we were glad they came.

 

There’s talk about that bright star over Bethlehem these days. Some say that those who study stars and such things are out of their minds trying to figure it out. I know this to be true because 3 star-gazers appeared here in person! They claimed to have followed the star right to this cave. Can you imagine? They gave the baby strange gifts, but what can one expect from three men?

 

After they left, Joseph had a very disturbing dream. He believes there is danger and wants us to go to Egypt for a little while before returning home. I do not understand, but there is so much I don’t understand. My husband has trusted me, and I must continue to trust him.

 

I know it will trouble you to learn we are not returning anytime soon with your grandchild, but as for me, I am at peace. I keep having the sense that God is with us.

 

I am sending this letter home with the last group of people who were here to register for the census. They have elderly among them and thus don’t travel all that quickly. I can surely relate to that right now!

Because of their delight in the baby, they are going to detour through Nazareth to deliver this letter to you! Isn’t that wonderful of them?

 

Well, Joseph just came in and beckoned me to give the letter to him so that he can get it into the traveler’s hands before they leave. The baby is sleeping quietly and has such a little tiny smile at the corners of his mouth. Every mother thinks her baby is special—I know that—but once you see Jesus, you’ll understand.

 

It is hard for me to say good-bye to you because writing this has made me long for you even more. But I must write the final word, or you won’t ever see this letter.

 

I love you Mama. I love you Papa. I hope to see you soon.

Your Loving Mary

 

(Gently folds the letter again and holds it to her heart) Joachim? Joachim! Where are you dear heart?? There’s been a SPECIAL DELIVERY!! (Head down the center aisle, looking left to right and call out JOACHIM!! Go on out through the doors and yell again as you go down the hall, JOACHIM!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection on Holy Week

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (5158)

NAMELESS, FACELESS AND SILENT

Dr. Nancy J. Horvath


OH MY GOD…OH MY GOD…. I’M SO SORRY….I’M SO……


It’s another middle of the night when I’ve awakened, once again, with night terrors and heavy sweating and cries of anguish calling out from the depths of my being…Another night where my wife gently says, “Oh my dear husband, I so wish you could talk about it.”


I can’t. I just can’t.


It’s all a blur to me now. I’ve found that I prefer to be nameless…faceless.


All truth be told I wish I no longer existed… but I am a man and I will not take the coward’s way out as Judas Iscariot, that dirty traitor, did.


I remember the day we were approaching Jerusalem—Jesus and the other disciples besides myself. We got to the town of Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives, when Jesus gave me and another disciple a job. He told us to go into Bethphage where we would see the colt of a donkey. We were to untie it and bring it to him.


“You want us to steal it, Lord?”


“If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord had need of it.”


The other disciple said to me, “I think this a part of the written prophecy. Remember where it says, “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.”


“So do you think he’s a king?” I asked.


“Beats me”, he replied. “Let’s just do as he says and hope we don’t run into problems.”


We did it. Of course we did it. We always did as he asked. We believed him to be a very great man; different from the fake prophets, he actually performed miracles. But a king? This was risky business.


We found the colt and brought the animal to him, throwing our garments over it. He climbed on and we began the walk to Jerusalem.


It was the strangest procession I had ever encountered. People lined up, spreading their cloaks on the road ahead. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was the main attraction and all the crowds were cheering and shouting:


“PRAISE GOD FOR THE SON OF DAVID! BLESS THE ONE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! PRAISE GOD IN THE HIGHEST HEAVEN! HOSANNA! HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!”


The entire city of Jerusalem seemed to take notice. People were already streaming into town to commemorate the Passover, so the crowd swelled larger than usual.


“Who is this?” I heard someone ask.


“It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee,” another replied.


I remained silent.


While I believed in him, I wasn’t sure I wanted my name brought into it all. I had an eerie feeling I couldn’t quite explain, that feeling that makes you want to keep looking over your shoulder.


The procession went right to the Temple where Jesus got off the colt and walked to the outer courts. It wasn’t the first time he was angry at the cheating money changers and those selling animals for sacrifice at ridiculous prices. He drove them out, again, this time knocking over the tables and stalls as if he didn’t have a thing to lose. He shouted that the Temple should be a place of prayer and not a den of thieves!


I tried to blend into the background, not really wanting to be associated with this kind of behavior. I had a lot to lose.


Suddenly we realized that in the middle of his tirade there were people lining up—the blind and the lame wanting him to heal them. Oh my God, he did it right there in the Temple! He did it in full view of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. Even the children there in the Temple were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.”


Oh, this was risky business indeed. I took more than a few steps back, wishing to remain faceless and nameless.


Because of the unrest he’d stirred, he decided we should go to Bethany for the night. A wave of relief washed over me; it was definitely safer there. I joined in some of the conversation about the day, but mostly sat silently, picking at the food Martha had prepared and Mary had placed before me.


“You OK?” asked another disciple.


“Oh yeah. Just fine.” I choked on the words as surely as I’d choke on the food were I to try to eat.


The next morning we headed back to Jerusalem before Mary and Martha were even awake. It was one thing to do miracles out in the hills around Galilee but quite another to put it in the faces of the crowds and religious leaders. It wasn’t the first time I considered blending into a crowd and disappearing.


On our way back to Jerusalem he said he was hungry. No surprise there, we’d left without breakfast. We passed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs on it but saw only leaves. He said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. WHAT IN THE WORLD?


Had I produced enough fruit in my life? It was a withering thought.


Much to my dismay we headed over to the temple again where he began teaching. There was immediate confrontation by religious leaders and priests.


“By whose authority did you drive out the merchants from the temple?


And the debate began. Jesus began telling his stories—the two sons, the evil farmers, the king and the great wedding feast…. On and on it went. It wasn’t pretty and I was shocked when they tried to blindside him with a question about paying taxes. They didn’t understand half of what he talked about in religious terms, so they decided to attack him politically.


Jesus knew their motives immediately, he was no fool! I did, however, slink further into the background when he yelled, “You hypocrites! Who are you trying to fool with your trick questions?”


Oh my God, what was he thinking?


Later in the day some Sadducees approached him and started in again with questions. Jesus again insulted them by saying, “Your problem is that you don’t know the scriptures and you don’t know the power of God.”


He further told the people to listen to the religious leaders but not follow their example because, “They do not practice what they preach.”


Could it get any worse?


By now all I wanted was to be nameless and faceless….and GONE. He was in over his head and I was afraid he was going to get us all killed.


Then came the Passover meal. I was one of the ones he sent to find a place. I liked that I could do this anonymously; no one needed to know my name.


We had a normal Passover meal, but then when we were done and our spirits and bellies were full he did something quite odd, even by his standards.


He took the unleavened bread still sitting there on the table and he blessed it and broke it and gave it to those of us reclining there on the floor, saying, “Take and eat. This is my body given for you.”


Then he took the cup of wine, and while I still don’t remember his exact words, he said something like, “Take and drink. This is my life blood poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”


We each took a bite of bread and ate it in silent wonder. What did this mean? We each took a sip from the cup. His body and his blood? This was very strange, but in the solemnness of the moment none of us dared to ask.


I, the faceless and nameless disciple, had no burning desire to ask. I just followed orders.


Then Jesus said quietly, “Whenever you eat of this bread and drink of this cup, remember me.” It seemed a strange request.


We sang an old hymn and headed to the garden of Gethsemane where he wanted to pray alone. He asked us to wait for him and pray for him; an odd appeal, but nothing surprised us anymore.


With our full bellies, we quickly fell asleep. Hey, we’re only human! He came back and asked if we couldn’t stay awake with him for just an hour. It seemed like much of the night had passed.


Judas came walking through the trees. I hadn’t noticed when he’d disappeared from the Upper Room. He must have slipped out quietly. He came up to Jesus and kissed his cheek. Suddenly soldiers appeared from the trees and quickly apprehended Jesus! Swords were drawn! Mark started to run and when a soldier grabbed him, he left his clothes behind in the soldier’s hands, running naked down the street. Others began running too. Peter grabbed a sword and attacked a soldier, but Jesus stopped him.


I didn’t see what happened next. I don’t even remember creeping slowly and quietly back into the trees. Shhh! Slowly and quietly I backed away, nameless and faceless, just the way I wanted it. I hid in the bushes for hours, my legs cramping and the heavy night dew making me shiver.


I felt so much GUILT, but the truth be told I also felt RELIEF. I was finally free from it all. He was never getting out of prison and the other disciples had fled in all directions.


It was over. I could go home to my wife and kids and forget any of this had happened.


I found myself thinking about Judas, the dirty traitor! It was obvious he had betrayed us all, especially the Lord. What on earth had gotten into him?


I heard there was a trial. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod who sent him back to Pilate. Pilate gave him 39 lashes. Dear God in heaven, few survived it. Jesus did.


I crept quietly into the crowd the day he carried his crossbeam to Golgotha—that horrible hill of death nicknamed Skull Hill. People were spitting on him and screaming CRUCIFY HIM!


You know what was crazy? I recognized the same people who were yelling, “HOSANNA” less than a week ago. How had the tide turned so quickly?


He looked horrible. If I hadn’t known him for 3 years I would never have recognized him; bloody and beaten, a crown of thorns shoved into his head, open wounds on his back from the cat of nine tails lashing. He could barely walk with that beam on his shoulders, digging into his wounds.


I looked away. I just couldn’t take it.


Just then the crowd gasped and I looked back, involuntarily, to see him drop to his knees in weakness. The crowd behind me had pushed forward, pushing me forward with them. Oh, this was too close! I didn’t want to be so close!


As a soldier grabbed the man next to me, and ordered him to carry Jesus’ cross, I saw his head raise, and for just a moment, he looked straight into my eyes. For that moment I remained nameless and faceless to him; another face in the crowd he couldn’t really focus on in his weakened state. And then as Simon of Cyrene took up the cross for him, he looked at me a second time. This time his eyes revealed recognition.


Would he call to me? Would he OUT ME as a follower of his? Would my life be in grave danger yet again? I tried to take a step back, but the crowds continued to push me forward.


Struggling, he got to his feet and without a word looked straight ahead and took the next step toward Golgotha.


Not a word to incriminate me. He protected me with his silence.


Interesting, because I sold him out with mine. Really, when you think about it, was my decision to remain nameless and faceless and silent any worse than Peter denying him, Judas betraying him, or Thomas doubting him?


Truly these are the things that wake me in the middle of the night, with night terrors and heavy sweating and cries of anguish calling out from the depths of my being, where my wife gently says, “Oh my dear husband, I so wish you could talk about it.”



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