My niece Julia was four when she decided she wanted to be Mary. I’m not exactly sure where her infatuation started, but somewhere between hearing the Christmas story in Sunday school and playtime with Grandma, it was settled. She was Mary.
And being Mary meant that she had to dress the part. There was a robe and baby doll cradled not-so-gently in her arms. There was a long trip from one side of the house to the other. The trek was so long and so realistic, I’m almost surprised Julia didn’t ask for a donkey. (If she had, I’m pretty sure her doting grandparents would have given in in a heartbeat.)
And then there was Joseph—also known as my mother. Poor Grandma got roped into playing Joseph, and no one else would do. Even if Grandpa or Julia’s dad was around, Grandma was the prime choice to play Mary’s husband, Jesus’s earthly father.
They enacted the story nearly every day for the two weeks that I visited. Sometimes I was invited to participate. (They might have needed a camel, after all.) Sometimes I was told to watch. And I did so studiously.
During one of those many viewings, I sat on the couch and watched as Julia arrived in Bethlehem and sent Joseph to knock on the inn door. There was no room. Only a stable. So she went there to have her baby.
I was more than familiar with the tale. My family had been reading the story from Luke 2 every Christmas morning for as long as I could remember. I’d seen it presented countless times in church programs and films, a hundred different actors playing the parts.
But Julia only ever played one part. She didn’t want to be the innkeeper or the angel or even a shepherd.
Watching my niece, I realized something about the Christmas story. Each of us chooses which of the roles we’ll live every day. Will we be Mary, faithfully saying, “I am the Lord’s servant”? Will we be Joseph, listening to God’s direction and accepting the difficult task of leading his family through turbulent times? Will we be shepherds falling to our knees in praise? Or magi traveling a great distance to follow God’s prompting? Will we be the innkeeper too busy to take note of the still, small voice of God? Or the king afraid of losing his kingdom?
It’s easy to forget in the midst of the hectic Christmas season that we have a choice in how we respond to the unexpected. Before the angel appeared to them, Mary and Joseph didn’t know what was to come. But they chose obedience instead of fear.
Julia chose to be Mary. I want to make the same choice.
Liz Johnson is the bestselling author of eleven books and a handful of short stories. When she’s not writing, she’s the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona, where she loves to dote on her nieces and nephews. She shares about her adventures in writing at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com.
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