Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

God, Is There an Easier Way? (Thoughts from a Journey to Bethlehem)

Hi Friends,

I wanted to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS season! On the right is our tree this year. We love decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, wrapping gifts for each other, playing Christmas songs in the background as we work.

But sometimes it strikes me that my Christmas is very different from Mary's, Jesus' mother. For her, what a journey! Difficulty after difficulty, hardship after hardship. There was no easy way.

Then I pause. Maybe our Christmases aren't so different from Mary's after all. Trees and cookies and music and gifts are all great, but they aren't the heart of this season. Some of us may have all those things, and yet our hearts hurt. We may be missing a loved one, suffering from a broken relationship, hurting from harsh disappointments, or dealing with the shards of dashed dreams and fragmented hopes. We may be, like Mary, traveling a difficult path. We be traveling the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

For Mary, I imagine it might have happened something like this:

MARY TELLS HER STORY (Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder)
            They say he’s the son of god. They say it of Caesar Augustus, adopted son of Julius who they say is a god. Augustus. The Romans used to only use that name for their gods. But it’s the emperor’s name now. So they call him son of god, born in a palace in Rome, born to a king’s brother, born of royalty, wearing a crown.
            But my son, this one I carry in a womb now round and full, he is the true Son of God. He is the true Emperor, the true King.
            And yet, it is Caesar Augustus who reaches his will from Rome and sets me on a path I never wished for. A journey to Bethlehem. It is a long journey, taking us nearly a week. We travel south. I walk, well, waddle really. And I ride like a sack of squash on the back of Joseph’s old donkey. Months ago, I practically ran to Elizabeth’s. But now I go slowly. Oh, so slowly, with my belly swaying before me, my feet fat and painful, and my back aching with every step.
            Because Caesar Augustus has issued a decree and the whole Roman world must be counted.
            The Roman world.
            Don’t they know it won’t be Rome’s anymore? It will belong to my God, to my Son.
            And yet, I waddle, I ride, I bump and bumble along, and wonder ... why now? Of all the times for Caesar to call for a census, why must it be when I am so pregnant that I can’t even see my toes?
            The baby kicks. His tiny foot smashes into my ribs, and I gasp. He’s a strong one, this boy. He turns and flips and rumbles, until my belly wobbles like a cup of wine in an old man’s hand.
            I glance at Joseph. He smiles at me, a sad but comforting tipping of his lips. He has done all he could to make this journey bearable. He is good man. A righteous man. He would have divorced me quietly, but God sent him an angel in a dream. The angel said not to be afraid. So he wasn’t.
            I am trying not to be.
            But I’m tired. My feet hurt. The journey is long. And now here we are, traveling this strange road to the City of David.
            Why, Lord? Why now? Why couldn’t I have stayed home where my mother could help me deliver my child? Where the midwife I’ve known all my life would have come to my side? Where everything is familiar, normal, easy? Why must I travel on this meaningless road, take this pointless journey, to a place I do not know and have never been?
            Dust billows up before me, sticks in my eyelashes, wiggles down my throat. I want to go home.
            But Joseph leads us on. Toward Jerusalem, and beyond it. Toward people I’ve never met, a place I’ve only heard about in stories. He leads me toward the unknown, and I stumble along, wishing, wondering, and hoping that my God will still be there when I get to the end of the journey. When I get to Bethlehem.
            The baby thrashes, and I press my hand against my belly. I suppose it is fitting that the Messiah will be born in David’s town. The Messiah in Bethlehem. There is perhaps a prophecy … But oh, the journey is long. It’s hard.

            Lord, couldn’t there have been an easier way?