Part 1

 

Meg lived in the Jewish town of Gloucester. Ever since she was born her parents had taken her to the synagogue each week, and she had always enjoyed it as a child. At an early age she began questioning the meaning of the various symbolic parts of the service, and the symbolic objects in the synagogue. The more she questioned, the more she learnt – and the more she learnt, the more her reverence and her love for God deepened. So as a teenager she continued attending the synagogue even though most of her friends had stopped going. She began helping out, too – teaching some of the children about the different symbols and actions and words in the service, and sometimes serving tea and coffee afterwards.

Meg began dating a guy she met in the synagogue too – James, who was a few years older, and whose compassion for the elderly members of the synagogue inspired her. She loved to watch him help clean the synagogue each week and to take care of the garden: he seemed to deeply care for both the place and the people, and served without asking for anything in return. On her seventeenth birthday James proposed – and Meg was delighted. He respected her parents and had asked their permission to marry their daughter, and Meg’s siblings were very happily in on the secret too.

Once they were engaged, an announcement was made in the synagogue, and the whole town rejoiced with them. Many of their friends set to work helping them prepare for the wedding and for married life. They attended a marriage preparation course, and both of their families spent endless hours helping them prepare for the wedding service and the reception party – it would be an occasion that all of Gloucester would remember forever. Meg and James had decided not to live together before getting married, and were quite open about this to their friends and families. Some of their friends ridiculed them about it, because many of them had made different choices – though some of their friends were quite supportive of their decision. Meg and James began looking for a house to move into after the honeymoon, and agreed to rent a lovely two-bedroom house in Barnwood.

Three months before the wedding, everyone was getting rather excited. The honeymoon was booked – a week in a beautiful holiday cottage in Scotland – and the contract had been signed for rental of the house. Meg and James had started looking into furniture and were thoroughly enjoying the process, with the loving support and encouragement of both their families. But then, things started to change. One evening as Meg was saying her prayers, as she did every night, she had a strange experience.

She had been sitting on her bed, praying with her eyes closed, and her room was dimly lit – only her bedside lamp was on. Suddenly she was aware that her room was filled with light, and wondered for a moment if one of her parents had come to speak with her and had turned her light on. She wearily opened her eyes and stood up, but what met her gaze surprised her so much that she immediately sat down again. Her light had not been turned on and her parents had not entered the room – instead, there was a tall man with dark hair, dark eyes and bright white clothes half standing, half sitting on her windowsill. He had a very friendly face, and smiled warmly at Meg. Light seemed to be coming from him somehow, and she wondered where he had come from and how he came to be in her bedroom, right there in her parents’ house. She knew that no brand of washing powder could make his white jeans and t-shirt shine the way his did, and something about him made her feel strangely comfortable – though she was still a little shocked at his sudden appearing.

Meg stammered, “wh-wh-who… Who are you?” She felt her hands and her knees trembling as she stared at the stranger, and curiosity burned within her. He told her not to be afraid, and although she found his voice comforting, it did not satisfy her curiosity but intensified it. “Why are you here?” Meg asked the stranger. He smiled, and told her that he had been sent from God to have a chat with her. His smile widened as he spoke of God’s excitement at her prayers, and the way He would bend over to listen every time she thought about Him, or spoke to Him, or mentioned Him to people – and how God would count down the minutes until her evening prayer times, in happy anticipation just like a small child waiting for the curtain to open in the theatre. Meg didn’t know how to respond. She knew that God heard her prayers – why would she keep on praying if she did not believe that she would be heard – but she had never imagined that God might actually look forward to hearing from her. This inspired her to try to remember to pray more throughout each day, and to make more of an effort to include God in her conversations and her activities – knowing now that He really liked it even though she rarely felt eloquent and couldn’t pray with long words like the leaders of the synagogues did.

But curiosity remained. “You came all this way just to tell me that God hears me?” The man walked over and sat at the foot of her bed. “Meg,” he began, “God has a unique task for you. He has tasked you in the past with standing up for what you believe in, and even sharing your faith with others – and you have done as He wanted.” Meg was puzzled, but listened eagerly as the man continued.”He did not even need to tell you to do it – somehow, you just knew to do what was right, and your love for Him led you. But now He is asking you to do something much more difficult. It will be very painful for you at times, and terrifying at times. Your friends will reject you. Your family will be put to shame. But ultimately, God will be honoured. Meg… Are you willing?”

She felt a little daunted by this huge question. Her mind was telling her to stay safe, to follow the plan, to honour her parents’ reputation. Her mind was urging her to ask the stranger to leave. She knew that she had the right to do so, and felt sure that he would respect her decision if this was what she chose – and that God would not resent her for it. She did not even know what it was that God was asking of her. But Meg knew in her heart that what she really wanted to do was honour God and do whatever He asked of her, no matter what the cost. She thought of her parents, and her friends, and with a tear and a silent prayer she surrendered them into the hands of God, and told the stranger that she would do whatever God wanted.

There was no need to ask Meg if she was sure. The look of determination was set on her face, while inside she felt that sense of peace and relief that she often felt after making decisions to prioritise God’s way over her own desires or temptations. She knew that she would never regret this decision, even though it may demand her very life. The stranger did not smile, but slowly said, “Meg, God is so very proud of you. He knew He could count on you. This very night you will become pregnant – God Himself is the father, and you will give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Your son will bring freedom from sin, healing for people and nations, and will show the world how to have relationship with God.”

Meg was baffled. Taken aback. Amazed. She had heard the ‘Messiah’ spoken of many times in the synagogue, and knew some people who were convinced that this Saviour would come soon. The Jews had been waiting a long time. But she also knew that the Messiah would have to suffer – words that had been read in the synagogue made this quite clear. Meg thought of her life, her dreams, her plans – and knew she would have to give it all up. She had hoped to have children one day, but not quite so soon! And she had hoped to be able to settle and enjoy a nice comfortable life with her husband-to-be first. As she considered this now, she felt some despair in the knowledge that James would undoubtedly leave her when he found out that she was pregnant. Holding all this in her mind she quietly surrendered her life, her hopes and dreams and her relationships to God. “I’ll do whatever God wants,” she told the stranger with a smile. He smiled back at her, touched her shoulder and was gone.

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