Written and Imagined by:
Sharon Shalawylo and Jesie Browning
Can you remember what having your first born was like? Remember the thrill of it? The fear of it? Mary had just given birth to our savior. The messiah, that was prophesied hundreds of years ago. She must have heard these prophecies thousands of times growing up. The bible tells us in Luke that after the shepherds were visited by the angels they rushed to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph…
(2:16-20) And there was a baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherd’s story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.
In that moment, Jesus was her son. NOT Jesus her savior, though He was in fact both.
If she had written, those treasured thoughts in letters to her cousin Elizabeth, we wonder if they would have gone something like this..
One month after Jesus was born…
Everything that the Lord said would happen has come to pass. Jesus, our precious son was born one month ago and he is perfect. His skin is as smooth as the finest silk, his fingers are so tiny and I cannot stop kissing his sweet little baby feet. My blessings are overflowing. I know you must have felt this same way when John was born. I think he even smiles at us. Joseph is sure of it. We circumcised him just as Jewish custom requires and he cried so loud I could literally feel my own heart hurt. Every time he nurses upon my breast my heart is filled with a grateful unbelief that the Lord has blessed me with such a beautiful boy and with a loving husband. He has provided for me more than I could have ever imagined. We will go to the temple in a few weeks to present him as our first born and officially give him his rightful name. I am looking forward to that. Though my heart is full of joy, it also feels heavy, Elizabeth. Not everyone believes that I am a virgin. I see women glare at me when I go to market. If only they knew! If only I knew, exactly what all of this meant? Joseph has been so patient with me. I long to be close to him but I am also nervous as well. I have given birth but never known a man. Will I be all he has desired? Please pray for us. I always keep you and little John in my prayers. Give him a hug from me and his little cousin. Give Zachariah our blessings. All Glory be to God. Praise Him in the highest.
Your beloved cousin in the Lord,
Two months after Jesus was born…
It was wonderful to see you and little John in Jerusalem for Jesus’ purification offering. I wish we were able to visit longer. Your presence there was a comfort to my soul. The weeks leading up to Jesus’ purification were very difficult. Joseph wanted so badly to earn two turtle doves to honor our son the best he could but he could not find enough work. It was difficult to watch him struggle with his doubts. Just when he had given up hope to earn even enough for the young pigeons required our oldest neighbor knocked on our door to ask for Joseph’s help with his flock. His payment was the exact amount we needed. The Lord is truly with us. The journey there felt long with Jesus in tow. I believe it is a tooth that has been giving him pain, just like you said. Oh Elizabeth, it is difficult being so far from you and my family. Glady though, Joseph and I grow closer and closer as each day passes. He makes me laugh. He reads the scriptures to Jesus already as if he can understand what he’s hearing. It is my greatest joy to watch him love our son. I think of how he could have treated Jesus and me but instead he loves us completely. What a man he is to trust in the Lord the way he does.
Cousin, I am hoping you can share your wisdom with me about something that happened after you and Zachariah left for home that day. When Joseph and I left the temple the prophet named Simeon saw Jesus and became overtaken with joy. He took him out of my very hands and said the Holy Spirit had led him to the temple that morning and he now knew why. He began to praise the Lord saying, ” Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel !” Joseph and I were amazed by all he said about Jesus. Then my heart became concerned because he also said, Jesus “will be rejected by many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce my very soul.” A sword will pierce my very soul? What could that mean, Elizabeth? The angel that came to me did not speak anything like that to me. Would you ask Zachariah what he believes the prophet meant? Joseph tells me not to worry. He says the Lord will go before us in all things. I know that this is true but my heart still feels uncertain.
There was another prophet that testified about Jesus while we were there. The woman Anna, that we see every time we go to the temple. She saw Jesus and began to tell everyone there that the Lord had sent him. Her spirit was soft and gentle. I have always admired how she loves the Lord and I found great peace in knowing that she too believes that Jesus is the son of God. I can’t believe I look into the very eyes of God every single day. Our boys, Elizabeth. They are truly a gift from God.
Many blessings to you my beloved cousin,
Three months after Jesus was born…
Oh how I miss you. I hope you are well. How is little John? I have been thinking of him and how much he must be growing. Jesus seems to be sprouting up just as the fruit and flowers of the earth. He is now sleeping peacefully in the night after that tooth broke through. He gazes in my eyes and makes the sweetest of noises. His head and legs are getting stronger everyday. This season we are in is full of sunlight and hope. Just as the psalms remind me of God’s goodness, so do all the blessings of my life. I don’t believe I have a worry in the world. I know a husband who treasures me and our child. I have a home that is full of the glory of the Lord and not a day goes by that we have not been given everything we need.
My prayer is that you too, are full of hope. I know you are getting on in years and that worries you. Take heart, cousin. The Lord is your youth and your strength. Find comfort in a psalm of David, The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. The Lord is close to you.
Forgive such a short letter. I do often feel rushed in keeping our home in order these days. I will write soon. I love you dearly.
Four months after Jesus was born..
Greetings Cousin. You have been on my mind often. I wish I could see your face. I miss the way we laughed together while I visited before John was born. I treasure those days. How is John? Jesus is growing like a wild flower. Everyday he amazes me. I know it is the same with John. How is Zachariah? I wish I could sit a spell with you two and hear all that the Lord revealed to him during his time without words. The Lord has been faithful to us. Everyday our needs are met. Joseph is often building and keeps our land well tended to. I found this new herb while taking Jesus walking near our home. I have placed one of its leaves in the envelope. I had never seen it before. A wise woman in the village called it Rosemary. She says she has never seen it grow so close to our village before. It’s fragrance fills the air of my home with such sweetness. I hope that its fragrance keeps through the journey of this letter to you. Have you heard of this herb? It makes me think of how it must smell in the royal chambers where they burn frankincense. Can you imagine having such luxury as the access to frankincense? It is entertaining to imagine. I am fully satisfied with this new found gift of Rosemary from the Lord though. May it’s fragrance fill your home as well.
I have nothing else new to offer. I do hope you are feeling well. I got word that you had been ill. I was worried for your health. I know though that our worries are useless here in this world. May the Lord be near to you every moment of your life. I will continue to fervently pray for you and our boys and their future’s. I love you, cousin.
Peace be with you,
Five months after Jesus was born…
My dearest Cousin Elizabeth,
I was so glad to hear that the Rosemary’s scent made the trip. I am so glad it was a gift to you. I do hope that you can grow some on your own as you said you’d like to. Please keep me informed on the progress. I am happy to pick and send more? I love hearing of John’s first steps. What a precious sight that must have been for you and Zachariah to see together. May John’s steps be blessed as it is written in David’s psalm, ” May He make John as surefooted as a deer, leading him safely along the mountain heights. May the Lord’s right had support him, may His gentleness make him great. May He make a wide path for his feet to keep them from slipping.”
Jesus has of course not come close to taking steps but he has taken a liking to all of my spoons and has by passed the beautiful wooden toy Joseph recently made him. He often pulls the necklace my mother gave me from my neck to chew on it. I must find other things to occupy him. We often take walks together and he is quite still when I read to him. In fact, that is the only time he is still, unless of course he is sleeping.
Sabbath is approaching and we are hosting. I am hoping everything I prepare will be pleasing to our family and neighbors. I will be praying for a blessed Sabbath for you as well. I miss you dearly.
Glory to God, always.