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Mary in Transit

By Donald A. Bemis


What was Mary really like?
Ask Rivka the gossip. She’ll happily tell you, even if she doesn’t know.

Poor Zechariah! Fifty years old, his wife is expecting, and a pregnant teenager has moved in. How does he get a word in edgewise? He doesn’t. That’s what you get for arguing with an angel.

What would a childless old priest do if an angel promised him a baby? How would a girl react to a humiliating role in history’s greatest miracle? What was the world really like then? How could such a story possibly be true?

All we know about Jesus’ birth and childhood is in four chapters of the Bible—chapters containing such unusual events and characters that they read like a fairy tale. But perhaps the truth may become easier to believe by seeing how these events could actually fit together with recorded history.

So take Sari, the feisty donkey, who has no problem dispatching troublemakers with a swift kick. Toss in some real tyrants and invented thieves. Let uninvited angels stir it up, and get ready for excitement!

Book Takeaway:

The Nativity story is not just a nice legend, but a historical reality. Real people gave birth to real babies, in fulfillment of real promises by the real God. Recorded history supports rather than refutes the account, but it often is not recognized as such. Miracles often do not seem miraculous at the time.

Why the author wrote this book:

"Mary in Transit" began as a Christmas message I wrote for church. Entitled "An Ordinary Christmas," it discussed how "normal" the circumstances would have appeared at the time. A virgin conceived, but "virgins" often conceive. A baby was born in a stable, but nowadays babies are born in elevators, airplanes, and so on. Shepherds were visited by angels, but who other than shepherds, sheep, and angels witnessed that event? It is only by gift of hindsight that we appreciate how extraordinary it all was.

The Biblical account is divided between two books that for the most part don't repeat each other's events. There was not much to work with for fitting it together. I eventually settled on historical fiction, but with a bit of unease. Fiction by its nature is fake, but I am convinced that the Biblical account is real. The tale would have to be structured in a way that could have happened without insisting that it did happen in that manner.

There also is extrabiblical information. The Jewish Encyclopedia was a lot of help. The Internet is an excellent resource as long as we recognize its veracity is largely uncontrolled. My geography degree finally got some use, too. Having grown up in the New Mexico desert at roughly the same latitude as this story, I could appreciate long, dusty walks up and down hills while keeping an eye out for snakes and flash floods. Finally, people's behavior hasn't changed much over history. I could draw upon contemporary behavior to fill in the gaps way back when.


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