Tidings of Great Joy
By Brooke Keith
- As a child, I remember sitting for hours amongst the winter’s chill, beneath the starry skies. Like every year before, there I sat, adorned in a long blue sheet, held up by an old rope belt, reciting lines as Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The hills of our church didn’t stretch too far, so, while we children sat in the tiny manger, three men also hung on a cross directly in front of our eyes. As I held the tiny baby, I felt so sad. In fact, every year I dreaded the moment I would become Mary just a little - not because I had stage fright or because I had a crush on Joseph - but, because being on that outdoor stage broke my heart.
You see, from the very week I was born, my mother took me to church every time the doors were open. I came to know the Lord at such an early age, and I accepted Him as my Savior as just a wee little tot. Although, I can still remember the day just like it was yesterday ... when I asked the Lord to forgive me - I hadn’t much yet to be forgiven, except maybe the occasional slipping of my Brussels sprouts to our puppy bandit. Perhaps, more than beginning forgiven, at only five, being saved meant being Christ's best friend.
Holding that tiny baby, I watched as Jesus was lashed. I watched as they placed the thorny crown upon His head. I held the dolly tighter and tighter until I just thought my heart would burst into, aching over the life of my “friend." It was in this moment, I dwelled upon the tiny angel’s words spoken just before to me. Every year, the same three-year-old little girl in a crooked halo said to me, “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.”
I knew joy ... and this didn’t seem to be it. As Christ hung His head, I felt so guilty. I felt so sad. Here, I held this innocent dolly and moments later there, He hung. It was so much for me to take in. Somehow, the greatest story of all seemed like the saddest as well.
The older I got, the promises of my young salvation began to make more sense. As I journeyed out into the world of a young lady, there was so much temptation to behold, so many mistakes to be made. No doubt, every time I stumbled, I felt like a child again - watching Him upon that cross, yet, cradling Him in my arms at the same time. It was as if every time I sinned, He was crucified once more all because of me. Year after year, I recalled the Passion, yet, the sadness had not lost it‘s sting.
A few years back, as my own children sat playing in the floor with Nana’s latest nativity set, she and I pulled out that old video of my days as Mary. As the film rolled, I couldn’t help but cry. I watched the tiny version of myself clinging to that old porcelain doll as He died upon that tree. A few moments later, after He was buried, Mary Magdalene begins crying, running after the man she believes is the gardener. The man turns and says gently, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Here, Mary realizes that this is not the gardener at all - it is Jesus and He is risen.
Later He appears to the disciples, and Thomas asks to see the lashes on His side and the nail scarred hands of His Lord in order to believe. Jesus opens His hands, as the clear ropes lift Him into the air.
He says, “I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also.”
It was here, that I saw something I had never noticed before in the wintry night . As my eyes, focused down upon that tiny dolly - Jesus (played by our youth minister) looked down at me - and smiled.
It was there in that moment, I pictured that tiny little angel with the crooked halo saying, “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy,” and I too smiled. I couldn’t believe it had taken me so many years to realize that while the Gospel had some melancholy moments - in the end, it turned out like every other great love story I had ever read ... happily ever after.
Someday, I too know that I will see the real Jesus. I will see the scars upon His hands and the lashes upon His sides. There in heaven, those sad memories will be joyous ones, as I remember how I too like Thomas had been given the chance to see and truly believe. I had been given the opportunity to see everything my Savior went through for me, out of purest love. And perhaps, the greatest part of the entire thing? That smile. That smile that said, “I didn’t do this because I had to. I did this because I love you.”
Today, at the tippy top of my tree, there is a little handmade angel - with a crooked halo atop her golden head. Every time I pass by her, I smile. I laugh as I remember the words of that little angel who taught me so much about the joy of Christmas when she told me, “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy” because you know what? She did.
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Brooke Keith is the author of many books for children and a long time writer for many well-loved ministries around the world. She is a wife of one very amazing man and a mom to their five equally amazing kids. But most of all, Brooke is a girl head over heels for her Savior and finds His love far too wonderful to keep to herself. When Brooke is not busy searching for her toddlers missing shoe you can find her on her blog.
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