Miriam gazed at the flickering shadow in the room of the one oil lamp sitting on the wooden table. She could barely recall the story of Judah Maccabee and the desecration of the Temple a hundred years earlier that had been told to her by her grandparents and parents. This year, like the many years that had passed since she was a young girl, her heart recalled a personal miracle.
She had just readied herself for the night, and shivering from the winter’s chill slid between coverings on her bed. In the darkness of the room as she began to warm, she could feel herself slipping into a peaceful sleep. She thought she was dreaming when a great light suddenly illuminated her room. She tried to open her eyes, but the light was so bright that she had to squint until the light enveloped her. A heavenly being stood before her. She could still hear his words as if that moment had just happened, “Shalom favored woman! Elohim is with you!”
She had been deeply confused by his words and wondered why she was being greeted by an angel. She got out of bed and knelt before him with her head bowed. “Don’t be afraid Miriam for you have found favor with God. You will be come pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You are to name him, Yeshua. He will be great, he will be called the son of the Ehyeh Asher Ehye, the Most High God. Elohim will give him the throne of his father David and he will rule the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his kingdom.”
Astonished with his words, she understood that she had become highly favored. She was receiving the message of hope that all young women for generations desired –– to become the vessel for the coming Messiah. She responded with the only words that came to her heart, “I am the servant of the Most High Elohim. May it happen to me as you have said.”
Immediately she felt the Spirit of the Living God come upon her. It sweetly and gently touched her womb. She knew that within her body a baby had been conceived.
Gentle chills passed through her body as she remembered the breath of Elohim consuming her womb filling it with a holy life. She shivered again in the coldness of the winter evening. It felt like it would snow, but that rarely happened in the Galilee, only on Mt. Hermon. Her heart warmed with the memory of Yosef’s enduring devotion in the midst of the local scandal. Being pregnant and only betrothed made her appear to be a fornicator, a common whore. Yosef, who knew the truth and loved her deeply, remained faithful to her and believed her because he, too, had had a visit from an angel.
She reached for a jar of oil sitting on the shelf above where the shadow continued to flicker. The oil of gladness. The oil of anointing. The oil that miraculously lasted eight days at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Tonight her son was in Jerusalem walking in the Temple among the Jewish leaders. She could almost hear him speaking as she took another lamp, filled it with oil and placed it on the table. “You have seen me do many miracles –– good deeds that reflect the Father’s power.”
Yes, she had witnessed his first miracle when he changed water into the most delicious wine she had ever tasted at Solomon and Rachel’s wedding. The whole village of Kana couldn’t stop talking about the quality of that wine, even today Chava told Miriam she wished she had some of that delicious wine for the upcoming Shabbat. After he raised Lazarus from the dead, all of Isra’el seemed to be talking about her son. Some murmured about him while others wondered at his authority and followed him. For those in her own village of Nazareth, he was unable to do any miracles because of their unbelief. They had thrown him out of the synagogue and tried to push him off Mount Kedumim.
She went around her simple home collecting several more lamps and filled them with oil. From the lamp on the table, she lit four lamps and they began burning brightly. The flames of two lamps lit her path as she walked toward the window holding one in each hand. As she placed them on the sill, she looked out over the countryside. The clear sky allowed the waning moon to shadow the hillsides in the Galilee all the way to the Temple so far away.
She remembered the first time she went to the Temple with her husband and son. She had just completed her days of purification. She and Yosef offered two turtle doves for redeeming their firstborn according to the commandment. Moments after, as they walked through the Temple courts, an old prophet named Shimon stopped to look at her baby. His words filled her mind and she again contemplated the prophecy over her son. “Now, Elohim, according to Your word, your servant is at peace as you let him go; for I have seen with my own eyes your yeshua, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples –– a light that will bring revelation to the nations and glory to your people Isra’el.”
As she turned from the window to retrieve the other two lamps from the table where their flames still burned brightly, a familiar voice echoed off the walls in the quiet room; the voice of her son teaching his younger brothers and sisters who always looked at him with wide eyes, open ears, and tender hearts. “My sheep listen to my voice. I recognize them, they follow me and I give them eternal life.” A smile crossed Miriam’s face as she could still see young Yakov’s upturned face reflecting the radiance of his older and wiser brother.
The second time she and Yosef visited the Temple they thought they had lost their son in the crowds at Pesach, but they found him teaching in the Temple. To Yosef’s amazement, he had been instructing the rabbis with the same compassion and authority as he did his own siblings. She took two more burning lamps to the window sill. She still had two more to go. Tonight was the sixth night of the Feast of Dedication.
She lit two more lamps from near her bedside and the room began to glow. In the midst of the flickering light, she remembered the other prophecy given to her and Yosef at the time of their son’s redemption. A beautiful old woman with a radiant countenance named Anna came to them and touched the cheeks of their baby. She smiled at Yosef and then spoke to Miriam, “This child will cause many in Isra’el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against; moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too. All this will happen in order to reveal many people’s inmost thoughts.”
Miriam spoke out loud breaking the quietness of the room, “My son and His Father are one.” Perhaps tonight would be the night he would tell our people who he is. Perhaps he will finally reveal his identity to Isra’el. Suddenly, her thoughts frightened her. She wondered what would become of her son as he walked in Solomon’s Colonnade. Though he always imparted wisdom from his Father, the leaders were always anxious to rid themselves of him. She had heard rumors they wanted him dead, but could find no reason to pursue it. Would they find a reason tonight? Would they stone him as a blasphemer or follow him as the shepherd of the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el?
Many Jews in Israel died by the sword in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. Could it happen again? Now? Tonight? She shuddered as she carried the final two oil lamps to the window. She noticed that many of the village homes had oil lamps burning in their windows. It seemed as though they lit up the world with the reminder that Isra’el would always be victorious over their enemies.
After she watched the flames of the village burn for several minutes, she walked across the room toward her rocking chair. It was made of twisted olive wood and was uniquely fashioned by the hands of her beloved Yosef. He had been such an honorable husband and a good father. She missed his tender heart and strong hands. She sat down and began to rock in the glow of the oil lamps. She could almost feel their warmth as her face reflected the presence of El Shaddai in her home.
Shalom came to her heart with the warm luminescence of the flames and replaced the unwelcome fear with a song, “My soul magnifies Adonai Elohim and my spirit rejoices in God, my yeshua. Once again, He takes notice of his servant woman in her humble position.” Comforted by the Spirit of Elohim, she knew nothing could take her from His hands.
As she continued to rock, she gazed around the room where her children used to play with the wooden tops their father whittled for them when they were each old enough to spin one. Nes gadol haya peh –– nun, gimel, hey, peh –– a great miracle happened here. Everyone in Isra’el remembered the miraculous days of the Maccabees, but for Miriam the letters on the tops reminded her of her own personal miracle. She paused in her thoughts. For a long time she could only treasure in her heart the gift she had been given, the gift to birth the light of the world.
Immediately after the angel’s visit, Miriam had gone to visit her cousin. The angel had told her that Elisheva, who was past childbearing years, was also expecting a baby. Their children would also be cousins! When she arrived in the Judean hill country where Elisheva and Zechariah lived, she knocked on the door never expecting to see Elisheva’s expanding belly or hear the words that still penetrated Miriam’s soul, “How blessed are you among women! And how blessed is the child in your womb!” Elisheva knew. Elisheva understood. For the next six months, they worshiped and blessed the Most High and His miracles to them.
The oil lamp on the table flickered. Shadows from the flames in the window danced on the walls. Miriam hummed and then began singing, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, routed the secretly proud, brought down rulers from their thrones, raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, but sends the rich away empty.”
The lamps on the window sill burned for several hours until only one continued with its dwindling amount of oil. A miracle was happening now, in the present. Her son, no longer a child but the grown Son of the God, would fulfill Elohim’s promises to their forefather Abraham and his seed forever. Tonight in Jerusalem, her son walked in his Father’s house, the Temple. His ancestor, King David desired to build a house for Elohim, but was given the greater promise of an eternal kingdom. Her son was that promised seed, the evidence that the Kingdom had arrived.
As the last lamp flickered out, Miriam continued to rock and closed her eyes in the darkness. Yeshua carried his Father’s name, the ‘I Am.’ He was no ordinary son; she was favored to be his mother. He was the reason she dedicated her life and soul to embracing the words of the angel. They named him Yeshua, the name given to Yosef when the angel spoke with him. Her son is the Light of the world, the One who fills all lamps with oil. He is the Miracle who is bringing the eternal Kingdom into this world. Tonight, he would reveal his identity to Isra’el, and Miriam knew that someday in the future a sword would pierce her heart.
(Exodus 3, Matthew 1, 2, 25, Mark 6, Luke 1, 2, John 2, 10, John 1, 11)