Chapter 1 – Gold
“Get up Mary, we have to go.” Joseph calmly, but seriously, exclaimed as he started rolling up supplies in an old canvas cloth.
“What’s going on?” I said still half-asleep.
“I had another dream. We need to get out of here. Fast. Pack whatever you and Jesus need, but we need to travel light.” Joseph’s tone suddenly seemed a little more intense.
I’d seen Joseph act like this before. When he has one of his dreams or visions or whatever they should be called, Joseph’s whole demeanor changes. He’s suddenly a man with a mission. “Are the Magi still here? Are they the problem?”
“No. They left a few minutes ago. They had the same vision I had. They’re going back home. We’re going to Egypt.”
“Egypt?” I was confused. Why Egypt. We’re Jews. Egypt definitely doesn’t seem like a safe haven.
Joseph realized he’d been too abrupt with his answers. He got down on his knees and held my hands and softened his voice. “Listen. Something really bad is going to happen. We’re talking like Pharaoh killing all the Hebrew babies in Moses’ day kind of bad. God said to go to Egypt, so that’s where we’re going. I’m sorry I was short with you. I’m just a little… I’m just freaking out a little.”
I gave him a big hug and held on to him a little longer than normal. “God will take care of us. This is His child. He won’t let anything happen to him.” We looked down at Jesus. In the commotion he was awoken but was just looking around unconcerned of what was happening.
Joseph hesitated before he spoke. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s just,” he seemed to be fighting for the right words to say, “No, you’re right. But God said, ‘Go,’ so let’s go.” He forced a smile on his face.
We left Joseph’s family’s house. I can’t say I was sad to get out of there. Saying we were cramped would be an understatement.
It took us over a month to get to Egypt. I don’t know specifically. When you are just staring at sand, day in and day out, the time starts to run together. I don’t know how we would have afforded the journey without the gifts from the Magi. As each one started dropping gold at our feet, I remember thinking that this is more money than we could spend in 3 lifetimes. But by the time we even made it to Egypt, the satchel of gold was noticeably lighter.
Nothing can prepare you for Egypt itself. We had always been told that everything would be bigger than we could ever imagine. This is still an understatement. I don’t know how men built such things. But like all large cities it’s expensive to live there. It felt like we could either live in squalor or in a palace with nothing in-between. Joseph and I really prayed about what we should do.
Joseph was the first to say what we were both thinking. “I think God had those magicians bring us those gifts for a purpose.”
What could have been the most stressful time in our lives felt more like a vacation or an adventure. The gold didn’t end up lasting our whole lifetime. But there was enough. Just enough.
Chapter 2: Frankincense
10 years later…
“Simon! Give me a minute!” My nerves were shot. We were traveling with all 5 kids to Jerusalem for Passover this year. Six if I count Joseph, which I do. Simon wasn’t the baby any more but he was reverting ever since Jude was born. I was in the back of the caravan with the other mothers while Joseph, Jesus, James, and J.J. were at the front laughing and having a good ole’ time. I know I shouldn’t be complaining. Passover is a time of thankfulness. But I bet mom’s felt the same way caravanning across the Red Sea. “Simon, I’m sorry I yelled. What do you need buddy?”
“I don’t have juice, do you want water?”
“Here. Take this pouch. It’s water juice.” I said the latter part somewhat under my breath.
I feel like a terrible parent. Jesus was so easy. He was always so obedient. I’m not sure what I would have done if Jesus had ever said “no” though. How could I be sure I was right and He was wrong? It gives me a headache even thinking about it. But I think the real issue is the rest of my kids. Jesus hardly even cried and I feel like I’m too tough on my other kids because Jesus was just so, so… perfect. James talks back constantly and is so mean to his brothers. Joseph Jr. was lying to us just the other day. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with that kid. Simon just whines and whines. And if little Jude doesn’t start sleeping through the night, I think I’m going to go insane. He’s just been a sickly kid, and so I’ve been using some of the frankincense to hopefully help his breathing at night. Jesus asked if he could bring some of the frankincense with us on the trip this year. He grabbed almost all of it. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure He has His reasons. He can act so mysteriously some times.
Joseph finally shows his face for the first time in hours, “Can I help you with anything hun?”
“Yep. I’m taking a walk. Here’s Judas. Simon is going to need to pee in a few minutes. I’ll be back shortly.” I can’t help but enjoy the panic-stricken look that came across Joseph’s eyes. I need a break, and all the Passover preparation that still needs to happen isn’t going to leave much room for any.
Passover was wonderful as usual. Crazy. But wonderful. “Joseph?! Do you know where the frankincense is? Jude’s been coughing all night.”
“Haven’t seen it,” Joseph says, popping his head around the corner.
“Can you help me look? We need to leave in just a minute, everyone’s loading up.”
“In a second. I’m packing up the boys things.”
“Jesus?! Do you know where the frankincense is?” “Jesus?!” “Jesus, where are you?”
Joseph responding instead, “He’s probably helping some widow pack her donkey.”
“That’s not funny, Joseph.” He always made little comments like that.
“It’s a little funny.” He had that smirk on his face that I can’t help but laugh at.
“Well, I’m sure it’s already packed, let’s get going so we don’t get too far behind. Make sure you have eyes on Jesus.”
“We got to get going. We all good?”
Joseph exclaimed his readiness the way he always did, “We’re as ready as a farmer at harvest time. Load ‘em up kids.”
I laid down the law right off the bat, “Once we get on the road I’m taking a little nap, is that okay Joseph?”
“Of course. I got this,” he said with way too much confidence.
You never think you can fall asleep on one of those Roman roads, but when you are as exhausted as I am, anything is possible. “Joseph, how’s everybody doing?”
“Can you bring me Jude, I’m sure he’s getting hungry.”
“He’s a chunky boy.” Joseph swoops Jude towards me like an eagle about to snatch a fish. “I’m going to go chat with Zack at the front of the caravan and see the plan for when we are going to set camp tonight.”
As I settled Jude to get ready to nurse, “Hey, can you have Jesus come help me with something. I really want to find that frankincense.“
Joseph was walking away as he said, “Sure, when I see Him I’ll send him your way.”
“Wait. ‘When you see Him?’ You don’t know where He is?”
“No, I figured He was just helping someone like He always is.”
I know I might be a little overly protective of Jesus but Joseph can always tell how I’m feeling, and looking at the shade of red I’m sure my face was, I think Joseph got the picture, “I asked if you had eyes on Jesus, and you said we were all good.”
Joseph indignantly responded, “I said I’d keep my eyes out for Him. I’m sure he’s here somewhere.”
Joseph started quickly walking ahead asking if anyone had seen Jesus. Everyone in the caravan lived in Nazareth and everyone knew Jesus, but none of them had seen him that morning. Even Joseph looked a little panicked and he’s almost always so even keel.
“Ok Mary, I’m going to head back. You stay here, I’ll catch up with you by tomorrow at the latest.”
“If you think for one instance that I’m staying here. We’re not arguing about this, let’s go.” So we turned our donkeys around and started heading back to Jerusalem. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t panicking. God entrusted us with Jesus. Jerusalem is a madhouse right now. Every thief and swindler in Israel is in the city. I don’t even know where to start looking. We searched everywhere for 3 days. We went back to the house we were staying in, went to the market place, checked the East Gate where all the kids would hang out, we went down to the Pool at Siloam, the City of David, just everywhere we could think a twelve year old might go. Finally on the 3rd day we found him in the temple courts. We saw a crowd of Pharisees, Scribes and Priests sitting in a huge circle, and Jesus was sitting right in the middle of them. I parted that crowd like Moses before the Red Sea. I know my tone was way off, but I couldn’t help but just yell, “Jesus!!! Where have you been!” He said something but I was just too hot to hear anything. Jesus got up, passed around the last of the frankincense to the Priests surrounding Him and followed me as I stormed off. But I’ll never forget as I looked back at the crowd. All those men of renown just staring at Jesus as we walked away. Every one of them just intently looking at Him like they’d seen a ghost. I know the Father has plans for His Son. I’m just not ready for Him to not be my little boy any more. I’m just not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready.
Chapter 3: Myrrh
20 years later…
The jar of myrrh that the Magi gave my beloved husband and I all those years ago has just been sitting on our shelf collecting dust all these years. I don’t remember even thinking about it. But when my husband died a few years back, I realized what that myrrh was for. Joseph’s family wrapped his body, placed it in a tomb and covered the wrappings with myrrh. Why would someone bring a baby a perfume used at burial? Dozens of the Magi brought gold, another few brought frankincense, but only one brought myrrh. Those Babylonian and Persian mystics always claim to see the future and predict prophecies. But even if they saw this, why would you give a gift like this to a little boy, my little boy. That jar of myrrh just taunted me now. It mocked me. I could have filled that jar with my own tears 3 times over.
I haven’t slept more than twenty minutes at a time since Wednesday night. I can’t sleep. I just don’t understand how this is happening, why this is happening. How could Jesus be dead? He’s supposed to save the world. I didn’t think He even could die. Isn’t He God? Did I misunderstand something?
I wasn’t even allowed to prepare His body on Friday, I barely had time to hold him. It’s almost light out. Joanna, Salome, the Mary’s, and I going to head out in a few minutes to prepare His body properly, at least. These ladies are the best people I could ever ask to have in my life. They have been so great. All Jesus’ disciples are in hiding at Mark’s mother’s house. They think their lives are in danger too. They forbid me from leaving my house, but Salome looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re the O.G. Mary. You get to do whatever you want, and all us ladies are going with you.” I don’t know what I’d do without them.
As I lift the jar of myrrh off the top shelf in the inn, tears start rushing down my face. I’ve been trying to be so strong, but I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t see a thing but all six of us held hands as we walked toward the tomb in the garden. Joanna and Mary Mags were having a discussion on who we could get to remove the stone from the tomb. We weren’t sure if the Roman guards would still be there or not, and even if they would help us. I just couldn’t think clearly. I kept just saying something like ‘we’ll figure it out when we get there.’ As we approached the garden I clutched the jar of myrrh tight in my hands. I gripped it so hard I worried it would smash between my fingers.
To our surprise, when we got to the tomb of the Pharisee from Arimathea the stone was rolled away and there were no guards in sight. At first I was excited, but I could see on my ladies’ faces the concern I soon felt. Did someone take Jesus? What would they want with Him? What would they do to Him? We ran into the tomb as fast as we could. I heard one of the Mary’s scream. There was someone in the tomb. There were two of them actually – Angels. It wasn’t Gabriel. These were different Angels. We just stood staring at them. Finally one spoke.
“Who are you looking for? Because if you are looking for Jesus? He’s not here. For He has risen, just as He said.”
I don’t remember letting go of the jar but I must have. I felt it slip through my fingers and brush the front of my cloak. The jar of myrrh smashed on the ground splashing all over our feet. It snapped us out of the stare that seemed an eternity long. We walked out of the tomb. The Sun seemed to be shining brighter than ever before. The world seemed to slowdown, like I could count the flaps of the wings of a butterfly floating by. Mary Magdalene and Mary #3 (that’s just the nickname we gave Clopas’ wife) began to run back the way we came. The older ladies and I started walking back slowly. I know they didn’t know what to think, but I knew. I knew what had happened. Jesus was alive. I didn’t even need to see Him to know it was true. Jesus died like all of us, so that we could rise like Him. The smell of myrrh was so strong. It has a smell like spices mixed with vinegar. It stings the nostrils if you breathe it in too deep, but you want to because it seems so pleasant at first. Myrrh was the one gift the magi were wrong about. The one gift I didn’t need.