Luke 1:56 states it simply, “Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.” We are left to our imaginations to get an idea of what might have been running through Mary’s mind on the long trip home.
She was likely traveling with strangers or people she didn’t know well – whoever might be traveling to Nazareth at the time. She had been staying with her elderly pregnant cousin for three months, sheltered from prying eyes, from people who knew she was engaged but not married. As a young teenager, her pregnancy was probably becoming obvious. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to be aware of the kinds of questions people might ask her simply making polite conversation on the way to Nazareth. When is your baby due? Who is your husband? Did she answer that she wasn’t married yet?
Even if no one pressed her with questions, she had plenty to think about on the long journey home. What would Joseph say when he saw her and realized she was pregnant? What would all her friends and relatives say and think? Would they believe her if she said she was carrying God’s baby? What would she tell them?
When she finally arrived in Nazareth she had to face the people she knew, and she surely felt their stares and whispers. Joseph was not pleased. We can read what Joseph wanted to do in Matthew 1:18-19. At least he wasn’t planning to have her stoned, though he could have done that. Joseph decided to divorce her quietly.
Divorce sounds odd to us because Joseph and Mary weren’t yet married. But in the Jewish culture of that time, the legal commitment had already been made and a divorce would be needed to break it.
We have to admire Mary’s courage. Mary had to cling ever so tightly to the words the angel Gabriel had said to her: “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” Luke 1:30 (NLT)
For younger children The First Christmas, by Janice D. Green, illustrated by Violet Vandor.