What would it be like if Jesus first incarnation was today instead of 2,000 years ago? I tried to imagine what it would be like interviewing Jesus’ mother.
The strange events of the last three years began with a woman named Mary Ellen Reese. It took me eighteen phone calls and twenty-three emails to get her to agree to an interview. She lives in the tiny town of Idaho, Pennsylvania.
ME: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you mind telling me the story of how the baby was born?
MARY ELLEN REESE: You know I don’t normally do interviews.
ME: Why not?
MER: Because usually the requests usually are from blood-sucking tabloid journalists trying to get the “real story”. They want to know who I really slept with, or whether I was raped. They don’t believe the story I’ve told. They think I’m keeping a secret.
ME: So why did you agree to let me interview you?
MER: Because you seem different. Like you’re after something different. Like maybe you actually want to hear the real story. Plus you wouldn’t leave me alone.
ME: I do want the real story. I’m after the truth, not some trashy tabloid cover.
MER: I believe you. But if I see my picture on the front of a magazine, I’m going to hunt you down.
ME: I understand.
MER: The story starts, let’s see, thirty-four years ago when I was eighteen years old. I’ll let you do the math and figure out how old I am. I was just out of high school and engaged to my sweetheart, Joe Adams. I was working as a receptionist at a law office. Joe had just finished up trade school and was working on a construction crew.
Now you’ve got to understand something about me and my Joey. We were good kids. We grew up going to church and knew that sleeping together before we got married was wrong. Call us old fashioned, but that’s what we believed. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t make out a few times, but we certainly didn’t sleep together.
It was six months before the wedding that all the craziness started. One night as I was sitting in my living room, watching one of those stupid reality television shows, I suddenly felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’m not one of those silly superstitious people who think that there are ghosts around every corner, but I swear, I felt my skin start to creep. There was something in the room with me, and I knew it.
I turned to my right and I saw it, just standing there, looking at me.
ME: What was it? What did you see?
MER: Well, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I saw an angel.
ME: What did he look like?
MER: Like a thousand fires blazing all at once. Like a bright hot firework that leaves spots in your eyes after it explodes. He shimmered and blazed and was slightly transparent all at once. I was absolutely terrified.
ME: What did you do?
MER: What would you do, get up and dance? I sat there, stock still, not moving a muscle. I tried not to look at it. I figured that if I sat still long enough he would go away.
ME: Did he?
MER: No. He spoke to me. I still get goosebumps all these years later as I think about it. His voice sounded warm and blazing hot all at the same time. Like a waterfall and jet engine and a lullaby. It’s hard to describe to someone who has never heard it.
ME: What did the angel say?
MER: I thought he was going to say something terrifying, but he didn’t. Instead, he smiled (actually smiled!) and said, “Hello, favored one.” When I heard that I was perplexed, and little bit disturbed. Favored one? What the heck was this angel talking about? I’m a simple girl from the tiny town of Idaho, Pennsylvania. I never was homecoming queen, never a sports star. What was all this “favored one” business?
Then the angel said, “Relax, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. God is pleased with you. You’re going to have a son. And you’re going to name him Joshua, and he will be incredibly great.” Now when the angel said that, I about had a heart attack. A son? Didn’t this angel understand basic human biology? I had never had sex with anyone. I hadn’t slept with Joseph yet, and wasn’t planning on sleeping with him until we got married. Well, now that I think about it, he was an angel, so maybe he didn’t learn biology in heaven, or wherever it was that he was from.
ME: So what did you say to the angel?
MER: I told him what I told you. That I was a virgin. That me and Joseph hadn’t been together yet. That I didn’t know how it was possible for me to have a baby apart from having sex with a man.
ME: What did the angel say to you?
MER: He said that the power of God would come over me, and that I would conceive a baby by the power of God.
ME: Wait, hold on a second. Are you saying that…well, this is a weird question, but that somehow you had…sex with God…or something like that?
MER: No, no, no. Nothing weird or crazy like that. One morning a couple of weeks after the angel incident, I woke up and I felt terrible. Like everything in my stomach was trying to get out all at once. I ran into the bathroom and puked my guts out. That’s when I knew that I was pregnant. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. The night before I wasn’t pregnant, the next day I was. I took one of those home pregnancy tests to make sure, but I already knew.
ME: What did you say to the angel when he told you that you were going to have a son?
MER: What could I say? I said that I would do whatever God wanted. I said that if God wanted me to have a son, that I would have a son.
ME: And you never had sex with anyone?
MER: No. Never. I swear. I wasn’t raped, I wasn’t sleeping with somebody else in secret. I was a true virgin.
ME: When did you tell Joe?
MER: I told him three days after I found out that I was pregnant. I was so nervous. My hands were shaking as I told him, and I felt like I was going to throw up all over his linoleum kitchen floor.
I could tell as soon as I told him that he didn’t believe my story. He had a nice smile spread across face, but I could tell that he was torn up on the inside. And I don’t blame him. If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But it did happen to me, and I couldn’t change that fact.
ME: What did Joe do?
MER: In the kindest, sweetest voice, he told me that we should probably call the engagement off. Then he asked me who I had slept with. I tried to convince him that I hadn’t slept with anybody. I cried and pleaded with him, but he still didn’t believe me. He didn’t raise his voice, he didn’t curse at me. He just kept saying that we needed to call off the engagement. I left his apartment feeling depressed and like a piece of trash. I went back to my house and cried until I was all cried out. Then I went to sleep.
The next morning I was jerked awake by my cell phone buzzing away on my end table. I picked it up, still half asleep, and it was Joe. He said, “Good morning Mary.”
As you can imagine, I was awake pretty quick. Joe said, “Something happened to me last night. I had a dream.”
“What kind of dream?” I asked.
“Uhh, like no dream I’ve ever had before. Normally my dreams are crazy and scattered, but not last night. It was the most vivid, real dream I’ve ever had. There was an angel in my dream. A real, live angel. Not like those ridiculous things you see on TV. A real angel, and he was talking to me.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me that we needed to get married. That you were telling the truth. That this whole baby thing was real. As he was talking to me, I felt like my chest was on fire and like my lungs were about to pop. I woke up covered in sweat and breathing real heavy, like I had just gotten done running a long race.”
“So what does this mean?” I asked him, my heart beating fast.
“It means that we’re still getting married.”
I let out a little squeal of joy, then managed to compose myself. “Thank you,” I whispered. “Thank you Joe. I love you. Thank you for believing me.”
“I love you to Mary. I don’t understand all this, but I know that I love you, and that God wants us to be together.”
ME: And when was the baby born?
MER: Don’t tell me that you don’t know biology either! Baby Joshua was born nine months later, just like that angel said.