Mary was exhausted. The seventy mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem tended to be a long, arduous journey–especially for a woman nearing the final days of being “with child.” Jostling on a donkey or in a cart made by her husband for so many days had only made matters worse. Traffic was crazy, with thousands of people trying to get to the place of their lineage to register for the Roman tax. No one was happy.
Hope for a comfortable room at the Bethlehem Inn quickly dissolved into the reality of a bed of straw in an animal shelter. Labor pains began. No doctor or nurse would be available–not even a midwife–only Joseph. What in the world was God doing? This was HIS baby. You’d think He would have arranged something better for the birth of His son. The night promised to be uncomfortably long and painful.
Instead, the birth of the virgin baby wrapped this peasant couple in a mysterious joy. Nothing about their humble situation had changed by the next day. Bad smells . . . animal sounds . . . tired bones . . . the swollen town hustling along, ignoring who they were and what had happened in the night. Mary and Joseph sat alone in the shadows of the shelter, staring in wonder at their baby. Could it really be true that this helpless infant was GOD? Unbelievable!
Yet, it had to be real . . . just as the angel had said.
That first Christmas Eve, and day, was one of the most hectic, difficult, and challenging experiences that these two servants of God had ever endured. Bethlehem did not reflect the words of the song, “Silent night . . . all is calm.” Human eyes could not see God in the sounds, smells, and events of the journey and nativity. Yet, nothing in the history of the world ever had the divine attention and heavenly touch more than this humble birth. Mary and Joseph had to believe what their eyes could not see.
Christmas is different now–a celebration of good will and the giving of gifts with happiness all around. But really, not much has changed. The world continues to wrestle with fear, exhaustion, and disappointment. Malls and outlets are as busy as overcrowded Bethlehem–and most folks hurry on, oblivious to the significance of Jesus’ birth. Many simply patronize the religious aspect of the season with a casual glance. It’s all about us–not Him.
Maybe you are troubled or hurting this Christmas. Life is not all you had hoped it would be. Fear and frustration are crowding out the joy you wished was there. The sounds and smells trigger memories of better times, and nothing you see seems to reflect the presence of God. And . . . why are so many of God’s people around the world hurting and isolated from the mainstream of society–even persecuted for their faith?
Perhaps we need to linger a while longer with Mary and Joseph. Their Christmas was dark and gloomy, but they found a bright light in the darkness . . . the presence of Jesus. That was it. Nothing else mattered. Adversity was swallowed up in the realization that the Creator of the universe now looked into their eyes from the cradle. Jesus was theirs . . . and they were His. Their lives would never be the same.
Excessive commercials and wild busyness consume the masses today. But for us, as believers in Jesus Christ, Christmas is all about Him . . . all about the incredible event of God’s insertion into the spectrum of humanity. The mysteries surrounding the divine Child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in an animal feeding crib are enthralling and uplifting to the believing mind. This Christmas, let these thoughts garrison your heart. If you are His, then He is yours. THAT is the blessing of Christmas!