On this day, many years ago, pregnant Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem. It had to be a struggle for Mary—and for Joseph as he watched her. Their baby was due any time. In fact, Mary had warned him she felt the event they had been waiting for was almost here!
Walk beside them as they head away from their home, Nazareth, to a distant city because of a decree set in place by Caesar Augustus requiring all descendants of David to return to Bethlehem to register. It was only 93 miles, about an hour and a half in a car, but remember, Mary rode a donkey. Joseph walked.
The donkey’s slow pace rocks Mary into a lulled state. Her head bobs, but she is safe because Joseph keeps his hand on her leg to keep her from falling off. The silence surrounds them. Smell the strong pungent donkey odor that lingers in the air. He brays, asking for a stop, so they do.
With Joseph’s help, Mary rolls off the donkey and relieves herself in the bushes. Joseph provides a small drink for the tired donkey and a bit of hay. He also quenches his and Mary’s thirst and they share a piece of bread to stay them.
As they negotiate getting Mary back up on the donkey, they laugh at the absurdity of their trip and her awkward size. And once again, they continue towards Bethlehem, resuming the rhythm of the donkey’s gait.
That beautiful part of the day comes—the link between darkness and light. This makes the travel much more treacherous for Joseph to keep Mary on their donkey. Darkness comes, and a beautiful canopy of stars twinkle above them. One predominant star shines brighter and brighter, almost like it is guiding them to their destination. Then Mary screams scares Joseph and he knows the time is approaching too fast—way too fast. But she settles back into the rhythm of the road and he knows she hides any discomfort from him, to protect him.
They haven’t arrived yet in crowded Bethlehem, where they will face no room in any inn. Because of their slow travel, they will arrive late in the evening, but right now they are working their way to Bethlehem.
Are you ready to welcome the Holy Family into your home tonight? You may have a Nativity set up in your home, but are you ready to offer Mary and Joseph a place in your heart to birth the Christ Child? I hope you do!
~For me, it’s Christmas all year long!Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A
~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet?Vist my website: laradasbooks.com
A young Jewish girl humbly accepted a visit from God’s angel, Gabriel, and puzzled over his message that she would be the mother of the Messiah. At first, she couldn’t fathom the idea. The Jewish world had been waiting centuries for His coming. She was a teenager and single. What a shock!
Being single, Mary questioned Gabriel about how she could give birth to a child. Patiently Gabriel explained the mystery. Her humble response echoes through the ages, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Her answer was “Yes!”
Mary’s song in response is recorded in Luke 1:46-55 and is a celebration of her commitment to do God’s will–read it out loud and celebrate her obedience.
Imagine what those nine months after an angel’s visit were like. Some sort of marriage happened. Joseph protected Mary during this time, knowing that this child she carried was special. Pregnancy outside of marriage during this time in history was scandalous!
As her time neared, they had to make a rush trip to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth. Caesar Augustus required a census, and Joesph belonged to the house and line of David, so they went to Bethlehem to register Mary.
Nine months pregnant, Mary faced a 160 kilometer trip. Did she walk part of the way and ride a donkey the rest? How long did it take? In today’s world, it’s a three hour trip, but their’s had to take hours, maybe days.
Each mounting step jarred this pregnant woman. As she neared Bethlehem, the birth pangs hit. Did her water break before or after they found the manger? As they moved from inn to inn, Joseph realized there was no place to stay–the census had overloaded the small Jewish city. What to do?
Thinking outside the box, he found an empty stable and tied his tired donkey up. Gently, he lifted Mary off of its back and nestled her in a soft bed of hay. The time had arrived. He delivered his child, the Son of God, alone there in their makeshift home.
Mary trusted his judgment and knew that they would be OK. Her screams echoed through the hills. Joseph wiped sweat from her brow, praying for God’s guidance. One last scream and a new sound was added to the quiet night–the cry of a newborn baby.
Joseph wrapped his newborn son in clothe they had brought with them and placed him in the manger. God directed him on how to cut the umbilical cord and tend to Mary’s needs. His heart burst with pride–a son to carry on his business, his own son, but wait! This was God’s son! What did that mean for Joseph and Jesus?
Mary’s eyes focused on the baby, Jesus–her baby. Tears welled up in her eyes as her heart burst with joy! Her baby boy was here! She savored the serenity of the moment. Then the quiet stable changed as the twosome noticed an angel appear. The trumpet blast from the angel announcing the birth of Jesus shattered the silence. The cows and donkey in the stable woke up and joined the chorus of angels in celebrating this birth. Shepherds with their sheep drifted in the door and bowed to the newborn King. They shed tears of joy in the fulfillment of the promise! They moved aside but lingered, as three wise men laid gifts at the feet of this amazing baby. This mixture of Jew and Gentile surprised Mary and Joseph.
Mary and Joseph looked at each other in amazement and smiled–it was true! The message from Gabriel nine months ago was true! They were now the parents of the Son of God!
A newborn baby coos and breathes a heavy sigh, feeling safe and warm. Mary rolls over and lays her arm across the baby to make sure he’s OK. Joseph stirs because of Mary’s movement–the trio connected deeply after a long trip and the eventful night of birth.
Tranquil animals surround these three in this stable in the little town of Bethlehem. A jersey cow moos softly and adjusts a hind leg that’s cramped. A donkey brays and twitches an ear with lazy eyes closing to rest! Sheep move like shadows around this enclosure, chewing the scattered hay and enjoying the warmth generated by the other animals and humans. The peaceful mixture of sounds in that manger so long ago echo through the centuries.
A baby – why did God decide to come to earth as a defenseless, dependent baby 2000+ years ago?
The answer is easy: the allure of a baby is magical, especially a new born. Just watch children and adults alike swarm to uncover a newborn, look into the face of innocence and joy and wonder at another miracle. Yes, a baby attracts most everyone to its side, and that’s what God wanted.
So this Christmas, make sure you take the time to really connect with the baby Jesus in that stable. Look into His eyes, touch His small round hands and marvel that you are staring at the face of God!
Several years ago, I wrote the following short story and it certainly connects at this time of the year–Enjoy!
I Found My Answer
She looks so familiar; I’ve seen her before. She has the answer I know to the question that has been haunting me for months. All I have to do is get her alone and ask my question, my one big important question. Any time I get close enough to her to ask, my parents throw their arms up to guard the baby and scream, “Don’t hurt the baby! Be careful! She’s fragile. You could hurt her.”
You see, she’s new. They just brought her home from the hospital. Her name is Ann. I’m Laurie, her three-year-old sister. I wasn’t that excited about her when she was in my mom’s tummy, but since I’ve seen her, I know she’s got the answer, if they will ever let me near her, alone!
I try to outfox them–one time after another I almost get to her–to whisper my question in her ear. She’s one of those who knows, and I know it. I recognize her and her spirit. But their stopping me frustrates me. What am I to do?
I must get to her before she forgets, like I have. Or have I? I have a vague recollection. Cloudy images float through my mind at times that are a part of the answer, but I know she knows for sure!
My deep desire for the answer only increases; my tactics change, but nothing seems to work. They’re set on protecting her from me, and I’m equally set on getting to her for the answer.
I stand by my mom as she holds her–that beautiful cherub face ready to tell me, but I know I can’t ask this question in front of Mom. She would only get upset because I would need to get real close to Ann. I have to whisper right in her ear then put my ear up to her mouth to hear her response, because it will be spoken very softly and gently in words no adult can recognize. I think I still can understand. I used to be able to hear that. I’ve seen that face before I know. I’ve heard some of her sounds and they sound vaguely familiar–other worldly. I don’t need much time, only minutes, but we need to be alone and quiet!
I don’t give up, but my plans have changed. I stop the outright method; I wait and watch for the opportune time, and my patience finally pays off.
Ann is baptized at one month old, and my parents give a big party, inviting family and friends to show off their new child. This proves to be the distraction I need.
The guests all “ooh” and “ah” over her and bring me gifts too, so I won’t feel left out. I’m not worried about gifts or sibling rivalry or stuff like that–I’m on a mission. My folks think I’m jealous of Ann, that I want to hurt her, but that’s not true at all. If only I could it explain it to them.
Mom has lots of delicious food and drink. They enjoy good light-hearted conversation with family and friends. For the first time since Ann arrived, my parents relax about me bothering my baby sister. The party atmosphere distracts them, so I’m on the move.
Startled back to reality, Mom asks my grandma, “Where’s Laurie?” Everyone starts the search for me, but my time had come a few moments ago when quietly I slipped out of the living room, up the stairs into my baby sister’s room. She was sleeping, but that’s OK. I can still talk to her anyway, and she’ll answer.
I pull a chair over to her crib and crawl up into it, careful not to hurt her. I lay down next to her and began whispering my question into her ear —
“Tell me — what does God looks like? I have been here for three years, and I have almost forgotten.”
A knowing smile crosses Ann’s lips, and her answer came through her spirit as I heard her response, “He looks like me.” Yahoo! I knew it! That’s why she looked so familiar! Something inside me knew it all along!! Every time I have seen a baby in the last three years, I’ve gotten the urge to ask that question. I felt drawn to the newborn, but having a baby in my own home really made the asking easy–after I got passed Mom and Dad.
That answer quieted my spirit, and I was peaceful at last. She did reconnect me with my God. Now I could hold on to this truth for a few more years.
Little did I know my Aunt Janey was sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room and had heard the whole conversation (my side only because she can’t hear babies.) My question touched her heart deeply.
She didn’t move or try to stop me. I fell asleep next to my sister at peace with the answer, and my parents found me resting there after their mad search–my quest had ended moments earlier. I had found my answer.