Last July the world seemed to wait with bated breath for the arrival of the little Prince of England. No detail was left unnoticed.
Hallmark and others have given us a very unrealistic picture of Bethlehem. Our Christmas cards are gilded pictures of glorious Heavenly hosts filling the sky, gentle shepherds stand sweetly gazing at the new family, three kings can been seen in the distance traveling toward them laden with gifts while a brilliant star guides them.
Let’s imagine Bethlehem as it might have been.
The young couple were exhausted from the long journey. The crowds were noisy and unbearable. They jostled the woman who was beginning to feel labor pains. The baby was imminent. Where was her mother… the women would would normally attend a woman in labor? There was no one…just her husband and a bunch of smelly animals. Where was the basket trimmed in soft cloth awaiting her newborn? There was just a manger. Where was the soft bed with clean linens for her to lie upon as she gave birth? There were none – just cold, stiff hay. The world did not care or notice. The inn keeper turned them away. Many passed by ignoring them or giving sympathetic glances in their direction. No one showed compassion. No one offered help.
It was all so unfamiliar, rough, noisy, smelly…the young mother must have longed for familiarity, the comfort of home. Did she ask, “Why did this stupid census have to take place now? Why do I have to travel all this way? Couldn’t God have fulfilled the prophecies another way? On another day?” Had she expected, “Since this is God’s Son, He will make it safe, comfortable, easy. I can trust Him for that.” When her expectations were not met…then what? Did she feel sorry for herself? Did all sorts of doubts and questions raise their ugly heads? “If I am such a special handmaiden of the Lord why does He treat me this way? I didn’t sign up for all of this. I had expectations of a palace – at least a nice tent – not this. I am in a stable full of smelly animals and now a bunch of strangers are staring at me!”
Yes, there were angels but they were not singing Christmas carols. They were announcing Good News for the world to a small band of ignorant shepherds in the field outside of town while they tended sheep intended for Temple sacrifices.This had never happened before! Did they questions themselves? “Were those really angels? Did we hear what we thought we heard? ” When they did arrive at the stable no doubt they peered at the new family with curiosity – shoving each other for a better view.
That changed their lives. They were not just staring at a family – their hearts were drawn to God’s Word Incarnate. Their tongues were set on fire as they spread the news of what they had seen and heard.
The 3 kings would be along – but not for two years!
But this was just the beginning for Mary…the Scripture says, “Mary treasured up all these things in her heart.” This indicates that God gave her an eternal perspective. She remembered what the angel told her about Jesus’ name and purpose. She remembered the visit with her cousin, Elizabeth. She remembered all they had talked about – the special time being together as they talked of God’s fulfillment of prophecy in their own bodies! She remembered how Joseph decided not to “put her away” , which he had every right to do – but committed to marry her because of what God told him. Mary had a sweet, humble spirit and saw fulfilled promises in every circumstance. She didn’t understand it all but she knew deep in her heart everything was going to be OK. She felt humbled to be on the front row of God’s glorious plan.
Cosmic changes happened that night. The world has never been the same.
We, too, can participate in God’s fulfilled promises. He promised a Savior. Is He yours? He can be – right now – as you tell Him you are sorry for your sins and want Him take over your life. He promises you eternal life, peace that passes all understanding even in this chaotic world and His presence always with you – no matter what! He loves you totally. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you less and nothing you can do to make Him love you more. His love for you is complete.