Mary, seated on the back of a donkey, grimaces again as this journey seems to never end. In her discomfort, who could blame her if her attitude had turned sour amidst the many miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Their journey, almost four days in the making, travel weary, dusty and dirty… Mary and Joseph press on despite the constant protests by their only source of transport, the gray stubborn mule who brays every now and then breaking the pensive silence along the many miles. Over the next horizon a sight which both excites and disheartens at the same time. Bethlehem spills into their vision over the rocky crags and dusty path. It’s not a huge city mind you, but it is this young couple’s destination for the mandated census. What began with excitement having reached the end of their discomfort on the road, not settles into a strained sight. Many sojourners have also made this journey reaching Bethlehem before them. Lines of people stream in and out of Main Street; the population has drastically increased and in Joseph’s stomach settles a whole list of doubts, and fears. A series of “what if’s” float through Joseph’s head. “What if there is nowhere to stay? What will I do to help Mary get off her swollen feet? What if…what if…what if. Doubt climbs from Joseph’s stomach and into his heart as these questions become valid as they near yet another establishment offering shelter from the road. Joseph never imagined that following his supernatural visit by a heavenly being things would seem harder than before. After all, wasn’t Mary with child not of human origin proof enough, why couldn’t the Angels or even God assist in providing a place to find comfort and rest for a few days? For a brief moment He let these doubts take up residence and then as quick as an exhale of breath, he shook them off. “No.” God would provide, his messenger was certain proof of that. Casting the doubts and fears away again, Joseph and Mary continue on down the thorough fare of Bethlehem in search of bed and food.
Mary grimaces again; the contractions are closer this time, no thanks in part to the bumpy road and jarring hipbones of the mule she is seated on. It’s only a matter of time before what had been prophesied nine months earlier, would become tangible and also audible in the cries of a new born child. Mary has contemplated since the start of the journey what the baby’s features would be like, whether they would differ from any human on earth. She has felt him stir continually in the womb; he is certainly an active, healthy baby. Nearing another establishment on the far side of town, Mary breathes heavily trying desperately to remain calm in the midst of uncertainty as to where or if they can find a place to have this child. She hums the song she has hummed since the first time she felt him stir…the voice of a mother singing to her yet unseen child, is there any better picture of love than that of a love for child by their mother?
Joseph returns, but not with news of a warm bed and a room exactly…where will we be staying? The question lingers on Mary’s face before another contraction erases all concerns of comfort and replaces it with panic and a “get me off of this animal!” look on her face. Behind the small home, now converting into motel of sorts, is a place for travelers to house their mules and other journey weary animals. It’s a cave…not a four star hotel, not even a hostile on the roadway. But it’s a place to rest, and at this late hour, also a place to welcome into the world a child who is Savior of it. This is not exactly how Joseph envisioned God’s son would enter into this world. A palace would have seemed more fitting, or perhaps at least a large bustling city in a stately home, but this was not to be. He spreads the straw on the ground for Mary to get comfortable, taking off his outer garments; Joseph wraps Mary in his cloak. In the presence of livestock and the smell of dung and feed, the Savior of man enters our world. Isn’t it interesting that not only does he enter our world in the lowliest of states but Jesus amidst the earthy smells of a barn cries his first cry? The King of kings, the one who was present at the beginning of creation is now in the presence of his creation, and he is as defenseless as…well a baby. Could the scene be any more out of the ordinary? While kings and those in power jostle for more power and control, Jesus enters the world with neither…yet the entire existence and hope of the world weighs in the balance of this child laying in a feeding trough of animals. It boggles the mind. It also reminds us too of the eternal rather than the temporal. The Savior, foretold many years before this age, was here…and who was there to welcome him and invite him in? Animals, a handful of celestially shocked shepherds and eventually a few wise guys from far away.
Will you invite Him in this Christmas? Will you welcome our Savior again, renew your relationship with Him? Share it, declare it and be partakers in His birth.
“O come let us adore Him…Christ the Lord”
Adeste fideles laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.
Venite adoremus (ter)
Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine
Gestant puellae viscera.
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus (ter)