We’ve all heard lots of stories of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, their journey to Bethlehem, and their sudden flight into Egypt. It all seems so familiar—maybe too familiar–to us.
As I was reflecting on this attitude in my own life, I paused to carefully consider what some of these things must have been like for the Holy Family. So, I closed my eyes and took a ‘journey’ with them. I invite you to imagine yourself with them also as they go to Bethlehem, as Mary births Jesus, the coming of the shepherds, and the visit of the Magi.
It is daybreak on the last day of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. Breakfast is over, the donkey is ready, and Mary climbs on the donkey’s back. Joseph walks on ahead, gently leading the donkey. The way is rocky and rough. Joseph’s feet are sore and maybe a little bloody from the journey. He doesn’t say anything to Mary because he doesn’t want her to worry. She has enough on her mind! She is heavy with child and weary. She perhaps even wishes they were already in Bethlehem so she can rest before she begins labor. The Christ Child would soon arrive! However, Mary doesn’t complain; she doesn’t want to worry Joseph.
They journey as purposefully as they can, both of them knowing Mary’s ‘time’ is growing close. The donkey too must feel tired and thirsty. Joseph finds some water for the donkey near a stream and the animal drinks his fill of the fresh, cool water. He also gives Mary and himself a drink.
They travel for hours towards Bethlehem. As evening draws near, they enter the city, hoping for a restful place to stay. However, they find no place to lodge. All the lodging places are already filled with other travelers, and the innkeeper is only able to offer a stable for their bed. Joseph and Mary reluctantly but gratefully accept. They enter the stable quickly for Mary is beginning her labor pains. Joseph quickly and tenderly lifts Mary from the donkey and gently lays her down to prepare for the birth. He prepares a trough for the baby Jesus—this manger where animals feed will soon be where the newborn Savior will lay His sweet head. His mattress will consist of hay. This just doesn’t seem befitting a divine king, but nothing else is available.
Mary cries aloud in pain as she gives birth. Joseph waits, ever caring, ever concerned, and his big strong hands prepare to catch Jesus when he appears from Mary’s virgin womb. What an intimate and emotional moment for both of them! The baby Jesus cries briefly, and Joseph gently cleans Him and lays Him on His mother’s lap. This son, the angel announced to Mary, was here.
I wonder what Joseph and Mary said to each other concerning this holy child? What questions did they speak of or hold in their hearts? They could not have known that some 33 years later He would again be covered with blood and water. This son would heal, console, preach, bless, teach and challenge others and perhaps even them. But how could they possibly know all this? They knew He would be mighty, but what did that look like? How would it all take place?
Meanwhile, out in the fields, as the shepherds watched their flocks, they were startled by a great noise in the sky. There appeared angels with trumpets announcing a birth. The shepherds were no doubt quaking with fright at the sight and the noise. The angels, aware of their fear, calmed them and shared the Good News of their Savior’s birth. The shepherds must have wondered how they got invited to this glorious event. Curiously but joyfully they went along with their flocks to see the newborn baby.
Mary and Joseph were enjoying the Christ Child as He cooed and gurgled. They played and talked with Him and each other. Soon, the shepherds came with their flocks to see the baby. Joseph and Mary looked up when they heard the noise. Funny, they weren’t expecting visitors. How did the shepherds know?
The shepherds came, unshaven, uncleansed, with their smelly flocks, their animals making their hot, steamy smells along the way. Mary and Joseph welcomed them while baby Jesus looked at the visitors with soft brown eyes. Perhaps He laughed as the animals said hello in their God-given way. Did a part of Him know these shepherds and animals were all a part of His divine creation? A part of His plan for a welcoming party? One has to wonder. They all knelt in wonder and worship.
Meanwhile, visitors from the East were arriving by camel with treasure for our little savior. They got off their camels and knelt in worship. What? More visitors? Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? Wow!They were gifts befitting a king. But why these gifts in particular? Surely it meant something very profound. How did all these people know about His birth? There were no written announcements–only shepherds and Magi prompted by angels and the stars. Our savior wanted a humble crowd, and that’s what He got. What wonderful gifts Jesus got on His birthday—shepherds, magi, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No cake. No candles, but the best light of all—the star announcing His birth. And we are gifted by the best light of all—for Jesus is the light of the world.
Copyright © 2007 Theresa M. Williams