I know that most everyone has taken down their trees by now but I wonder if you will allow me to make one more reflection about this Christmas season.
Maybe it was because Liz was pregnant and we were constantly on the road due to a foreign government’s decree, but this Christmas I found myself thinking of the Christmas story from Joseph and Mary’s perspective. I’m sure anyone who has either been pregnant or helped a loved one through a pregnancy can tell you that travel, especially late in the game, is no picnic. Of course Mary and Joseph didn’t have to worry about things like compression stockings and economy class transatlantic flights 2,000 years ago, but those things would have probably seemed like luxuries compared with the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We were also fortunate to be able to stay with friends and family during our travels. I could not imagine the shame (let alone the discomfort) of staying in the stable of an inn, in a culture that is so much more concerned with hospitality than our own.
And now as we put our crib together and get our little girl’s things in order I can’t imagine having to put her in an animal trough on her first night outside the womb. That’s what really hit me this year as I was reading Luke 2 just before we opened our presents. Verse twelve says, “’ 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:12 ESV) Did I see that right? The sign that the shepherds were to seek, the mark that would tell them that this is the promised anointed-one of God, was that they would find a baby lying in a feeding trough? I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever asked themselves, “Why must we travel during this time when it is so difficult to do so?” “Why is there no one to take us in?” “Why is the only shelter available an animal stable?” “Why is there nowhere to lay our child but a trough?” Then the shepherds show up and reported to them that it was the sign that the angels told them about, a sign appointed by God. I wonder even if these were some of the things that Mary was treasuring in her heart as the Shepherds told her what they had seen.
I still don’t know the purpose that God had for us as we were traveling during this time and I’m sure it is not nearly as wonderful as the purpose He had for Joseph and Mary. I do know this; He does have a purpose for even the difficult things in our life. Whatever circumstances we go through, we know that our fundamental task, or purpose is to walk obediently with God, desiring that He be glorified and shown to be worthy of praise in our words, thoughts, and actions. When the people around us see this reaction, they will see and hopefully come to encounter the hope, joy, and peace that is beyond circumstances. For this reason may we grow by God’s grace in saying with Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38a ESV)