Luke 2:8-12 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” “This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.”
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Bethlehem – The Year of Our Lord
“There is no room,” came the gruff voice as the door of the Inn slammed shut. Joseph banged on the door again and when it finally opened, he quickly pleaded, “my wife is having a baby, please any room, any space!” But the answer remained the same.”NO ROOM!”
Turning, Joseph hastily rejoined Mary who sat crumpled on top of the donkey. Her breathing was shallow and perspiration was heavy on her forehead. “I will find shelter, do not fear,” and he quickly tugged the harness leading the donkey towards a faintly lit stable not too far off in the distance.
Once there, Joseph tethered the donkey and gently eased his wife down. With a motion of his hand, Joseph took his wife’s arm and lead her towards the stable’s entrance. Upon entering, Joseph looked for a place to lay Mary down, but found it difficult, for as the Inn was full so was the stable. Feeling her grip tighten upon his arm he guided her towards the railing of a stall.
“Stay here, until I prepare a place for you,” he said as he quickly left her in the shadows to begin moving and shuffling the animals to clear a spot.
Mary leaned against the railing of the stall as waves of pain washed over her. The road to Bethlehem had been rough and the motion of the donkey aided to the onset of her labor. Her time to deliver had come and the energy to stand was quickly fleeing her.
“Breath,” she told herself as managed her pain. As her contraction completed and her breathing returned to normal, Mary began to notice the cold dampness and the foul stench in the air. Instinctively she pulled the hem of her headdress up to cover her nose and took care of where she stood so to avoid the waste that littered the ground.
Mary looked to her right where she saw the shadow of her husband busily clearing and preparing the way. But her energy to watch his diligence was deflected as the ebbing of another contraction began within her. She prayed that his efforts would soon be complete.
“This is not right,” mutter Joseph as he kicked away dung and soiled straw.”
“Babies are not to be born in such a lowly, filthy place,” was his agonizing thought as he searched for clean straw. But to his dismay he soon discovered that clean, whether it be straw or air, was a luxury not to be found.
Turning his attention to the baskets pegged along the stable wall he spotted some hay tucked inside them. Although the hay was old and stale, it was free from animal waste. “This will have to do,” he thought as he made his way towards the baskets.
“Joseph, It is time,” came Mary’s exhausted words.
Grabbing an armful of hay he quickly scattered it over the area that he had cleared. Then hurried to Mary’s side and lead her to the place where she would give birth.
“I am sorry for this place,” he said in a mournful tone.
“Do not fret, the Lord has provided,” she whispered as her breathing went shallow in the stress of her labor.
“Why this place?” he thought as the feeling of helplessness began to grow. “A place cold, dark, and littered with animal waste. A place where the air is putrid and rank. A place that offers no comfort not even in the simplest form. How could this be the refuge to bring a babe into the world?”
“Joseph,” Mary cried out in pain. He responded by gently stroking the side of her face. And after her contraction ended she manage an exhausted whisper “I thirst.”
Looking around, Joseph spotted a couple of troughs on the far side of the stable. Patting her hand, he left her side to retrieve whatever he could.
As he approached the first trough he saw that it was used for the animal’s feed but the one to its left was used for water. Spotting a small pail sitting on a ledge, Joseph grab it and scoped what little water remained at the bottom of the trough. As he turn to carried it back to Mary, he deliberately kicked over the food trough to spill the contents from inside. He grabbed it with his free hand and dragged it to where his wife laid.
Mary did not notice the efforts of her husband as she bore down and pushed into her contraction. The release of her breath was quickly followed by the sounds of drawing it back in again. When she was able to catch her breath, she accepted the pail from Joseph’s extended hand and drank deep the contents of what laid within. Thankful for each drop.
Joseph grimace at the sight of his wife drinking the dregs he gathered from the watering trough and with disgust tossed the empty pail aside. The feeling of inadequacy was steadily overcoming him and if it wasn’t for his attention of assisting Mary, he would have succumbed from the weight of depression and anger.
Mary’s breathing was now entering the final stages of labor, drawing breath it, holding it and bearing down. Joseph positioned and braced himself for the birth of their son. Mary drew in a deep breath, and for a few seconds silence filled the air. It was then that Joseph noticed that all of the animals had grown quiet and that the darkness in the stable was slowly receding. “What strange light is this?” he questioned. But his thoughts were interrupted as Mary gave a great push and the emerging of the baby’s head came forth. His instincts took over and with Mary’s second and last push, he caught the newborn, gave him a slight pat, and rejoiced to the sound of a baby’s cry.
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Joseph marveled at the miracle that he held in hands. His thoughts raced to the enormity of the gift that had been entrusted to him. And as he watched Mary wrapped the baby in a swaddling cloth, tears filled his eyes and all the feelings of anger, disgust, and inadequacy fled, leaving him only the feelings of pure joy, gratitude and humility.
Mary brought the tiny baby to her chest and began to rocked and lavished him with kisses until his fidgeting came to rest. Love filled her soul as she gazed upon his tiny features and after embracing all that she could, Mary broke the sweetness of silence by tenderly ushering his name “Jesus.”
Joseph picked up the baby’s small hand and gently ran his thumb over his tiny palm. “How pink and tender,” he thought as wonder filled his heart. And as he study the tiny lines running across the palm of the baby’s hand he recalled the words of the angel, “fear not to take unto you Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, and she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” His emotions swelled has he grasped the realization that he was looking into the face of the Messiah and his heart gave leap as the babe wrapped his tiny fingers around his thumb.
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No longer under stress, Joesph eased his thumb from the baby’s grasp and began to prepare a resting place for the child. With a broad smile and a last swipe to remove a tear of joy, he set the toppled over manger upright and scooped out the last bits of animal food. He then grabbed an armful a hay and began lining the feeding trough until it was thick and full.
Pleased with his efforts, Joesph began pressing down the hay until he felt a sharp prick which caused him to snap his hand back. Turning it over, he saw that a small splinter had pierced the crook of his palm and blood began to rise to the surface.
“Better me, then the small one,” he thought as he removed it from his skin and brushed the blood aside.
“I would hate to think that the babe would suffer from the burden of my hands.”
Turning his head to Mary he whispered, “It is ready,” and together they placed Jesus in the manger. _______________________________________________________________________
- John 3:16 – God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, that whoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.
The beauty of Christmas came in the quiet of the night in the midst of a lowly stable. It came humbled and without fanfare. It came with struggle and strife. It came with the sounds of a baby’s cry and it came not for one, but for all. Praise God……… it came. Merry Christmas Donna