And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Considering the packed malls and stores and all the on-line sales it surely was a merry Christmas for millions of children and parents all over the place. On the other hand with the recent disasters making headlines an awful lot of people had less than a delightful Christmas time this year. It is encouraging to know that generous hearts tried to make this better by sending presents and gifts to those in hard hit areas around the country and the world.
It made me wonder how merry a first Christmas it was for those Holy Parents two thousand years ago. Not that they were celebrating it at the end of December probably. But since Joseph and Mary were by necessity present at the birth of Jesus, which is after all the reason we celebrate Christmas, this counts as the first Christmas day. Was it a merry Christmas for them?
Well, they were forced to join a mass movement from their home back to their place of birth thanks to the Emperor ( Luke 2:1-3). I suppose the roads were pretty clogged from Nazareth all the way down to Bethlehem. No one likes traffic jams, I’m sure they hated them even way back then, especially with live animal transportation backed up for miles. Being about nine months pregnant would not make such a trip the optimal time to go. So that would be headache number one.
They also didn’t seem to have made any reservations. No Travelocity to find the best deal and empty beds in the area. When they finally got to their destination in the middle of the night all the local rooms were gone. They had to improvise and find a garage, called a stable back then, and when Mary came to deliver they put some hay in a manger and let nature take its course.
All in all this doesn’t sound like they were having a grand ‘ol time, does it? Being humble and devout souls they probably didn’t bicker about all the problems they encountered on their trip and their lodgings. But they probably weren’t high fiving each other either. They were probably just rolling with the punches.
Then strange things started happening. Shepherds started showing up with pretty strange tales. They told Mary and Joseph that they were out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:8-15 This is just the kind of thing that will turn a bad evening right around. Luke says “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” v2:19 You can bet she did! You and me, if we heard someone telling us this kind of information we’d probably freak out or call the police or local mental health facilities. But Mary had better insight and she treasured all these things mulling them over in her heart.
And some time later as Matthew records some wise men from the East visited Mary, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Matt. 2:11 It isn’t explicitly stated but I’m pretty sure she also treasured these things too in her heart, this too being a little out of the ordinary in the new baby visitor department.
So I’ll bet after all it was indeed a merry Christmas after all.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]