I woke up this morning at 6 AM. I stayed in bed till seven, musing about Mary and Joseph and the soon to be born Jesus.
They may have still been journeying from Nazareth to Bethlehem at this morning hour. Or resting at the conclusion of the arduous 90 mile journey on foot or on some beast of burden. I cannot imagine the pains of a woman heavily pregnant and approaching the time of birth in this situation.
Nor was this all. They had no place to call their own for this life-changing event when the best available birthing chamber was a place where animals were fed. Picture this vulnerable young woman with her inexperienced husband in the place we commonly visualize as a stable! I suppose things could've been worse, but they were certainly poor! And then the precious baby was wrapped up and placed in a feeding trough!
That God would condescend for his Son to make entrance into our world in this way is appalling! For a Jewish couple accustomed to strict cleanliness in worship, this must've felt like the very opposite of a blessed event!
God was not lacking compassion, however. He first sent angels to inform shepherds about the coming of the promised Savior, then sent the jubilant shepherds to tell the weary Mary and Joseph the marvelous way God had revealed the Savior's birth to them.
For all the pain and fatigue of travel, and the struggle of giving birth in rough and grimy surroundings, Mary and Joseph celebrated with the shepherds and their loving God the birth of His promised Savior Jesus Christ the Lord. How that must've transformed what would otherwise be squalor and misery!
This gift of hope and joy despite circumstances is the same gift those who believe in Jesus Christ can expect from God the Father as we remember the birth of his Son amidst the turmoil of the world. For all of us, if we place our eyes on the risen Jesus, the celebration can be a truly holy time. We can share to some extent the God given joy that came to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.