The Birth of JesusIn those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was from the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2: 1 - 7
I pulled out the map in the back of my Bible and see that this trip is 65 miles as the crow flies. However, these are not crows. This is one young, very pregnant woman along with her husband - solid and steady, but also he had to be concerned if not downright afraid. This is high risk. If Joseph had indeed been married before and had children, he knew far more what to expect then Mary. The logistics of this must have been a concern. This must have been a "must do" trip. No one would willingly take it on their own. Too risky. Not just for Mary, but for their child, especially this child. From the moment of the angel's announcement, nothing has been normal about this situation.
Angels. Miracles. Dreams. Elizabeth's declaration. The hand of God - not in some conceptual way, but visible, directing, encouraging, supportive, gentle, yet prodding. Loving, gentle, prodding … loving, gentle, prodding them on. Holding them. Did they feel Your presence as they started on this trip? Oh yes. This was a miracle unfolding. Step by step …
And then there comes the moment. The baby isn't gently stirring. No, Mary's water breaks. It is time. Joseph is the calming force. We'll find you a place. Hours of pain, increasingly intense - pain and fear. Childbirth is frightening for an older woman in a modern hospital - with means. Just think about this set of circumstances. Away from home. Alone with her husband, a man who has accepted so much on faith. A good man. A faithful man. Trusting God. Loving this young woman. Protective. Caring. Stressed. Urgently trying to find a place to stay - no rooms. The towns are jammed with travelers for the census.
Finally, out of time, Joseph improvises. Out of the cold. Off the road. Private. The best he can do. The farmer has helped to the degree he could - no room in the Inn, a make do provision. An oil lamp. Urgent. Oh Lord help us. Help us do your will. Protect us and this precious child. Pain. It will be OK. Almost there. His head is coming. There it is. Joseph holds the child in his hands. Clueless about what the future holds, but for now, a healthy baby boy. He hands the baby to the exhausted young Mary. They are speechless. Now this is a miracle. Not just the miracle of any birth, but the miracle of this birth - Emanuel.
Mary gently encourages the child to feed, the first-milk, that will help give him protection for the months ahead. The exhausted parents, rest together and are overcome with this miracle.
Then others come - guided, but unbidden. They tell an incredible tale …