And on Christmas Eve…

Luke 2:6-7 “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Joseph and Mary had traveled quite a distance by that night. They had to have been extremely tired. And with Mary being nine months pregnant, and more than ready to deliver her child, we can only imagine how exhausted they were when they finally reached Bethlehem.

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, a small town some 80 miles from Bethlehem, where Joseph’s family was from. But when the decree had come down that all had to register for the census in the town of their ancestors, Joseph had no choice but to travel with Mary to the City of David, also known as Bethlehem, to register.

I’m sure he didn’t really want to make such a journey, especially since Mary was ready to deliver the baby any time. A distance of 80 miles doesn’t sound that long, but in those days, such a trip probably took up to a week to complete. There were no highways as we know them, and the modes of transportation were either by camel, donkey, or walking. There were no streetlights, of course, so when it started getting dark, travelers would have to stop for the night, pitch their tents, and prepare for the evening.

Most likely they traveled with a small group of others heading to Bethlehem, or other nearby towns. As it’s said, there’s safety in numbers, and the journey would not have been without some danger from thieves seeking to rob, and possibly even kill, unsuspecting travelers on such a journey. Although the Bible doesn’t address this specifically, I cannot imagine Joseph setting out on such a trip with a very pregnant Mary, without others around for protection and companionship.maria_josef

During the trip they all would have set up camp as it starting getting dark, with the women cooking sparse meals over an over campfire while the men watched over them all. Mary, at least, being pregnant, would probably have slept in a small tent providing meager protection from the elements, but most likely most of the travelers would have simply slept on the ground with blankets over them for warmth, and the men taking turns standing guard.

It certainly wasn’t a glamourous journey, nor a comfortable one.

Imagine how they felt when they finally reached their destination, and there was no place for them to stay. During the entire trip they were probably thinking how wonderful it would be to have a room to sleep in with a roof overhead and a bed. But there was no way to make reservations in advance, and they weren’t the only travelers arriving in Bethlehem for the census. It had been a matter of whoever got there first getting the rooms, and when they finally arrived, there were no more rooms to be found. Even if there had been, I wonder if Joseph would have had enough money to pay the asking price, because most likely the innkeepers would have raised their rates with such an influx of people coming to town.

What was Joseph to do? By this time, no doubt, Mary was past exhausted. The ride on a donkey had not been comfortable, and being pregnant and so close to giving birth would have made it worse. Although I would say that the trip probably hastened the delivery, we also know that it was all God’s plan, and He knew exactly what He was doing. However, Joseph and Mary hadn’t been informed of all of that.mary-and-joseph

After being told by several innkeepers there were no rooms available, Mary was already in the first stages of labor, and Joseph knew he had to find someplace for them that would provide shelter as well as some comfort as she prepared to give birth to her first child. Away from home, away from her family, and away from anyone who could help her with the birth. It was now up to Joseph.

I’m sure he wasn’t happy to only have found what is described as a stable, which in reality was most likely a limestone cave where animals were fed and housed. Fortunately for them there were no animals in there at the time, or so we are led to believe. By the time Joseph found the stable, Mary was most likely well into labor, so they didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.

They were both scared, having never been in this position before. All they could do is trust the Lord, and make the best of a difficult situation. Which they did.

One of the verses of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” says, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given….” I very seriously doubt the birth was silent. There were no pain killers for Mary, no anesthesia. She had not had breathing exercises nor Lamaze classes. She was a humble peasant girl…a young teenager…giving birth for the first time, with no midwife or attendants to help. She was in pain, and most likely cried out quite a bit from that pain, while Joseph knelt beside her, praying, holding her hand, and wiping her forehead as best he could.

And as midnight came, and melted into morning, our Lord TheBirthOfJesusand Savior entered the world of man. I am quite sure his infant cries pierced the night straight into heaven’s glory, as God the Father and His heavenly angels rejoiced at the miraculous birth of Jesus.

As the birth of the Savior began on Christmas Eve long ago and ended on Christmas Day, let us enter this Christmas Eve with new feelings of love and expectancy for what God has done, and what He will continue to do.

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

Expecting the Baby

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus’.” Luke 1:30-31

Ashley and Chris are so excited about baby Rachel, and they still have five months to wait. They’ve ordered nursery furniture, picked out color themes, and everyone is already buying cute little clothes, diapers, and baby wipes.

They have baby ornaments on their Christmas tree and are counting the weeks until she’s here. Twenty three left right now!

There are baby showers being planned and some very excited grandparents and friends! It’s such an exciting time!

But the Lord impressed on my heart this morning…how do you think Mary went through while expecting her baby some 2,000+ years ago? What were she and Joseph doing to prepare?

In all the stories and messages I’ve heard about Mary and how she may have felt about being an unwed teenage mother at a time when that was probably almost the worst sin a woman could be in, I’ve never heard anyone speak on this particular subject.

How would Mary and Joseph have prepared for Jesus’ arrival?

Mary was engaged; not married yet. She should’ve been planning for her wedding, sewing her wedding garments and discussing food for the feast afterwards.

But then the news…an angel told her she was going to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit and have a baby boy. Joseph had nothing to do with it, and since they weren’t even married yet, well…. There were no pregnancy tests needed; it just happened in the blink of an eye, and she was pregnant. No other confirmation had been needed.
mary_angel
There is no mention of Mary’s parents in the Bible. What did they say and think when she told them she was pregnant? Did they believe her story? Let’s face it, as parents, would you believe her story? Or did they blame Joseph for taking advantage of their daughter? Or even worse, think Mary had been with someone else? Can you even begin to imagine the conversations that probably went on for weeks in that household!?

Maybe that’s why she went away to visit her cousin Elizabeth for several months…to hide her condition along with her growing belly. And possibly allow her to come back and tell everyone she and Joseph had been quietly married during that time, even though traditional Jewish customs would probably never have allowed that. There would need to have been a formal celebration!

Scripture tells us Joseph didn’t believe her either, and was ready to walk away from her until an angel told him in a dream that Mary was telling him the truth. So he stayed with her, and I’m sure everyone was relieved. Suddenly Joseph had not only a bride-to-be, but a baby on the way! We aren’t told at what point Mary and Joseph were actually married; I’m sure they were, but most likely not in a formal public wedding celebration. I can’t help but wonder if Mary regretted not having the weddings all the other girls of that time had? She was a typical young girl; surely there were times she must have looked back and said “what if?”

And physically, how did Mary feel during her pregnancy? Our daughter has been sick almost every day since she got pregnant. Very sick. Even the nausea medicines don’t always work. Back in Mary’s time, doctor visits didn’t happen for pregnant women. If they were sick during the pregnancy, there were natural remedies to try, but if they didn’t work, the mom had no choice but to bear it and continue on. There was no such thing as pre-natal care or regular exams to check on the baby’s progress.

They didn’t have to wonder about the sex of the baby at least. The angel had already told Mary, along with the name she was to give him! They didn’t have to spend weeks discussing who to name him after. And today’s popular gender reveals? Back then there was no way of knowing whether it was a boy or girl until the baby was born.

Ashley and Chris have already picked out their nursery furniture and color scheme. Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have planned a separate nursery for baby Jesus; they’d keep the baby near them. Usually there were no separate sleeping rooms for children until they were older, and there were certainly no baby monitors to check on him.

And Ashley and Chris are already collecting clothes for baby Rachel. Adorable little outfits…I wonder if she’ll ever be able to wear them all! But when Jesus was born, Mary dressed him in swaddling clothes, which were actually long strips of cloth babies were wrapped in; only the wealthy could afford clothes for their babies and very young children. They certainly had no collection of cute little outfits for him to wear!

Baby showers as we know them were non-existent. Perhaps a few women got together and brought things for her that she could use, but there were certainly no parties, no games, no party favors. No fancy decorations. And all the incidentals new parents need today…like car seats and strollers to keep the baby safe when traveling…after his birth, Mary carried Jesus in her arms while she rode on a donkey!

Her labor and delivery was without any pain killers; it wasn’t even in a hospital, and certainly not in sanitary conditions. She had no epidural; no doctors or nurses were anywhere in sight. Joseph had to deliver the baby by himself! He probably had no idea what to do. He was a carpenter. At least a shepherd would’ve delivered sheep, and would’ve known somewhat what to do. How scared do you think he was? As well as Mary, who had probably heard all manner of horror stories about giving birth. She had no idea what to expect. And I’m sure the pain was intense, with Mary screaming while Joseph could only wipe her brow, hold her hands, and pray.

And afterwards, this precious little baby was laid in a manger on a bed of straw, a dirty trough where animals fed. I’m sure Joseph cleaned it up as best he could, but it most certainly lacked basic cleanliness and comfort standards. manger

Today after the birth of a baby, family and friends are there immediately to visit and meet the little one. The hospital carefully monitors visitors for the baby’s safety and makes sure the baby and parents all have matching name bands. Jesus’ first visitors weren’t family, but total strangers….shepherds who were considered the lowest level of humanity, who had been out in the fields for probably several weeks, and most likely were in severe need of a bath! And when did the grandparents finally get to meet the child?

It’s difficult to imagine what Mary and Joseph went through to deliver the Savior of the World. But I am glad they were obedient, and I am thankful for their sacrifices. Any baby is a precious gift, a miracle…but this one, conceived by an unwed teenage girl and born under some of the harshest conditions we can envision, is truly the greatest miracle the world has ever known.

Thank you Mary, and Joseph, for all you endured to give us Jesus. Wonderful-counsellor