And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. Luke 2:16 ESV
I love Christmas! I love the sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells. It’s busy, noisy, and sometimes exhausting. The calendar gets packed with shopping, rehearsals, decorating, parties, plays… feel free to add items to your personal list of to-dos.
It is so easy to get caught up in the trappings. It is sometimes expected. We simply don’t want to miss out. It is such a short season. How will we ever try all the recipes, decorating tips and gift-making ideas posted on Pinterest?
When I take a look back at the “first Christmas season” the world was in a frantic, busy state even then. We’re not sure what time of year that was. Some Bible scholars say summer time. Nevertheless, those living in the small, obscure town of Bethlehem were trying to endure Roman rule and the strong hand of Herod. Daily survival was the goal.
Yet, they hung onto the promise of the Messiah. Would He come in their lifetime? Had some even given up on prophecies of old?
When we revisit the familiar passage in Luke 1:26-35, we see a young maiden being informed by an angel that she would bear the Son of God. In a dream shortly thereafter, her work-weary betrothed is consoled as he learns that his bride had not been unfaithful. But she indeed would be the mother of Messiah (see Matthew 1:18-25) The prophecy would be fulfilled through them!
Although, they were excited and probably scared of what all they knew, family and friends were less enthusiastic. How did their parents respond? Wedding plans were cancelled. Plans that were probably put into place by their parents when Mary and Joseph were children and far from becoming engaged.
Now on top of everything, they now had to make the long, treacherous trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register and pay taxes. Mary was close to delivering. Instead of preparing their home for a newborn, they found themselves traveling dusty roads putting miles between themselves and their loved ones.
By the time they reached Bethlehem the birthplace of Joseph’s ancestors, Mary’s contractions had begun. The town was bustling with sights, sounds, and smells they had never experienced. And extra visitors were there for the same reason as Joseph. Guestrooms at the homes of local Bethlehem residents and inns were filled to capacity. Where would the Son of God be born? The only place they could find was a stable.
In the meantime, shepherds were out in the fields minding their flocks and their business. It was night time and pitch dark. All of a sudden, the sky was illuminated as if it was midday. An angel delivers the message they had been hoping for. Their Messiah was born! But where did the angel say they would find Him? A stable? If they hadn’t seen the multitude of Heavenly hosts lighting up the sky, they wouldn’t have believed it.
Luke 2:8-17 describes the scene, but doesn’t tell us the number of sheep and shepherds who made their way to get a glimpse of the long-awaited Messiah. I can imagine it was quite a crowd. But I also imagine when they reached the stable, a hush settled on them as they gazed into the newborn face. Maybe the older shepherds whispered to the younger shepherds, “Shhh…baby’s sleeping.”
So, feel free to launch into the Christmas season full throttle! You have my permission. We have much to celebrate. However, may I also encourage you to quiet yourself often as if you’re approaching a nursery where a sleeping baby is lying in a crib. And let us bask in the assurance that the Messiah has come.
Father, thank You for Christmas! Thank you for the beauty of the season. As we strive to celebrate to the fullest, remind us of the true meaning. Quiet us so that we may worship You without distraction. Amen