The remnants of sand and dirt felt crusty on Mary’s face from the long day’s journey and the ebb and flow of pain and sweat. The hard pain – the overwhelming stench – the crowds. An hour from town there are tribes setting up camp everywhere. How many more are crammed into this small town, Bethlehem? The noise pounding in her head – the pains coming closer and closer. Oh, to just lie down.
Mary waited outside the inn for what seemed an eternity for Joseph to return. His demeanor screamed as loud as Mary’s pain that he had failed. There were no rooms. The best he could provide was the privacy of the innkeeper’s barn. A gentle touch on the shoulder from Joseph reminded Mary that he had done his best and was sorry it wasn’t better. He wasn’t in charge of how the events of this night were unfolding. The final steps to their accommodations were the worst on Mary’s swollen feet.
Joseph slid the barn door open only to gag from the disgusting odor. Seems the barn was as full as the streets with visitors. Asking one final thing of Mary, to wait in the fresher air outside while he found some straw and made bedding for her. She submitted to her betrothed. He didn’t sign up for this, but he certainly stepped up.
Together they slowly and gingerly walked in out of the cool night. As he helped Mary lie down, she let out a scream from the pain. Finally, free to let out the truth and anguish she felt. The animals rustled and made noises like an out of tune orchestra. Upon noticing their unexpected human guest, as if they knew who they were hosting, they laid down and became still. As she settled in and became accustomed to the smells, sights and sounds. She prayed. God, we wanted better for your son.
It was a long and unfamiliar night for both Mary and Joseph; Mary too young to know much about birthing a child and Joseph too innocent. Men didn’t get involved when a baby was coming. But tonight was not about tradition or decorum – it was about changing the world – it was about hope and eternity colliding with all that humans thought was “normal”. A new covenant squeezed into this night.
His birth wasn’t pretty. Jesus joined humanity as a wiggly, slippery baby. Mary was scared but led by what came instinctive and natural. Joseph was awkwardly doing his best to provide blankets and a towel to wash the boy who would return the favor someday.
This night didn’t feel very holy, but it was real. No airs or regal greeting parties for the King of Kings. His mother felt the pains, his earthly father the helplessness, him the trauma every human baby in history feels during birth. It was the heavenly Father who felt joy knowing He sent an invitation through Jesus. He knew he would get his son back and when He did, Jesus would bring all of the rest of His children.
The night was finally silent. Mary could breathe without pain. Joseph settled in next to his family. For the first time since Genesis the world would be still and rest in the hope of Him who came to love, serve and save.
May every night of your coming days bring stillness, hope and peace in Jesus Christ.
Happy Birthday, Jesus.