I believe in the Christmas story. Not the "when out on the lawn there arose such a clatter" one, but the baby Jesus born in the stable Christmas story. I think it is easy for us as Christians to say we believe the story, we read the story every year, and we know it by heart. But how often do we look into the truths behind it, trying to understand what was truly going on? How did Mary feel? What was it really like?
Now I am not a preacher, or a minister, or anything like that. This is just some thoughts that have been gathering in my mind lately. I will just try to muddle through the mess, join me if you would like, OK?
I learned in church a few years ago that in the custom of the times that Jesus was born, women were betrothed to their husbands at about age fifteen. We don't know for sure, but Mary was probably around FIFTEEN. That just blows me away. A young woman, or girl, rather, that in this day and age, would not even be considered mature enough to drive a car or choose the mayor of her town, was chosen by God to raise His son. Unbelievable. How did she deal with all the pressure? If she was chosen by God, you know she did not blow up in a teenage temper-tantrum, saying, why me? She was at peace with her destiny and trusted God. And she was fifteen.
When the angel appeared to Mary, Joseph wasn't there. He did not have the benefit of hearing the news from the Almighty himself, he instead heard from Mary. What guy can hear from his fiancee that she is pregnant, knowing full well that the baby is not his, and believe the idea that she did not cheat on him, but that God made her pregnant? What went on in his mind? The thing was, an angel later appeared to him and told him the truth. He believed, and while the law said he could have taken her into a courtyard and killed her publicly, he spared her life, married her, and raised Jesus as his own. He trusted God, but it could not have been easy. I can't imagine that they never got looks or comments from other people as they went to the market or to temple. I know how people can be, and they can be mean. I admire Mary and Joseph for their ability to hold their heads up high as they must have endured some horrendous judgements from others. It is a great reminder to me to not judge, since the truth might just seem unbelievable. It's not my business to know every individual person's miracle.
So the baby is born, in a stable of all things. Here is a fifteen year old giving birth without the help of a doctor, midwife, or even her mom. Sure she has Joseph, but really, how helpful are guys during a delivery? She probably delivered the baby and managed to keep Joseph from getting a concussion when he passed out on top of it all. She was all alone in a faraway place, scared, and fifteen. The whole thing amazes me.
They both knew that God had chosen this child to be the Savior of men. They knew that in order to save someone from their sins, there had to be a sacrifice. Did they hold that precious little baby, knowing full well that he would be sacrificed at some point? How do you deal with that? Then the strangers start showing up to see this new baby King. That had to feel great, being new parents and realizing that the rest of the world thought this was as big a deal as you do. However, the wisemen come bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Great gifts, but do you know what myrrh is? It's fancy-schmancy embalming fluid. Used on kings and royalty when they die. That's the equivalent of showing up to a modern baby shower with a casket. Here's a gift not for the new birth, but for his inevitable death. What a total reality check. How do you accept a gift like that gracefully? How do you not throw it back in the wiseman's face, screaming "No! Go away, this is my baby and I will protect him with everything I have!" I don't know how, as a mother, she could have dealt with that. But she did. And she did it at fifteen.
As I really think about the story, truths come to life that make it a bigger miracle than I originally thought. More than just the virgin birth, more than the star. The feelings behind everything is what I am thinking of this year. The Mary that we think of in the story is happy, blessed, content. But truly, this was a young girl who must have felt betrayed and disgraced in her community, terrified and scared in the stable, and devastated at the realization that this child, this piece of her heart, would die. She chose to trust in God instead of whining, complaining, or just shriveling up inside due to the strain. And although it was not an easy life she led, she was blessed in many, many ways. Mary and Joseph were never wealthy, but they had the honor and privilege of being the people who the King Of Kings called Mom and Dad. It truly reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. It's not about the stuff, the gifts, the stockings hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. It's about the miracle of the birth of our Savior. And it is about believing in God, and trusting Him even when things do not go according to your plan, or seem so very, very wrong. I know God is in charge of my life, and I do not need to worry. Where are you this Christmas?