A dear friend sent a text this morning on a group thread that reads, “Merry Christmas! First Sunday after Christmas! Mary recovering. Joseph worrying. Shepherds amazed. Kings traveling. And 2000 years later, the world still baffled and rejecting and rejoicing and marveling.”
A few weeks back, in a staff meeting at work, we talked about what pieces of the nativity story bring us the most wonder. I knew immediately. It’s right there in Luke 2.
” 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.”
There is a gaping hole between verse 20 and 21. There is a lack of information that makes my imagination run wild. I thought about it for days after that staff meeting. And then again this morning after my friend texted.
What happened in those days? The shepherds left. The heavenly host of angels returned to the heavenly places from where they came. Mary and Joseph and the newborn baby finished the night in the barn.
I gave birth to two babies. Not simultaneously, mind you. Separately. Eighteen months apart. Both deliveries were fairly easy – as far as deliveries of humans go. But I stayed in the hospital, where nurses took my babies to a nursery so I could rest. They brought me sterile garments and walked me to the bathroom so I could rinse off and change clothes. They sent in a lactation consultant to help me when nursing was difficult. They brought me food to eat, water to drink, and changed my bed sheets.
When I arrived at home, the kind people of the church brought me casseroles for days on end. And I had teenagers who volunteered to come hold my babies while I showered and napped.
I know how blessed I was. I know there are women around the world who give birth today in situations incredibly similar to Mary’s birth story over 2,000 years ago. But I still wonder.
Mary and Joseph were in a barn because the government had issued a decree that every single person had to go to the city of their ancestral town to register for a census. Joseph had to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem. They had to walk, just under 100 miles. According to scholars, they would have headed south along the Jordan River, west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and then into Bethlehem. And when they got there, they didn’t have a reservation at a hotel, a hostel, or an Aunt Lois’s house. It would have taken them days to get there, and they had to be exhausted. When I was nine months pregnant, I got tired walking up the stairs. I can’t imagine walking 100 miles. Frankly, I can’t imagine walking 100 miles not pregnant! But to do so, and then have to sleep on the ground, in a barn? No thanks.
Did a room open the next day? Did they find a place to rent for the next couple of years until the wise men showed up? Did the innkeeper’s wife bring Mary fresh blankets? A King Ranch Chicken Casserole? Did Mary’s rush of hormones make her cry for days? Did Joseph worry about her tears? Did the ladies from the temple rally around, not because the Messiah was born in their town, but because a young couple just gave birth to a baby boy in a barn? Did anyone even notice?
I imagine the details don’t matter as a matter of faith, or God would have seen fit to include them as Luke put pen to paper. One day, though, when I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Mary to tell me the entire story. I want to hear every detail.
In John 9:39, Jesus said, “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind, and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” There were so many who were blind to the miracle that happened in the little town of Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. There are so many still blind today.
And while I’m not blind to the reality of God sending His one and only son, I’m often blind to what He’s doing in my life. I’m often blind to my weaknesses, my bad habits, my addictions. I’m blind to my hurts – both the ones done to me, the ones I’ve done to others, and the ones I’ve done to myself.
Jesus came to be the light of the world; the truth. I pray that in my weariness, I won’t be blind to all the reasons I have to rejoice. I pray I won’t be blind to the opportunities God gives me to love others. I pray I won’t be blind to the people who love me. I pray I won’t be blind to the ways God is refining me. I pray I won’t be blind to the miracles happening around me every day. I don’t want to miss the details, because the details matter.