Christmas in a manger

Do you really understand what I went through that first Christmas two thousand years ago – and why it matters to you today?

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. ~ Luke 2:19

Yes, you people from two thousand years after my son’s birth, that first Christmas day was something else! It was a smelly stable that I gave birth in, with nothing but straw and some encouragement from my husband Joseph to get me through things. A few strips of cloth and some straw in a feeding trough was all my son had for his first bed.

No, it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t even — what is a Motel 6, anyway? People in our time usually had to rely on perfect strangers’ homes to find a spare place to sleep when we traveled. Bethlehem was a crowded town, filled with really angry people, angry because many like us had to travel for days just to get sized up for how much tax we would be paying to the Romans.

And I was fine with it all. No, that’s not right — I was overjoyed by it all. How could I not be? God had chosen me, a poor and insignificant person, to bring a child into the world who would change that world. The long journey, the embarrassment of Joseph and our families over an unexpected pregnancy that almost left me without any future, the wretched torturing of innocent people by the Romans, and the corrupt leaders of our own people letting them have their way with us — we had plenty to complain about.

But this birth wasn’t about me. You people, you’re so…strange. All you seem to do is to complain about things not being just the way that you want them. You seem to get upset when you don’t get what you want in a few seconds using those strange square devices that you carry. TL;DR, what is that? Do you understand what waiting on God’s true love coming to earth to deliver us is like? Do you understand what it is like to wait for centuries for a sign of hope and deliverance?

I understand that you get to elect your leaders in your country. What a privilege! I am so sorry that some of you are not happy with your next chosen leader — we certainly didn’t like our King Herod! — but then I look in your time near where we lived, and I see many people who don’t have any choice at all about their leaders, suffering in the middle of extreme violence and hatred. Some of them are Christians, I understand — at least some who are still alive there. Why are you so unhappy, when you have the chance to convince others peacefully that your choice is better?

I hope that you have that chance again. But in my time, we weren’t worried about those kinds of choices. We had some other choices to make. How were we going to act in the middle of poverty, war, oppression, and cruelty that was so far beyond our control? How were we going to get a message of hope that would make life not just tolerable, but joyful, healing, and empowering? This is the message that God’s angels gave me when I first became pregnant. There was hope. Real hope. And it was hope that would last for the whole world until the end of time, through God’s love coming to earth in my baby, resting in a manger.

So yes, those strange wise men could have given us some more practical Christmas gifts. But we already had everything we needed. We had the perfect love and hope that the we and the world wanted and needed. We had challenges, yes, but I guess that we had a different attitude towards challenges than people in your time. The wise men helped me to see that the story about to unfold in our lives was bigger than we had even imagined. We were part of something big, something wonderful.

I pondered all of these things in my heart. You know what a heart is, I hope? It’s the part of you that connects you with everything else. After the birth of baby Jesus, I felt connected to everything and everyone more than you can ever imagine. I was way out of my comfort zone, but love is not about being comfortable. It’s about understanding that personal comfort is nothing compared to the comfort of knowing how much you are loved by others and able to love and serve others.

I wish you luck with your own challenges in your own times. My troubles that night? What temporary inconveniences. I hope that you get to look upon your own troubles similarly, and to focus on the things that really matter in life. Like love. And hope. And, for some, I hope, faith.

Merry Christmas.

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