Stuck in traffic, I found myself pondering the visual of a Norman Rockwell Christmas; snowflakes falling, twinkle lights glowing, gleeful children, stockings hung, all to the crooning of Bing Crosby on the phonograph.
As the scene played out, I secretly wished for simpler days when Christmas was Christmas, doggone it, and my Facebook feed wasn’t a bi-polar melange of Pinterest’s festive craft ideas interspersed with ‘How to Survive a Mass Shooting,’ more ‘Tainted in Tinseltown’ headlines, and Tasty’s tempting holiday dip recipes rolling in-between constant unkind political discourse.
But then I considered the very first Christmas in Galilee…and I was filled with hope.
Don’t kid yourself, it wasn’t a pretty sight. There was Mary, the ‘mother of Christmas,’ so to speak, 9 months preggo and presumably a bundle of emotions leaving all her familiar surroundings and peeps at her most vulnerable moment. She was riding on a freakin’ donkey (ugh), with her main squeeze, Joseph, unemployed, thus, odds-on edgy and irritable, trudging along next to her, making the lonely 3-day trek to Judea as an unmarried, extremely controversial, low-income, expectant couple.
All the above because The. Man. had issued a daunting decree to ensure that all humans in the Empire had been counted by Roman officials for the express purpose of extorting their hard-earned dollars through taxation, compelling them to report to their historical tribal cities. (now you’re getting the ugly picture, right?)
Mary and Joseph had apparently not read the fine print.
Of course they’d had the benefit of an initial angelic visitation months before all this went down, but let’s be real…goosebumps fade over time.
They arrived in Bethlehem where they found no welcoming committee, not even a BED to sleep in, no sense of miraculous intervention as Mary birthed their miracle baby on a pile of hay in a mini-barn reeking of manure with Old MacDonald’s farm looking on and not a midwife in sight.
Heavenly confirmations at last arrived in the form of a spectacular star overhead, angels singing, keyed-in shepherds and Magi bringing gifts along with talking animals. (just kidding on that last point)
I can almost hear Joseph exhaling (more goosebumps) and being reminded that Almighty God, not The. Man. was in charge of things. He would need that reassurance for the long journey ahead.
And so we find the first Christmas complete with unwed pregnancy, poverty, a step-dad, homelessness, fear, government control never before realized, and out-of-control taxation — just as broken as every Christmas since.
And something about that brings us reassurance in our human condition, especially when we consider the upgrade: instead of Mary carrying the Christ child physically on a donkey, we now carry the Savior in our hearts, by faith.
It’s up to us to make the season bright for those who can only see the brokenness; to help bring the revelation of the Christ child to them.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11–12
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