We’ve whitewashed everything about this scene: beatific Mary gazing serenely at a cleaned up baby cozy in a cleaned up manger towered over by Joseph and surrounded by adoring shepherds and freshly groomed, sweet smelling animals.
It was nothing like that.
Birth is pain and sweat and effort.
And messy. So, so messy.
I like to think more clearly about what that night was like. It helps my heart to know that even while God was being birthed as a man into the world He created, He didn’t hide the hard.
The world was a mess on the first Christmas night, but Jesus came. He came wearing a name of endless hope and promise: ‘God with us.’ God is with us when the money runs out, with us when the bad news comes, with us when the holiday isn’t happy, and with us when everyone else disappears. The question this Christmas is not, ‘Will Jesus show up?’ The question is, ‘Will I receive Him, even if He’s all I have?’
Today is a good day to give yourself permission to be the real you in front of the real God. You don’t have to hide your hurt or sin away. He comes to heal, to save, and to rescue. Let earth receive her king.
~Bo Stern, When Holidays Hurt
There’s no evidence that Mary was spared labor pains or all the usual difficulty of bringing forth life.
And poor Joseph! In a culture where women helped women he was alone and lonely with his young bride in a place hardly appropriate for birthing a baby much less for protecting her modesty and reputation. He was unwitting midwife to the most important birth in history.
I’ve often wondered whether Mary and Joseph were relieved to see the shepherds who confirmed again the truth that their Son was Savior or if they were thinking the visit might have been better timed a few days later when things were tidier and the idea of parenthood had settled in.
All of it.
But the biggest drama that night was this: Darkness was overcome. Once and for all. Never to reign again.
When He created the heavens and the earth, God declared, “Let there be light!” Physical light entered time and space. Darkness was pushed back and limits set on its power and dominion.
Yet sin marred the light of God’s love, provision and perfect creation.
And from that moment on, darkness crept forward through the actions of men whose hearts were hard and by the designs of the evil one who has no heart but only destruction in his bosom.
He would not leave us this way. He did not allow the darkness to win.
We were not abandoned.
We are not abandoned.
Emmanuel is here.
And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.