That First Christmas

That first Christmas was quite messy.


A young girl becomes pregnant before the marriage is consummated.   Before the birth is approaching they are forced by an authority way beyond her control to travel to another town to register for a census and taxes.  Their trip takes them 80 miles on the back of a donkey.   


When they finally arrive, probably late at night, Mary already is in labor and they cannot find a place to stay except someone’s stable.


Can you hear her crying out into the night? Can you hear her crying while all around her is the bustle of the town which is teeming with life and energy? Does she feel alone and isolated, abandoned and forgotten?


The baby is finally born. Can you hear him crying out into the night, and she wraps him in bands of cloth and then lays him in a manger.


Can you picture it? Can you hear their cries? Can you feel the mud? Can you smell the manure? And then, out in the fields, the shepherds are watching their flocks in darkness, but then the darkness is shattered and they are blinded by a bright light, and surely they yelled out in terror, and the angel Gabriel says “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you” to you, to you and to me “is born this day in the city of David a savior who is the messiah, the Lord.”


We live in a world that’s messy and broken, and yet into this world a child was born, a child which caused the angels to sing and rejoice.  Jesus.  God.  Emmanuel.


What Christmas reminds us is that our God is not a God who is distant from us, who is out there somewhere. This is a God who knows our name, who cares what we are doing, who wants to be in relation with us, and who loves us so much that he gave us Christ, who was born like us, who lived like us, who died like us and who was raised from the dead so that we too might have eternal life.

That is the Christ child we accept into our lives on Christmas, that is the savior we are worshipping lying in the manger, and the Lord to whom we make our prayers.