I could have chosen any place or any time period to come to you. I am the only one who ever had or ever will have that choice. I chose to come in shame and disgrace, in darkness, distrust and discomfort, in a dirty, grimy no-count town’s stable. I chose Bethlehem and I chose the rugged manger I used as a bed. I designed my very birth and planned it centuries beforehand. But it was nothing like what you sang about today at church.
I can see it now… every little detail from Gabrielle telling the girl Mary to the old kings from afar laying down their gifts of devotion to me. You know the story. I’ve heard you read it every year on the day you call my birthday.
When I sent Gabrielle down, I watched as Mary dropped her basket of bread rolls and fall to her knees at the sight of him. Her family was going to have a small gathering for her brother’s bar mitzvah and she had a lot to do to get ready for it. I watched her expression turn from fright to awe to wonder to submission. That’s why I chose her. Not because she was somebody special, but because in her mind she wasn’t. I loved her, and saw her heart was one of submission and devotion to me. As she knelt with her face to the ground, her very hands trembled from the realization of what she did not understand. I remember the shock and fear in her face as she gathered up the rolls and later told her mother what the angel had told her. She herself did not understand it, so she had no way of making her mother understand it. They waiting to tell her father, but that didn’t soothe his anger. I wish she would have been able to take comfort in my love during that hard time.
I remember the pain and hurt in Joseph’s eyes as Mary stood behind her parents and they told him and his parents what had happened. The young man could hardly believe his ears, but when his eyes confirmed his hearing, he knew he had to make a choice. Divorcing Mary was the only suitable thing to do in his eyes. The night before he broke off the engagement, I sent Gabrielle again. The relief his heart felt after the dream was immense. He was to marry Mary anyways. But to those around him, it would appear his guilty conscience was forcing him to marry the woman he had made pregnant, not God telling him to marry the virgin he loved. That rumor would never allow him peace. But as a man of honor, he never even mentioned the stress the marriage put on him to Mary.
When Joseph was informed of the decree Caesar Augustus, he and Mary went trusting me for safety and their future. But when there was no room in the inns, and the only room offered them was a dirty old stable, they had a hard time not thinking twice. The many, many people that had come to Bethlehem made the once small, meaningless town a bustling, over-crowded mob trying to get to everywhere at once. Joseph left Mary with a wary farewell in the stable as she cried out for the pain of birth, to go and find someone, some willing soul that might help him and his wife. He knew he ought to find food, too, but the markets were too densely populated and no food was in the stalls anyways. When he found a woman, she was carrying water or bringing in the last of the vegetables from the garden on her way to the kitchen. Not one would help him. When he saw a family member of his and without thought greeted them hastily, they snubbed him and went on. So he returned to hold Mary’s hand with no more than he left with except a few more bruises. With no light, Mary strangled his hands and arms, writhing with pain. When it was finally over, the only light was the points of light from the sky that angled in the cave of a stable. The only noise was the cattle and the chickens running around the couple and I. And I was put in a manger. The only food available was straw for the animals. Dirty, grimy, slobbery and itchy from the straw, the manger my mother put me in wrapped with what rags she had with her was not one you would offer an earthly king. And I had entered the world as one I had created. But, in the middle of an over-crowded town, Mary, Joseph and I were so alone. Although they held the God that made them, they felt they had not a soul in the world that cared whether they breathed their next breath.
The shepards woke me, but they were a welcome sight. Not a soul disturbed from their yelling and laughing cared to come out of their rooms or houses to see the One they had awaited hundreds of years if “crazy” shepards were sent to tell them of him.
Oh, Bethlehem, I came to you, but you sent me the ones you despised and to the only place you yourselves would never sleep. But I knew you would do that, and I planned it that way before Micah wrote of it. In the pageants I’ve seen lately, for lack of participants, the streets of Bethlehem are empty and only a few people wander the streets. I can’t help but shake my head—there was no way to see the new roman cobblestones laid on the streets for the number of feet trodding them.
So, that’s why I wonder why you celebrate it with candles, beauty and feasts. In years past, people celebrated Christmas Eve not with cheer, but with a pageant of how Adam and Eve failed. They went to sleep in deep thoughts of how much they needed the one promised. Those of you that know why you are doing the traditions you do, are seeming to fail at letting the world around you know the same. Even if people grasp that I was born that day, they don’t focus on it most times. “Santa Claus and his elves” have become more important to this day than I. It hurts when you leave me out, even in name.
I miss Christmas. I miss hearing you say that word, I miss being with you on my birthday, I miss being included. I miss you.
Loved you before you were born, as you are now and will continue to for the rest of eternity,
Jesus of Nazareth