This Christmas has been nothing if not hectic and lacking tradition. To be honest, I think that's the clincher. My life has changed so much in the last 4 years that tradition, which is something we all seem to cling to this time of year, has flown right out the window for us. Realizing as I finished up my final gift wrapping last night, that these days will soon be gone made me hope for a future filled with tradition for our Little Man.
The one thing that keeps me hanging on to my sanity during this magical season?
Never has the life of Mary and Joseph seemed so real. Never has her pain been more understandable. Never has the hope of a better future been more understandable.
Last night, I watched "The Nativity" (TNT made for tv special....) and as many years as I have heard the story, as many times as I have thought about it, never has it seemed so real. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah of promise to come. No one expected him to come in the way he did, and certainly no one would have expected him to arrive in the shadow of shame that Mary and Joseph carried with them. And yet, come he did in star studded simplicity with only a few shepherds as witnesses.... And shepherds were the recluses of the day, living their lives in solitude, except for their sheep. Who was going to listen to shepherds?
As I reflected on the heritage that we have been passed, I noted a few key points relative to the Providence of our great God.
-He provided a husband for a shamed Mary. A man of strong character who was willing to care for her and her unborn son in spite of the shame it would cause to himself.
-He provided a way of escape from the shame that the couple lived in. If you know anything of Bible times, you probably realize that the engagement time had not yet been completed. For Mary to become pregnant meant either she had been unfaithful to Joseph or she and Joseph had together defiled the law. Either way was shameful, and in a village the size of Nazareth, with a population of less than my own housing development, everyone would have known of their shame and would have likely looked down on them.
The call to have every man return to the city of his birth for the census, took them away from that shame during the most critical hour, and Herod's killing craze of all the baby boys in Bethlehem drove them to Egypt for several years. By the time they returned to the small village of Nazareth, the shame that had once been associated with the couple would have paled and life would have moved on.
-He provided strength to get the couple to Bethlehem. The journey was more than 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and Mary was very near term. Whether she walked or rode a donkey is not known, but either way, the assumption can be made that the travel did nothing to help her condition. And yet, true to prophecy, the couple made it to the small village of Bethlehem just in time for her delivery.
-He provided solitude in a crowded little village of people. No, a stable would not have been the most desirable place, but considering the fact that Mary was probably a young teenage girl, and had already been living in shame for several months, I would say that giving birth in a crowded inn full of men, women, and children staring at you would not have been any more desirable.
I think what touches me most about the arrival of our Savior is the sheer beauty of God's hand. The fact that in accomplishing the largest task He has ever completed, he wove in immaculate detail, every provision needed into the lives of the people he used.
As I look to the very near future of my own son being born, I realize I have been blessed. Unlike Mary, I have never had to suffer shame for my condition. Unlike Mary, I will more than likely deliver in a clean comfortable environment with the luxuries of modern medicine. Unlike Mary, I will be surrounded by loving friends and family who are proud of our Little Man.
However, like Mary, I am faced with the knowledge that my child is God's to do with what He chooses. I have no idea what God may call my Little Man to do or what I, as his mother, will be faced with. I do know that our great Father who orders all things well, has a plan for this little baby, and that in His divine providence He will continue to show himself faithful to us, as he did to a young couple from Nazareth so many years ago.