Well, it is Christmas Day…
And at this stage of life, one of the things that I somewhat miss are trips to Toys R Us.
I don’t miss the crowded aisles but I do miss the opportunity to check out the toys.
You know, push the buttons, play with the balls, look at the rack of the most recent video game releases and see if there were any for older boys, like me, for sale.
I remember one Christmas when I had the bright idea of asking Santa for a toy airport…for my oldest son… and I had to assist a certain someone (Santa) in putting it together because he was rushed for time. I was frustrated with the assembly but Susan had to hold it in her hap as we drove the six hours from Indy to Grand Rapids…in a car filed with kids and all the things that came along with small children – diaper bags and the like as well as luggage and gifts. It was crowded…
Fatherhood is now in a different season for me… the toy airport is a memory as are the other toys given over the years… different gifts (and more pricy ones) are now being given.
There is much I have learned in being a dad because I did not know a lot… okay I did not know anything…about being a dad. In fact, I am still learning how to be a dad…
When Mary gave birth to Jesus there was a lot that she did not know nor would know until it happened.
Our starting text for this Christmas day is Luke 2:7
“…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
Did Mary know that she would give birth to Jesus in a space surrounded by animals and not in her home town? Probably not.
Mary was from Nazareth as noted in Luke 1:26
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And where is Mary when she gives birth to Jesus?
What is the distance between the two towns?
As the crow flies 70 miles …
Most likely the way Mary and Joseph went…90 miles
(That’s 111 km for you metric people)
And how did they get there?
Most likely they walked the whole way though we often see in print and on film Mary on a donkey.
How far is 90 miles?
A 90 mile radius from my town gets us into Michigan and Ohio …
Now how long would it take to walk 90 miles?
I got on Google Maps and found that for someone to walk to Anderson, which is a bit further than 90 miles, it would take between 34 and 36 hours… A day and a half. But maybe it took Mary and Joseph longer.
So let’s say you’re pregnant and you walk two days to get to your husband’s home because the government says, “folks, it’s time for a census so everyone to the man’s hometown to get counted.”
Not the wife’s hometown, oh no. But the husband’s hometown.
90 miles away… and you’re pregnant…
Did Mary know this in advance? Probably not. Or, if she knew what we today call the Old Testament said about the Messiah, probably so.
But Mary gave birth in a very exposed environment that is far different from the medically protected one that many born in here at least in the Western world have today.
We don’t know how far a long Mary was when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. But Luke’s account tells us this in Luke 2 verses 6 and 7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
From what Luke says Mary and Joseph did not arrive in Bethlehem and as soon as the bags were unpacked Mary quickly says, “Joseph, it’s time!” They were there perhaps a month or so before Jesus was born. We don’t know for sure but the text indicates that they had been in Bethlehem for a bit before labor started.
Now you might be thinking, “Pastor Jim, if they had a couple of weeks before Jesus was born, then why no room in the inn?”
Here is what Luke says, from the New International Version
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
There was no nursery… No warm, clean, safe, sanitary, room with a dedicated medical staff… it was too crowded…so she gave birth in a manger, most likely a hallowed-out place in the ground or one made of stone, shared with the animals perhaps in a cave, because caves were often used as residences, because there wasn’t room in the inn, or guest room for her to give birth…
Jesus was born in probably what was a common setting of that day.
And He survived it!
His mother survived it!
The trip to Bethlehem, The labor, the actual birth…
And, as we note in Matthew 2, the attempt on His life because of a paranoid and evil King.
Was Mary expecting to give birth in that place, that town, away from her family?
Maybe or maybe not.
What was Mary expecting after the angel Gabriel told her
“you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end?”
What are we expecting not just on this big and exciting day, but every day?
When we read the promises of the scripture
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
What are we hoping for?
Mary, did you know that your son would walk on water?
Give sight to the blind man?
Die on the cross for the sin of humanity?
I don’t think that she did…
Mary did not know a lot of things when she gave birth.
She had no idea that Jesus would do what He did.
We do not know a lot of things either, as parents, as people, as Christ’s disciples…
Life continues to be a journey and an adventure.
But on this day…
God knew exactly what He was doing!
The final phase of His plan for our salvation, our new life in Him had commenced.
And the best gift of all…
The gift of forgiveness
The gift of reconciliation
would eventually be offered to us through Jesus’ death and praise His name, His resurrection!
So this day, this wonderful day, has a significance far beyond the holiday beauty and gift giving it has become.
It is a day in which the gift of life itself is remembered and a life that took on our sin our guilt and had the last word…the word of forgiveness
This gift is best one that we have been given.
So when we don’t know what lies ahead, when life gets hard, frustrating, uncertain, when life’s joys fade we have this gift given to us on the day we call Christmas
The gift of faith – in Christ
The gift of hope – through Christ
The gift of love – by Christ
Have you accepted this great and wonderful gift? It’s yours because Jesus wants you to have it!
It is simply a matter of saying yes to Christ, confessing your sin – the wrong that you have done and said – and accepting His forgiveness. You can do it even as I am speaking these words. There is more to it that this simple confession and acceptance, much, much more. But the journey of faith in and life with Christ begins here. Just as Jesus’ life on earth began in a manger.
What a great gift to have on this day!
Thanks be to God and Merry Christmas all!