“About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel….
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. ‘Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.’ They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.” Luke 2:1-7, 15-16 (MSG)
We like to fill all of the time in our schedules to the max. Yet, the feelings of productivity are often traded for the enjoyment of the moment. Anytime we have a delay in plans because of the weather or other circumstances, we can panic. How will the to-do list get accomplished? Yet, when we take time to pause, we realize that there are usually many things that we have missed because we were too busy.
As Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem, the travel was not ideal given Mary’s condition. Bethlehem would have been brimming with people who were coming for the census. As Mary and Joseph entered the streets of Bethlehem, people passed by them without even looking twice. Well, maybe they did look twice, just long enough to be thankful that they were not traveling while pregnant. Since Bethlehem had so many visitors, there were very few places left to stay. No room was left in inn after inn. Knock after knock turned up with nothing. What was Joseph supposed to do with his wife? It would seem like the pressure of the situation would have been building. Finally, one inn keeper offered his stable to them. In that stable filled with animals in their stalls, dirt and straw littered on the ground, a new baby was born. And almost the whole world kept sleeping. The people who came for the first Christmas were sheepherders from a nearby field. It seemed that everyone else missed Christmas.
As Christmas comes, we like to make sure that all of our holiday celebrations are in order. We make sure that all the preparations for the Christmas party are perfect; we spend hours and days searching for the perfect gift for each person on our list. Yet, when Christmas comes around, our hearts might have fallen asleep to the true meaning of Christmas. Sometimes in the process, we can miss Christmas. It is usually less intentional and more subtle. We become exhausted by making sure we experience a “perfect” Christmas. But, the first Christmas was anything but perfect. It seemed like the most non-ideal way for the Savior of the world to come. Yet, Jesus did come and was born into obscurity. While the world was sleeping, Mary and Joseph were joined by sheepherders, and the irony of the guests probably made Mary wonder. Perhaps, it was happening different than she expected. Yet, she was present, taking in all the unexpected surprises of the first Christmas. During this season when we feel like we don’t have very much time, let’s be like Mary and Joseph, huddled around the manager, watching and waiting. Let’s be like the sheepherders who came to celebrate. So in between all of the busyness that the season brings, let’s not miss Christmas this year.
Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.