by June Friesen
LUKE 2: 1-20
1-5 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. 6-7 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. 8-12 There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” 13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds 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. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed. 19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
IT WAS TIME
It was time for a census to be taken in a great part of the world including Israel,
There was to be a counting of each person –
Not only a counting of each person
But it had to be according to their ancestral family.
It was then that Joseph needed to go to Bethlehem –
What was he to do – he was soon to be a father –
Not just a father but the father of the ‘long awaited Messiah’ –
Long awaited in the community of Israel, God’s chosen people.
What was he going to do?
How could he leave and not take his wife?
How was Mary going to be able to make this trek?
Oh my – oh my – oh my….
It was time for a baby to be born momentarily –
Mary had indicated that the time for the baby to come was going to be soon –
What if she went into labor on the way?
What if they had to stop on the way and had no place for shelter?
However – they did manage to make it to Bethlehem –
But O the crowds of people milling the streets –
They seemed oblivious to Joseph as he tried to navigate through
Hoping to find shelter and a place for his laboring wife to rest.
Yet everywhere he stopped to check
The answer was the same – ‘Full up, no room, no space at all,’
Until one man was willing to offer his barn where the animals were resting –
And Joseph responded, “Yes, we will take it.”
Joseph got Mary settled in just in time –
And then the little one soon made His appearance –
Gently Mary (and maybe Joseph helped) wrapped the baby
In the strips of cloth she had brought and laid him on a bed of hay.
And then an announcement was made to shepherds –
Out in the fields outside of Bethlehem –
That a special baby had just been born within the village.
And it was to the most unsuspecting people the announcement was first made,
To some shepherds who were quietly getting ready to rest for the night –
In the hills outside of the city – and they had no doubt a fire lit
For warmth as well as protection from predators of their sheep
When all of a sudden! It happened in the darkness of the night!
A Light – not just a star – but a brilliant light –
And then there appeared what? – An angel –
Who then spoke with a message just for them that night.
“I am coming to tell you now,
That in Bethlehem there has been born
A Baby who is ‘The Messiah’ – The Savior of the World –
You will find Him in a cattle barn with His parents.’
And then – WHAT – O MY!
The sky filled with many, many angels – singing in a chorus:
Glory to God in the highest –
And here on earth –
Peace be to all of humanity.
Now it was time for the baby’s first visitors – shepherds at that –
Why wouldn’t it be that the family in Nazareth had been told to visit?
Why is it the Jewish leaders were not told to visit?
Why is it that it was shepherds – I wonder, do you?
The angel had told them to go and they would find a baby –
Not just a baby but a Messiah –
A Savior for the whole world –
What could this be? How could this be? Hmmmmm….
And so it was that they found this baby –
Yes, and they found Him with his mother Mary and father Joseph –
And they then believed what the angels had said.
It was then many heard about the shepherds’ discovery…..
Oh my, oh my….these shepherds had now found their tongues of praise,
And they no doubt were dancing and prancing – singing and shouting –
“Praise God – The Messiah is finally here. Praise be to God the Father.”
It was a time that Mary thought mindfully and deeply –
As she quieted or at least attempted to quiet her heart –
And thought – “Why/how did the shepherds outside the city know?
Why – – will others now come too, or will they just think the shepherds were dreaming?”
It was then a new beginning for God to be revealed to humanity –
And it certainly seems as if He chose a very unlikely way
With unlikely circumstances and definitely many unlikely characters –
So how would humanity respond – would they respond with an eager faith like the shepherds?
Now it is time for humanity (you and I) today to consider –
Is this really the Messiah promised to the nation of Israel?
Why was He not born to a priestly family so He could be raised in the Temple and in the proper religious instruction?
What a way for God to try to make an impression upon humanity – poor, humble and lonely birth that it was for His Son.
Now then each person is offered opportunity to discover this gift –
This one time gift that God gave to and through humanity
To make it possible for Him to once again have a relationship
Like He had planned when He created Adam and Eve in the garden.
Now it is time for humanity to consider once again –
This birth that night in the strangest of conditions
Was not just a simple event that happened –
No, it was an event that would and should change the course of our world forever.
Yes, consider if you will how you as a follower of God
Have come to believe this story for your own spirit and well-being,
Does it make a difference, really make a difference this Christmas?
Or is this Christmas just another family celebration and party?
Will you receive the angel(s) into your presence –
Will you entertain their message and song –
Will you respond to their invitation to come or
Will you think you had a dream that surely could not be real?
Will you consider that God does things His way?
Will you give God an opportunity to reveal Himself to you today?
Will you believe that God’s greatest desire today (and every day)
Is to come and live in your home, your being – and continue to bless you with His presence until life on this earth is finished and done.
Come Lord Jesus, come and be at home with me today –
Come and fill me with Your presence of love, peace and joy –
O and come and fill me with forgiveness of myself and others too –
Yes, come Lord Jesus – I receive a renewed gift of Your Presence today.
In Jesus Name, amen and amen.
All photos and writing by June Friesen. Scripture is from The Message Translation.