When I was younger, every year on my birthday, my mom would look at the clock and tell me exactly what she was doing at that time on the day of my birth.
“Eight years ago right now, Dr. Anstey was making me walk up and down the stairs to induce labor.”
“Fourteen years ago right now, I was seeing your face for the very first time.”
I imagine that Mary, the mother of Jesus, would do the same thing every year on his birthday.
“Eleven years ago right now, a bunch of strange shepherds burst into our little room telling us amazing stories about how angels came and sang about your birth. They came to see you, because you are the one we’ve all waited centuries for. You, my sweet, growing baby, are the hope of this world.”
Maybe she still makes her way over to Jesus in Heaven and whispers in his ear, “2012 years ago right now, the inn keeper found some extra space in his stable. Joseph made a nice bed of hay for me to lay in as you prepared to enter this world. It smelled of donkeys, but I’m so thankful that we had a place to stay.”
I wrote this last year, trying to bring reality to the story I’d heard so many times. Here is the story of Jesus’ birth as I imagine it may have really happened:
God had promised centuries before that he would send a savior; a king to save his people. Prophets spoke about him and gave very specific instructions about who this king would be. I’m sure for years and years, people waited in eager expectation of their savior. They probably had high hopes for every son born in the city of David for years and years, but the reality of the situation was this: He did not come and God and his prophets were silent for 400 years. People probably lost hope over the centuries. They probably stopped expecting each new boy to be Him long ago.
Then one day God approached an angel. “Gabriel,” He said, “it’s time.” Gabriel’s heart started pounding. Did He really mean that NOW was the time that he would send his son to save the world?! This was the moment the universe had been waiting for for thousands of years. Since the day that Eve gave the fruit to Adam and they both disobeyed their Adonai.
Gabriel was sent to visit a teenage girl and she was given the shocking and exciting news. Still they had to wait another 9 months. The angels in heaven were taking polls and guessing when the baby would come. They knew it wouldn’t be until Mary and her betrothed took their trip to Bethlehem. But the wheels were set in motion. Joseph and Mary set off on their journey. They took their time and arrived about seven days later. There was no room in the inn, but they found room for this couple.
Sometime while they were there Mary had her first painful contraction. The angels waited with eager expectation. They timed her contractions and as they became closer and closer together, from the heights of Heaven they cheered her on. “Breathe,” they chanted. “Push!” they yelled. It was about time to celebrate!!!
After much labor, He was born. He was here. God was on earth. It was done. Jesus gave up his crown and came to earth to be born of a poor carpenter’s young wife. He would be beaten and bruised. Mocked and tempted. He would have acne and colds and the stomach virus. He would have to work hard and study harder. He would have to feast and fast. He would have to suffer in this life like we all do, and suffer like no one in all of eternity has or will with the weight of all of our sin on his shoulders. But first, he would have to eat, sleep, cry and get dirty like every other human born on this earth as a baby. As he entered the light, the tiny baby, God himself, took his first breath and let out a gurgling wail.
The angels cheered! God, in heaven, wept over the beauty that is new life. Over the knowledge of how his son will live and die. Over the pride he had in his newborn baby.
Suddenly a bright star appeared in the night. Even the rocks and gases of this universe exploded in celebration. Wise men hundreds of miles away saw the star and knew that this was huge. Something big just happened. The One that people had prophesied for years about was here. The new King. And they set off for years on a journey to find that king.
Shepherds who were watching their flock at night were startled as a light shone above them. It was a being of some sort. Too bright to see clearly but speaking to them. They were terrified! What was going on? The sheep were probably terrified as well and there was a second where everyone was running around trying to make sense out of what was happening when the angel spoke. He could hardly keep his cool he was so excited. He had to spread the good news!!!
“Calm down, don’t be afraid. Shh, shh. Listen up! I just have some great news I HAVE to share with you! You’ll want to hear this it will bring you great joy. Everybody, PEACE!” The shepherds stopped, stunned. The sheep calmed, too. They all listened intently to what this being had to say. “Today, just now… He’s here!!!” The angel grabbed his head still in disbelief. “The baby, The Savior was born tonight in Bethlehem! He’s the One we’ve all been waiting for. He’s the Messiah, the LORD! Go, find him! He’s lying in a manger and wrapped in strips of cloth. GO!”
An army of angels were watching the whole conversation but they couldn’t contain themselves any longer. They appeared and rejoiced and whooped and hollered and started singing and dancing. I assure you they did not stand still like a choir. The shepherds, still dumbfounded started laughing at the excitement in the angels. They watched in awe as the angels continued the celebration. Then as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone; off to celebrate somewhere that smelled better than the sheep stenched fields.
The shepherds stood in silence. They looked at each other, not sure if they had just awoken from a dream. “What just happened?” they asked each other. “Apparently the Messiah was born tonight in Bethlehem,” the smart one said. They decided they should check it out just to reassure themselves that they weren’t going crazy. They left the sheep where they were and started running towards town.
Then they found it. I don’t know how they found the place where a baby was lying in cloths in a manger, and I don’t think they knew how they found it either, but there they were. And there He was. “So, it’s true? This is the One? This is the Messiah, here to save us all?”
Mary looked down at her precious baby, “Yes, this is Him. This is God’s son. He will save us all”
The shepherds could hardly believe their eyes. What an amazing night. Centuries they had been waiting for this moment and it was here!!! They ran out of the house and told everyone they saw on the streets. They went home and told their mothers who asked where the sheep were and who was watching them. They spread the news until there was no one left to tell and they went back to the room where the Messiah was sleeping. They fell to their knees and started crying. “Adonai, God, you have fulfilled your promise. You said that He would come and he is here. You sent angels to announce his birth and they told us where to find him and it’s just as they said. You told me. You let me be a part of this night. I will never forget this. I will tell my children and they will tell their children and my family will be blessed because you invited me into your story. May this baby boy grow up to be strong enough to save us all. May it be as you said. Thank you!”
And Mary, the mother of God’s son, just took it all in. She didn’t get any sleep that night. The shepherds were there and people from the street started peeking in to see if what the shepherds had said was true. She dried her eyes and prayed with the shepherds, “Thank you,” and took it all in and kept it in her heart. For thirty three years, and even longer, every year on this day she told her son the story of his birth, unlike any other birth in history. A long anticipated night, celebrated by the heavens and earth. It. Was. Huge.
May God remind you on this Christmas Eve of the amazing things he’s done to save you. And may you and yours be blessed this Christmas season as you celebrate Jesus’ birth.