Friday, December 16

A Forever Moment: the Nativity

There's a set of commercials being aired on the radio and TV, from Ben Bridge Jewelers, that feature the tagline: Turn a special moment into a forever moment. In the TV commercials you see someone being given a piece of jewelry and the moment they open it, time temporarily freezes in joy and delight. A pretty clever piece of advertisement, I think.

Anyhow, I was reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ yesterday, on my drive home, and realised that His very birth turned a special moment, because what birth isn't special, into a forever moment, the intersection of time and eternity, starting in a lowly stable and culminating at the cross, for the salvation of mankind.

Picture the scene with me...

The roman soldiers arrive to Nazareth, declaring that everyone must, by order of Caesar, return to their family's land, to be counted (and very likely taxed). Immediately the people of Nazareth are in an uproar, including Joseph. Joseph had an established business, a home, a Betrothed, friends, and a community of God-worshippers. He had everything he wanted, at home, in Nazareth, and now some distant money-hungry Caesar is forcing him to leave it all behind to go to Bethlehem. Except Mary, that is. She'd go with him but the baby!! The baby was due at any time. However Mary was adamant that she would go with him. So they leave.

They make the journey to a town 80 miles away, walking with many many other people who leave or join the group at different points. There's a constant noise of grumbling upset Israelites, wondering at how much this Caesar will end up taxing them, and frustrated with the unexpected journey. There's the constant sound of animals and the chatter of kids. Normally, to have such company would be a welcome to Joseph but his concern, his only concern, is the welfare of his cherished yet uncomfortable, swollen, pregnant wife. Because of her, he walks much slower and with greater care, than he would on any trip to worship in Jerusalem. He's always looking forward for the easier path and looking back to watch his wife, and the crowds pass them by.

They walk through Jerusalem, a noisy, bustling city but don't stop. They need to get to Bethlehem. Mary tries to hide her pain but Joseph sees that her discomfort is getting worse. The baby will arrive soon. Too soon! A day later, they arrive in what is normally a sleepy little hamlet to find that it too is bursting at the seams. People are everywhere. Today was the day. Mary told him that the babe is coming and has begun to moan. Joseph can't walk without having people bump into him at every side. Grabbing tightly on the donkey's bridle, he plunges into the crowd to find a place to stay. He stops at the first place...No Room! Everyone seems to be equally urgently trying to find a place. Next place...No Room! Mary gasps out in pain. Panicked, Joseph goes the next inn...No Room! Please, he shouts, my wife! But the door has been shut. He walks to the next inn, all while praying that Yahweh would provide once again for Mary and the babe...they don't need a fancy place, just somewhere beside the busy noisy street! His plan is to take Mary to a field, outside the gates, if this next place is also too full. He knocks...No Room! Wait, please, my wife is going to have a baby. Have mercy...anything will do, he pleads! The tired, very busy innkeeper pauses then says the only thing he can offer is his stable. They're welcomed to use it, if they'd like.

Joseph leads his donkey over to the stable, scoops up Mary and lays her on the hay. Just as the little town and the inn were filled to the max, so too was the stable. The people of Bethlehem was a constant noise in the background. But the stable had its own cacophony of sound: mooing, braying, baaing, (no oinking because this was a good Jewish inn), and clucking. While the stalls all contained a few animals each, there were still some that walked around Joseph and Mary, and had to be shooed away. Mary intently focused on her breathing and pain. Joseph wanted to help but not sure how after all, surely Yahweh knew that men simply don't help in any way with the birth of children. But Yahweh knew was He was doing and Joseph continued to trust.

And in the midst of town noise, the stable noise, Mary's pain, and Joseph's week-long stress, I can't help but imagine that, like those Ben Bridge commercials, time must have seemed to freeze the moment the baby boy emerged. The animals quieted, Joseph's stress disappeared, Mary felt relief and peace, the town stilled the moment the Almighty Infinite God became a weak, time-restricted human. The kind of moment that takes your breath away and leaves you with goosebumps.

Because after that moment, the Heavenly Choir burst out in song, the stars twinkled their very brightest, and the visitors started to appear to celebrate the long-awaited birth date of a Babe, who came to take away the sin of the world.

A holy night, indeed.

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