This story is pretty much the same as one I posted a few years ago when I experienced the Spiritual Exercises for the first time. I edited some things to better suit what I experienced now and added some comments to the end of it.
Entering, we greeted those already gathered. “Shalom! Baruch hashem Adonai!” “Peace! Bless the name of the Lord!” Unpacking our donkeys, we noticed that there were a lot of people already present. It seems that the whole clan had answered Caesar’s demand that we return for this census. Joseph helped Mary up to the living quarters while I got fodder for the donkeys. As I turned to climb the stairs I saw Joseph gesturing angrily.
“No guest room?! My wife is going to give birth at any moment! You must make room for her and the child!”
“No, we cannot. There are too many people. We cannot have one room given to her alone.”
“Wait,” one of Joseph’s aunts said. “We can fix a place for her down below. There is plenty of fresh straw. And, we can put blankets down to help make her more comfortable.”
Mary, being young and new to the family looked at Joseph and nodded. She was already suspect, being pregnant already. She did not want to give the family any more reason to look down on her.
Evening came. Mary was having contractions every few minutes. One of Joseph’s aunts acted as midwife. They made Mary as comfortable as possible.
Joseph was upstairs with the rest of the family. He was pacing the floor. One cousin scolded him, “Sit down and relax! Everything will be fine. This is not the first child ever born!”
But, everyone knew that many first pregnancies did not end well. Especially, when the mother was as young as Mary. In addition, both Joseph and Mary were anxious about the child. That strange man that had appeared nine months ago had said some very strange things about this child. As the birth drew near, the young parents wondered what kind of creature this was that was about to enter their world.
It seemed as though Mary had been laboring for hours. A final push, and the child arrived! With a cry, the child took his first breath. The midwife lifted the child and tied off the umbilicus.
“It’s a boy!”
Joseph gave a sigh of relief. The others began to pour bowls of wine and a party celebrating the birth of a first-born son began. They sang and danced and drank. When Mary was cleaned up and the child wrapped in clean cloths, Joseph was summoned to come down. He looked compassionately at Mary. She was so strong and brave…no longer a child. Joseph reached into the feeding trough in which his newborn son had been laid. He picked him up and lifted him toward heaven.
“My son, Yeshua!”
A little later I looked up and saw a small group of people entering the house. By the staves that they were carrying I could tell that they were shepherds.
“Who let this rabble in?” I thought. Shepherds were not usually welcome among respectable people. They walked over to where the child lay sleeping.
“We were out in the field tending the sheep. Suddenly, there was a great light in the sky! We feared that something was going to take our sheep and harm us! Then, we heard a voice saying that a child had been born…here…in Bethlehem. The voice said that this child is the Messiah who we have been waiting for!”
Another shepherd spoke up saying, “Then there was a great host praising God! They gave God glory and said that peace was to reign between God and those whom God favors!”
We poured bowls of wine for the shepherds and continued to celebrate throughout the night.
However, Mary had a puzzled look on her face. She said nothing!
As I reflected on this story, I wondered what my takeaway from it would be. Ignatius had encouraged us to see what ‘spiritual benefit’ there was. Yeah, there was the miracle of birth. But, that had been done for millenia. There was the worry and waiting. Again, not new. Even the shepherds showing up wasn’t that all unusual. Just some run-of-the-mill guys showing up to pay respects to the new parents.
Then, I realized something. This WAS my takeaway. What makes this so special is that it’s not all that special!
Ok, ok…I hear y’all whispering out there. I can see the looks on your faces. “What do you mean, not special?! This was Jesus’ birth! That makes it not only special, but unique.”
Yeah, I get it. But, let’s take a moment to think about it.
Yahweh, the God of god’s desired to show love to the world. God wanted to break down barriers and establish ‘table fellowship’ with us. What better way to do that than to join with us so that we can join with God?
This story reveals that the Son of God is just like one of us. Shoot! He IS one of us! He didn’t come down from some lofty mountain like some hero of old. He didn’t appear out of a cloud or flame. He didn’t come walking up out of the sea.
He was born from a woman…just like us. He had a family that loved him…just like us. He grew up in a specific culture in a a specific place and time.
- JUST LIKE US!
I thank God for this! We have a Savior who, in every respect, is just like us. This Jesus had the same experiences that we have. He had the same wants and needs. He knew what it was like to be loved and accepted. And, he knew what it was like to be hated and rejected.
And, it all began with a simple birth, just like ours.
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