Merry Christmas Eve!
Rise and shine came early this morning so I could finish some last-minute cooking before we head to my church's morning Christmas Eve service, then to Christmas with my family, and back to another Christmas Eve service.
The house is quiet and I'm pondering what Mary and Joseph's Christmas Eve was like so many years ago. They didn't know it was Christmas Eve, of course. All they knew was they'd been traveling for days. They were probably tired of the journey and the crowds. Who wouldn't be?
The last few miles must have dragged on for what seemed like forever.
As a first-time mother, Mary's labor probably took a while. If she delivered Jesus during the hours before midnight, contractions likely began well before the end of their travel.
They were first-time parents with increasingly frequent contractions, still on the road, and, when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, no room in the inn. I wonder if Joseph panicked, if Mary was afraid, if they struggled not to complain or speak harsh words. I wonder if they were, instead, so certain of God's plan that peace filled their hearts. How did they pray?
When someone directed them to the stable-cave, they must have heaved a sigh of relief for the promise of shelter from the night and privacy for the delivery. When the baby came, did Joseph know what to do? Did he find someone to help him?
We don't know those final details, but we know there was a long, tiring journey, a disappointing arrival, and a delivery of their first-borne in a most unlikely place. In a moment, though, God, wrapped in the flesh of an infant, invaded their world and everything changed. The Redemptive One drew so close, Mary and Joseph could feel His breath and kiss His cheek.
Angels sang. A star shone bright. Shepherds rose to their feet and ran to find the newborn King.
Emmanuel, God with us, had arrived.
The Long Awaited Savior was here.
The dividing point of history, when man no longer had to work his way to God, because God had made His way to man, had finally come.
That beautiful, world-changing moment is why we celebrate two thousand years later. It's why we rejoice, sing, give, love, and hope at Christmas time.
Christ has come. Life is made new.
As we celebrate around the table with friends and family, give and receive gifts, sing carols, and listen to the Christmas story one more time, let's be sure to remember the reason for our festivities.
Welcome to our world, sweet Jesus. We're glad You came.
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