And she laid Him in a manger for there was no
How many times have we read this passage and wondered why Joseph and Mary had not planned ahead and reserved a hotel room or at least a bed and breakfast accommodation for one night? The census was a decree known through the land and Mary and Joseph knew that at some point they had to go to the town in which Joseph was born. This young couple had made a covenant to be together even though the baby she carried was not Joseph’s and she was nearing her delivery time. What a stressful situation they both faced! An unknown destination, a pending birth of their child and no clear plan as to where to stay. No doubt they were feeling the stress of the journey with each movement of the donkey as they rode and walked towards Bethlehem.
Night came as they were arriving in the village and there was no place to stay. Joseph was getting desperate for a place to stay. Mary had been having contractions and was in labour. Her time was soon to deliver. How could she under the circumstances be comfortable? Where would her baby be born? Her own family was far away and Joseph’s family were in the area but they could hardly receive them under the circumstances. Yet God provided a warm clean space- a barn outside of an inn full of animals of different kinds and from different places.
What does Mary do with the newborn baby? She wraps him up in warm blankets and gently places him in a make shift crib. This crib was used only hours before to feed all the animals and now it is filled with a baby boy new to the world. Mary places this baby into the world where animals eat, and yet as she does this, the hope she has for this baby has just begun to be shared with the world.
As we come to the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth as a human baby boy to what extent have we placed our hope? The Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a favourite hymn of this wonderful season which celebrates the gifts of God to us in Jesus- hope, peace, joy and love. One of the lines we sing states, “the hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight.” Do we really believe that Christ came to give us hope not just for Christmas but for all the moments of our lives when we need to have something to look at beyond ourselves? Are we finding this hope when we remember Mary who gave birth and then placed this baby in a feeding trough? Would you have done this when there were hungry animals around? Where do you place your hope?
Without hope what are we? Without trusting in God’s gift to us in Jesus, do we have hope beyond ourselves? Just what do you pray for and hope for as we continue to prepare for Christ’s birth in our lives?
Let us pray:
Holy God of grace and love, we praise you that through Jesus we do receive the gift of hope. We pray O God that you would open our hearts to know you and to love you as you love us- unconditionally. Enable us to believe that the baby Mary placed in the manger is your Son who alone fulfilled your promise to bring new life and new hope to all who would believe. Hear us we pray in the name of the Christ child, Jesus. Amen.