The Christmas Story...
This is a webpage about the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale...we avoid politics and religion here normally.
Today is an exception.
I felt inspired to share. I even found a short video that I have added at the bottom to tell the tale, but, for now, here is how I see...
The Christmas Story...let's think about it a little...
We begin our story by talking about the government and taxes. (Nothing has changed in over 2000 years, has it!)
At least today we can just mail a check or even pay electronically and when they want to count us they come to our homes. (See, we have had some progress...) But, in those days (before cell phones, if you can imagine), not only did you have to travel for several days to pay your taxes, but the wife, pregnant or not, had to make the trip with you!
Don't you know that had to be a tough trip to make...I don't care how many blankets you laid across that donkeys back, there was no way that ride was gonna be comfortable.
Nevertheless, this young couple, in obedience to the law of the land and for the sole purpose of paying their fair share of taxes, made this long arduous trek in the most difficult of situations imaginable and then, upon arrival, learned they had to go sleep in a stable. (I love my wife and she says she loves me, but I'm not sure she would have been saying loving things to me when I came away from the registration desk with a key to the stable! "What! Didn't you tell them I'm pregnant!!!)
At any rate, this young couple, exhausted and placed in a setting that likely did not include box springs or a mint on a pillow, but did likely include odors and sounds very different from what one might experience in today's travels, quickly learned...what else?....that their baby was going to be born that very night.
Woo Hoo! Perfect timing! I mean. Can you imagine? I wonder if they could find any one to help? Did they have the baby alone? Just the two of them surrounded by the animals? Could be. Details were not recorded of this part of the story.
We do know whether from some kind soul or advanced preparation on Mary's part (Okay...maybe Joseph would have thought of it, but I'm betting it was the mother.) they at least had some swaddling clothes to wrap the baby in after birth and they were able to drag up a feed trough and likely some hay to provide a baby bed or manger for the newborn. Don't you know they were proud and happy and exhausted at the end of that day!
(Now, I skipped a little back story, but I'll add it here. Both Mary and Joseph had received personal one on one messages from an angel...Mary in person and Joseph in a dream...about this baby. These messages were pretty straight forward that this was a very special child. I mean, you know, we all think our kids are special, but most of us aren't told before conception we're going to be responsible for bearing and raising the Savior of the World...right? I'd be pretty overwhelmed by the thought, myself.)
Exhaustion and the situation Mary and Joseph found themselves may have had them second guessing the messages they had received several months before...think about it. If you were sitting in the dark after having bedded down your newborn in a feed trough in a stable after a heck of a trip...wouldn't you be thinking, "Really, God? Is this little baby lying here in a manger really Your Son and the Savior of the World?" I don't know how you would have felt, but I may have been scratching my head a little.
Regardless, God cleared things up pretty quickly. He sent a host of angels (that means bunch of them...personally, one would have been sufficient to get my attention, but a "host" certainly provided notice that this was a special event) to shepherds (Shepherds...responsible people, mind you, but probably not the top of their class in school or the wealthiest people in the world, either...right?...just good common folks...like you and me.)
Now, the shepherds were "abiding." Abiding means to be steadfast or enduring in their efforts. These shepherds were on duty in the fields to watch over and protect their sheep as they lay gathered for the evening...gathered where wolves or coyotes or whatever wild animals of the day could come and get them a late night snack. These gentlemen were wide awake. They weren't laying around dreaming or drinking and partying and hallucinating. These folks were on duty...alert.
So, when this angel appeared you can bet they were taken aback ("sore" means "very" in the context of the story.) These shepherds were "sore afraid" or very afraid, because they were alert and watching when suddenly out of nowhere appeared an angel! That was NOT a normal event in their lives.
Taken aback or not, the angel had their attention, especially after the "heavenly host" joined in to emphasize the message for the night that God's son had been born and where he could be found. Naturally, the shepherds wanted to go see. And go they did!
Meanwhile, back at the stable, Mary and Joseph are trying to get a little shut eye amidst the exhaustion and joy and puzzlement of the whole day. Don't you know that in one sense the last thing they wanted was a bunch of visitors? Still. Any doubt about this being God's son were quickly erased by the arrival of the shepherds with their stories of angels and heavenly hosts and whatnot.
We don't know what Joseph thought about it, but we do know that Mary "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." I'd say that was an understatement, if ever there were one.
Mary, likely about 16 years of age, pondered a great deal on it all. And, a lot there was to ponder!
For we are still pondering on this event 2000 years later.
Regardless of your religious convictions, there is no doubt that the birth of Jesus some 2000 years or so ago was the most significant event in mankind's history.
Personally, I believe Jesus came to show us how to live our lives in this world and, then, after doing so perfectly as none of us can, he paid the price for our sins so that we could be perfect in the sight of God.
Today, I celebrate the birth of Jesus and hope that as you enjoy the day's festivities that you take the time to ponder the Christmas story and understand the reason for the season.
Merry Christmas everyone!