The Night Mary and Joseph met Jesus- Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-21
Updated: Jan 4
Dusk was approaching, so Joseph, although weary from walking since dawn pressed the pace of our trek faster. Holding a short reign on the gentle donkey that I sat upon, he kept command of the weary beast and ushered us forward on the uphill passage. Bethlehem could finally be seen in the distance. The long nine day journey was almost over. Joseph had to take an indirect route to avoid the dangers of the Samaritan territory. How grateful I am that Joseph allowed us to move slowly throughout the whole trip for the baby was so low in my abdomen. Every bump jostled him up and down hard against my hip bones. Clenching my teeth, not to utter any discomfort to worry Joseph, we continued onward. We must not be caught in the dark on the roads for that was when bandits wreaked havoc because they can approach with surprise. The sun's passing will also bring a chill to the air, so I must not slow Joseph's pace; he knew what was best, and so did I. The Lord is watching, and we ARE fine.
The hooves slipping off jutted rocks on the rough road causes eddies of dust to swirl up toward our faces and sting our eyes. The discomfort will all be behind us very soon. The thought of a bed and rest couldn't come fast enough. Despite our hunger pains, I just wanted to sleep. It is best that I distract myself with the wonders of this baby. I still can't fathom how God would find me worthy to carry this babe. I would have guessed that the birth of the messiah would be in a castle with a princess. The brilliantly shining angel was spectacular in height and knew my name. He knew my name! He said that he was named Gabriel and sent by God. His words are forged into my memory, "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus." With both hands wrapped under the weight of my belly, I try to help support the ride for the baby. Sharp pangs of pain run down my aching back. I do hope the baby is not stressed. With a new decree from Caesar Augustus over the land for a census of the population, Joseph was wise to get us to Bethlehem to register before the baby was born. It would be much safer to travel without a new born babe. This trip had to be done, and we go with God! We WILL be fine- forcing my thoughts back to the angel's words and not my aches, I reflect on this miracle of conception. Gabriel said, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. . . . for with God nothing shall be impossible." Humbly, I marvel at His love for me to be so blessed to care for His son while on Earth. God is my strength, and my trust in Him will not waiver. I am his maidservant and will not question all that He desires for me to experience taking care of this gift of life. The pangs of pain intensely increase where all my energy must be placed in the ability to endure the intermittent agony. Josephs notices my distress, and his eyes reflect my sorrow. His determination to take care of me is consoling, and he lifts me from the saddle to allow me to stretch. It is short lived for we must get into the gates before they close for the evening. I just squeeze my eyes shut and bear down the pain while praying for God to grant me strength to endure that last bit of this journey. I just need to remember to breath!
A jolt to a sudden stop alerts me that we have arrived! Getting directions to the local inn, we move ahead. Revived by the culmination of our travel, I thank God. Bethlehem is a small town, so there is just one inn located near the gates by the watering trough for animals. He leads the donkey to get water, and gently settles me back on the ground when the gripping pain returns and runs first down my back then moving to the lower front. My knees buckle in weakness, and Joseph quickly supports me and leads me to sit on a bale of hay nearby. Gasping for breath, I knew the inevitable was to occur. The baby was going to be born tonight. Quickly waving to Joseph to get our room and help, he struggled to leave me, but knew he must. Racing to the inn, he disappeared out of view. Lord, what shall I do? Please provide the way; please provide the women to help me. Oh how I wish my mother was with me and my aunts... Lord, give me the peace of your presence over me. I am scared! I am feeling so scared. My thoughts are obliterated with the rushing onset of yet another burst of intense contractions wracking my body without seeming to let up. Then finally when I think that I will pass out, it stops. I can breathe. Joseph is taking much longer than I expected, I wonder if there is trouble with so many doing the same journey into town. I must pray for him. Lord, please provide provision for us- we need you to help us, to guide us to....."Mary, Mary!" Looking up I see Joseph running toward me with two women in tow. The next wave of pain consumes my energy and my ability to answer. Joseph quickly explains that the inn is full, but they have a stable that will shelter us. I am relieved to know there is provision, and I quickly thank God for answering my prayer. Forgive us Lord for not getting here earlier and providing a decent room, but we promise to care and do our best with your child. Grateful for their aid, we make our way to the back of the inn only stopping to allow me to endure the recurrent contractions.
The inn owner and Joseph attend to making a cleaned out stall with plenty of hay while the women tend to me with their ministrations. The men brought hot water and then stepped out from our presence until the beautiful cry of a baby broke through the air. Gently the baby was swaddled in clean cloths and given to me to hold and nurse. Joseph creatively took the feeding trough and filled it with fresh hay to use as a manger. With awe and appreciation and praise on our lips to God for getting us here just in time, we meet Jesus this silent starry night. Surrounded by soft bleating sheep and a few donkeys rather than servants and princes ....laying on hay rather than silk bedding....born to a humble insignificant couple rather than kings and queens. What was God's plan? Was this a display of how His love was for the common people as it was for the notables and people of honor - no respecter of one's station- a savior for all. We just sat and reflected on what the angel told Joseph in the dream God gave him, "thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Joseph being given anointing from above recalls scripture from Isaiah that was fulfilled tonight, the prophet, saying, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Filled with joy, I lay Jesus in his cozy manger when suddenly we hear a crowd outside the stable. Joseph steps out to see what is occurring only to return within seconds with a line of shepherds behind him. One by one they were filing inside the small barn.
One shepherd speaks up and explains, "We were sleeping in the fields outside of Bethlehem when the heavens opened up with brilliant blinding light and an angel appeared and spoke. ‘Don’t be afraid. I have exciting news. The Messiah was born today in Bethlehem.’ At that moment, many angels appeared in the sky, saying: ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ Then the legion of angels disappeared- the curtain of heaven closed in a fell swoop. We quickly gathered to find that we all just saw what we saw and looking up still, we noticed a radiant star looming in the starry night sky. The luminous glow seemed to point downward toward the city like an arrow. We followed it and abided by the instruction to find a stable." Then silence overtook everyone- no one could speak- our brains trying to make sense of it all. The perfect baby cooing and completely content sleeping in the manger. Thank you God for this moment! All my fears of the day swallowed up in mere minutes with the arrival of Jesus.
I stood there amazed at God's bidding. He didn't call the rulers or Pharisees and the Sadducees, but rather the lowly shepherds to herald this glorious moment. I will treasure in my heart all that has occurred today and never forget. This King of Kings, this Lord of Lords has seared my heart and I hold praise that begins from deep within; my love has no bounds, and I am forever touched and changed. This little babe whose earthly life has started a time clock ticking to a new future that will not only touch me but rock the world.
*Photo above of Joseph with Mary on the donkey is by Joseph Bickey-Altus Fine Art
Questions For Reflection:
Mary lived a life of prayer, praise and obedience, and the result was that she got to experience many "glory to God" moments to treasure. She also experienced fear, stress, hardship, ridicule of shame, a broken heart (leaving her family to live in Egypt and later her husband dying and then Jesus tortured and crucified) and the list can go on. No one is spared difficult trials and trouble. Despite it all, she constantly stayed the course to stand firm in her faith and trust God with her life.
Reflect how well you accept what comes your way- Do you complain or pray? Do you trust and praise God or do you cry and cast ill thoughts about God and His faithfulness towards you? What you choose to do, determines your measure of peace.
Do you recall a time that you had fear causing anxiety, but when you spent time with Jesus, it all seemed to become less of a burden and fear melted away to trust and peace?
The account of Jesus’ birth is recorded in the first chapters of the Gospel of Matthew and of Luke. Luke does a more detailed recording which is consistent with his style of writing. He even states that in the opening of his letter to Theophilus which later it was called the Gospel of Luke: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke would have spoken to Mary to get his account.
No one can dictate where they would be born nor choose their name. In Micah 5:2-4, we see the prophecy of Bethlehem as the place of birth for the messiah.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
Incredibly, Jesus' name means "savior, or deliverer or rescuer" -it is from the English version of the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua (Joshua is the English spelling) which means "to deliver, to save, the Lord saves." This word is a combination of Ya, an abbreviation for Yahweh, the name of Israel’s God (Exodus 3:14); and the verb yasha, meaning “rescue,” “deliver,” or “save.”
Bethlehem means the House of Bread which is where the "Bread of Life" was born. Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life. Bread brings nourishment and life to humans and should be taken daily for health. Just as we should seek Jesus daily for healthy spiritual growth.
Surrounded by meadows, Bethlehem was a town where many shepherds lived for the first born sheep were used as sacrifices at the Jewish temple. The Temple was located about six miles away from Bethlehem in Jerusalem. How fitting that Jesus, The Good Shepherd who gathers his sheep should be born there. He is also the 'Lamb of God' who would be sacrificed for our sins, like the first born perfect lambs from Bethlehem.
Mary expressed praise to God in a prayer (or maybe a song) recorded in Luke 1:46-56 which is known as “The Magnificat.” She was a young woman of prayer and praise. Mary knew that her Aunt Elizabeth had also experienced a miraculous conception. In her case, she had conceived from her husband in her old age. Her baby was John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin. Mary’s beautiful prayer of praise was given to Elizabeth and her husband a priest, Zechariah:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
There is one way to get through life with help and that is placing your HOPE in Jesus as your savior. He too knows your name...call out to Him for help, for guidance and wisdom...praise Him when the answers come and for all the good that is in your life. Lastly, be obedient like Mary and Joseph to His direction. If the Bible says stay away from this or that and beware of bad company, then do so. The "don't dos" in the Bible are to save you from paths that can lead you astray, lost and broken like sheep who are blinded from danger. Remember to trust in The Good Shepherd and follow His advice. Your life too will be forever greatly blessed.
Read the account as it is written in the Bible:
Luke 1:26-38 Luke 2:1-21
Isaiah 9:6 (A child will be born)