"She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).
The hours passed in the lonely stable. Finally the pains seemed to be as one. The moment had arrived. Mary cried out, straining with all her might, and fell back onto the blanket. Nothing. Then a tiny sound, a whimper, then a loud cry. It was a boy, a beautiful, healthy, brand-spanking-new baby boy.
Joseph held up the baby for Mary to see. "Let me hold him," she said. And she did. There she lay for a moment. Now the sleep she had fought for hours came to her eyes, the stress of the long trip finally catching up with her. More than anything in all the world, she wanted to go to sleep. But before she did, she picked up a rough piece of cloth, tore it in strips, and wrapped the baby tightly. Then she looked for a place to put him. The only place she could find was a feeding trough--carved out of stone, rough-hewn, with bits of food stuck to the bottom. It was perfect. She laid him in the feeding-trough and then lay down to go to sleep. It had been a long, long day. As she drifted off to sleep, she wondered where they would go in the morning.
He didn't sleep just yet. Too much to think about. What a lucky man he was. He looked first at his wife-so tired and yet so beautiful-and then at the baby boy-surely the most beautiful baby in the world.
How strange, yet how fitting that it should all end like this. It had happened just as the angel said it would. He didn't worry about naming the baby. The angel had taken care of that. "Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
How strange that it should happen to him-Joseph-just an ordinary carpenter. And to Mary-an innocent teenage girl. Who could figure it all out? Immanuel, the angel said, God with us. Mary, who had never known Joseph, now delivering her first child. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son" (Isaiah 7:14).
That's the way it was that first Christmas night 2000 years ago. Baby sleeping, mother dreaming, father thinking, and God watching over it all.
And so our journey is finished.
We set out with one thought in mind: "Let's go straight to Bethlehem." I hope you are smiling right now because you should be. We made it! We're in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph and Jesus.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
We close these Advent devotions with a traditional Christmas benediction:
May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever. Amen.
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