“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7)
Have you ever wondered about Joseph and Mary? What type of people they were? We know Joseph sought to abide by the laws of the Jews. It was obvious to him that Mary must have done something improper, since she was with child but he knew it was not his child. But he did not want to embarrass or shame her or her family. He was also a religious man, because he believed the angel. And he was a man who accept the obligations set before him. And evidently a man who came from a noble heritage. Just the type of man who would make a good father.
Mary was a Godly and loyal woman. In her advanced pregnancy she could have stayed home, with her family of birth. But she knew she was pledged to Joseph and decided to accompany him on the journey he had to make. It is said that a woman will leave her family to join her husband’s family. So she went along with him to be counted as part of his household.
They were poor, but proud. And made due with what they. And they were honored by the Divine.
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Verses 8 – 14)
And what of the shepherds? Shepherds were men of sturdy stock and brave heart, making their livelihood in the outdoors were conditions were not easy, and the pay was not great. But they were men of honor, trusted with the assets of others; or men who invested in themselves by investing in livestock that they raised and hoped to sell in order to earn money to live. They were also travelers who would spread far and wide the story of their adventures. And that night, outside of the town of Bethlehem an incredible story unfolded.
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ” (Verses 15 – 18, 20)
There were other players in this story as well; Joseph’s parents who may or may not have traveled to Bethlehem to be counted. What might they thought of their new soon-to-be daughter-in-law? We do not know their story, but we can surmise they raised a son worthy to be the human father of Jesus the Messiah. And what of Mary’s parents? They raised Mary to be a woman of God, and trusted that Mary and Joseph were doing right by traveling. Perhaps they raised many prayers to Yahweh to keep this couple safe.
The nativity story seems to spring up in the gospels, but it has history and background that we do not often consider. The family line of Jesse gave rise to King David, and eventually became the human guardians of the infant Jesus. In Christianity the most predominance is given to Mary, as the mother of the Lord Jesus. At intervals she appears in his story; once or twice in the gospels (that is, according to some of the gospel writers) not in the most favorable light. For the most part however, Mary is the quintessential Madonna. As I have aged and grown in faith, I have tried to model myself on Mary cultivating wisdom and serenity. And of course, the characteristic of pondering . . . .
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)
I hope, beloved reader, ponder deep and well – considering what you have encountered in your life, and the things to come. However, Mary, Joseph, and the other cast of the nativity story did not just ponder. They also acted. Joseph protected Mary from public scorn, maybe at the risk of his reputation. Mary traveled with her betrothed and gave birth a good distance from her home and family. The shepherds traveled to seek out the baby Jesus, as did the wise men who are not part of this passage. And as the nativity story grew to the story of Jesus’ mission and ministry, John the Baptist arose and gave his life for his convictions. The disciples walked away from the planned lives and to apostleship. And what of us, beloved reader? We have committed our energy, our resources, and our lives to follow the Divine. The story of hope and salvation moves forward on our efforts and commitment, just as it did through the efforts and commitment of those who came before.
May you ponder deeply, but as a result of that pondering may you carry out now and in the year to come the hope and salvation that was gifted to us at Christmas time. Shalom & Selah!