Have you ever stopped to think about the scenes leading up to Jesus' birth in their very human terms? We often wrap the Christmas story in a halo-like glow of wonder and the comfort of knowing the end of the story! But in between the awe of angelic visitation, the shining star and the rich gifts from the Magi, there was an impossible promise, wagging tongues of a scandalized community, a confused fiance, heartbroken parents, a bony donkey's back and a very dirty stable. Mary's blessing came with a lot of contradictions!
God's promises are often like that. Abraham was promised nations when he and Sarah were well beyond the age of natural ability to bear children. Moses was sent to set God's people free from the most powerful nation on earth with a one-line memo and a stick. Burning bush or not, when you think about it in those terms, we might have found ourselves stuttering when that message was delivered, too.
As we marvel at the miracle of Christmas, we thought it would be interesting to look at the story of Jesus' birth through the eyes of the participants . What does God's dream look like as it unfolds in the midst of the hard-press of everyday life?
We took the liberty to imagine in a series of vignettes from the perspective of Mary, Joseph and a lamb on the night Jesus was born. We all have had promises from the Lord. Whether it came as a still whisper, a prophetic word or an angelic visitation, your encounter planted a seed of God's dream that is for you and for future generations. We hope that these vignettes will encourage you as you celebrate Christmas and press through to carry His dreams to term in your life.
Magnificent! - A View through the Eyes of Mary
Magnificent! The angel that came was magnificent. And when he said, "The Most High will overshadow you! You're going to have His Son!"...what was I to say? To do?
What would you say but, "Yes, Lord! However You plan it. Whatever You want! I want that, too! Here I am – your servant. Let it be with me just like You say!"
We were simple folk in Nazareth, and poor. Joseph was a carpenter and I was just a girl. Not even a woman yet, really. A virgin to this world in every way. Those had been days of happiness for me. Our betrothal period almost fulfilled. The blessings of the whole town were on us every day. The contract had been agreed on. And in a few weeks we would celebrate the wedding. I would be a wife!
Then the angel came with his pronouncement:
"A child given! A son – born to us! One who would save His people from their sins!"
I was naive at first. I thought everyone would rejoice in wonder with me. They wondered alright. They wagged their heads and whispered and avoided me once the news was out. I was pregnant, and nobody believed the babe conceived in me was the Child of God!
Even Joseph withdrew at first. And gossip ran like wildfire. Father was angry and mother just wept and turned away. Their good name was ruined right along with mine.
"Best you not be seen around here for a while," they decided. So they sent me to my cousins'.
Elizabeth and Zacharias were expecting, too. Their news had been received with joy by all. She had been barren her whole life until one day, while serving in the temple, another angel came. Zacharias couldn't believe it and the angel took his voice away. But only for a sign.
They took me in. My cousin clapped her hands and danced, embracing me like no one else had done. Zacharias could only grin from ear to ear and nod in hearty approval.
"Magnificent!" Elizabeth shouted, "This thing the Lord has done for us! Has done for you!"
I confess I shed a tear. "But they're all angry and confused at home," I said. She skipped across the room, her pregnant belly bouncing, as she came and held me tight.
"Don't worry, child! One day you'll be famous for your virtue! Everyone will call you blessed!"
I was there when she brought forth their son and cousin Zacharias got his voice back. "John!" he named him. What a voice that boy had! He wailed as he took in his first few breaths of air as if he thought the whole Judean desert ought to listen.
My own tummy was "showing" by the time I got back to town. But Joseph was now accepting because he had had his own God-encounter. Then, as if our troubles weren't enough, the governor called for a census. Joseph had to sign up in his hometown, Bethlehem. Its only claim to fame was what a prophet had once said: "A Ruler will be born in you, O little town. He'll sit on David's throne and extend His Kingdom around the world from sea to shining sea!"
There was not a single place for us to sit – or even lay our heads when we arrived. My heavy body ached and I was anxious as Joseph helped me off our donkey. All the while the child asleep inside me seemed not disturbed at all. Not even when the innkeeper threw up his hands and said, "Sorry folks, pregnant or not, don't got a single spot where you can make your bed. You can hole up in the stable," he shrugged, "out there with the livestock if you want, I guess."
So that's how a cave on a hillside became His birthing chamber. A manger, where animals fed, the cradle for the Firstborn.
When the pains came and I drew close to my delivery, Joseph paced and wrung his hands. He tried to pray. And just when I thought I couldn't give it one more push the Baby came.
We wrapped Him up and held Him close. My sorrow turned to joy. Looking on His sleeping brow I could not help but marvel. We beheld, it seemed, the shining face of God.
He reached out His hand.
And as His tiny fingers curled over mine, I felt that He was lending me the comfort and the strength that I had longed for. As if it were me, not He, who had been delivered.
Shepherds came. They told of angel armies hovering over the fields where they kept flocks. And kings traveled from a long way off; they brought Him gifts fit for a king. Before we knew it, there was no more room even in our tiny stable! They all came to see Him. We all beheld His glory!
And I'm still bursting with God's good news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior!
He took one good look at me, and look what happened –
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
I won't forget what He has done. He alone is High and Mighty!
His mercy flows down in wave on wave to those in awe before Him.
He bares His arm and shows His strength.
He scatters the bluffing braggarts.
He knocks tyrants off their high horses, pulls victims out of the mud, and lays out a feast for the starving!
He is Magnificent!
He cradled His Child in His arms.
And piled on mercies just like He promised us from Abraham and right up to now.
What a Dream! - A View through the Eyes of Joseph
I had been going over this whole thing again and again in my mind. We were formally engaged,betrothed we called it. And you know in our town in those days it meant we were as good as married, in a manner of speaking. So when Mary drops this news on me about this...this...thing that happened to her – an angel showing up and all, and that now she was expecting a child, what was I to imagine?
My family! Her family! Mary's reputation down the tubes. Nazareth was not a big town, you know. Of all the girls, Mary had always been the most modest – the most pure! Trusted by everyone and known for her close walk with God! And now this?
I didn't know what to think, or what to do. The whole thing sounded pretty far-fetched. A child who was "born of the Most High?" and would "save His people from their sins?" We're talkin' Messiah here! The One we had waited for since the promise to Abraham.
And of course, those of us who were devout knew the prophecies. But our Mary – that virgin? The one Micah and Isaiah told of?
The gossipers were burnin' up the town. It swept through like a brush fire during a summer drought. People, especially the men in her family, took a dark countenance toward me, too.
And Mary was being shunned by almost everybody. Everybody except her cousins, Elizabeth and old Zac. Mary had been sent out to stay with them after she announced the news. Zac was serving his round as priest before that and lost his voice until recently when their miracle boy, John, was born. Everybody knew Elizabeth was barren. They told Mary it was all part of the plan. They backed her up from day one.
In my heart I figured the quietest way out for all of us was for me to divorce her without a big to-do.
So this was my frame of mind when I went to bed that night. I lay down with a heavy heart and tossed and turned for a good long while before I finally drifted off.
What a dream! White light and glory everywhere! And right out of the mists a man, a BIG man. He was an angel alright! His voice was like trumpets and thunder – full of joy! But stern with authority, too. It was like the angel chided me for being such a scaredy-cat. "Marry the girl!" he said. "Give the boy this name: Immanuel!"
I thought I could hear the voices of the old prophets echo in his word: "God is with us!"
I woke up in a sweat and jumped out of bed. I was on my knees! "Shema Israel, Hear oh Israel, the Lord is one!" The One who works wonders. The One who visits His people. The One who answers prayer and brings deliverance! It left no doubt in my mind. This was the Lord. I knew what I had to do.
I couldn't wait till sunrise. I woke up my brother for a witness and we went straight over to Mary's place. I did exactly what the angel said. I wanted the whole town to know I was standing by her, too. Of course there was no big wedding because people still had their suspicions.
Mary stayed with her folks and I stayed on at my place – I wanted people to see that we had not touched each other. That this babe she carried was not the child of men. He was the Son of the Most High! And He would save us from our sins!
A Sheep's Tale - A View through the Eyes of a Sheep in the Pasture
It started out a night like every other. Cold enough to see our breath as we huddled together. The shepherds were settling down for the night, too. Some of them already snored away, wrapped up in the wool we gave them. They lay dozing on the ground near the fires. These were all good shepherds. Simple, honest, God-fearers, who brought us to pasture and fresh water day to day.
The chief shepherd took the first watch that night. He reclined across the door to our fold. His shepherd's rod for a weapon beside him, his own body as the gate and we all, like sheep, rested easy. One of the younger shepherds squatted near the boss man. It was the shepherd's boy. They talked and laughed in low, pleasant, voices. Voices we knew well. The voices we followed every morning when they led us out to pasture.
I eyed the chief shepherd with interest. He seemed to have his eye on me. He looked me over every night, running wizened hands through my wool, handling every joint and checking my ears and teeth with care.
"Look at him! Not a single defect, this one," he told the boy that night. "A perfect lamb and still under a year by Pesach."
The shepherd's staff separated every hair of my fine wool as he talked. "We'll show this one to the priests," he said.
The shepherd-in-training took my head in his hands. With serious eyes, just like his father's, he studied mine.
"Imagine, Abba! A lamb without a spot! Could this be the one we've waited for? A lamb from our house to be the one to take away our sins?" I had no human tongue to answer, and so I just stood there, silent. Then suddenly it happened and everyone went dumb! Even the shepherds lost their tongues!
At first they thought it was a band of raiders – a Roman garrison or invaders from Midian. Every shepherd was instantly on his feet, stumbling out of slumber. Every watchman grabbed his shepherd's rod and armed himself for battle. But when no slingstones flew overhead striking our shepherds down, we knew something else was up.
The flock pushed close together, our heads all straining upward as thousands, millions, rushed toward us. Streaming from the hills! Coming out of Heaven! Every star bursting in glory and rank upon rank of great winged warriors, their voices raised like ...well...ANGELS rejoicing in majestic Heaven-song!
"Hosanna!" the angels sang. "This is it! The good news you've been waiting for! God is with you! You're about to see Him walking in your midst!"
Suddenly, before this shining host, our shepherds all fell down. We had never seen them so afraid. We had never seen them cower. Not before a bear or a lion on the prowl. But all around us they were on their faces, shaking in their sandals!
It lasted only a moment and then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone. The night was cold and dark and just as quiet as before. But the air was alive and quivering with joy and promise everywhere.
The stars shone as they had before the glory blaze—all the stars but one. It moved across the sky casting bright beams on our shepherds' heads. It travelled, beckoning them to follow. It went on toward David's town. The little town of Bethlehem, the House of Bread.
"What does it mean?" someone asked. "What did they say?"
"They said tonight a Savior is born. The Christ – the One we've waited for."
"So what are we waiting for?" another shouted. "Let's get on over to Bethlehem and see this thing for ourselves!"
The old shepherd picked me up and handed me to his son.
"Keep your eye on him," he said. "I'm entrusting the whole flock to your care. I've shown you what to do. I'll be back soon. Stay alert and I'll reward you when I come!"
Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda
Chavda Ministries International