SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Just Wondering About That Night
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 12:00 AM
"And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn." (Luke 2: 6-7)
Don't you find it amazing how the gospel writers, led by God's Spirit, chose to give us such meager details concerning what Edersheim rightly labels "the world's greatest event"? -- the birth of our Savior. O how our hearts, at times, long for more information -- to know more, for instance, about that trip south to Bethlehem from Nazareth. It couldn't have taken less than a week, given Mary's condition. What must those days of laborious travel in the late stages of her pregnancy have been like for this couple? Not a word of this is given to us.
Then, as Edersheim also mentions, we naturally might long for more information about the scene with which Joseph and Mary were confronted in Bethlehem. The air must have been charged with excitement as the normal population of that sleepy village suddenly became swollen with the influx of census refugees. Imagine the extra demands, not only for lodging, but for food and other supplies - and not by one or two travelers, but by dozens. What a chaotic scene must have greeted them as people scurried about searching for the items they most desperately needed. What a noisy place little Bethlehem must have become. And what a marvel that God should have chosen this place - and this time - to insert His Son among men!
And not much is really known about the place where Joseph and Mary took shelter. We're told it was a "stable". Tradition marks the spot within a cave which today is capped by the Church of the Nativity. There is no way to be absolutely sure, and it's as good a guess as any. But there remains a longing within us to know more. Surely it was snug and warm. You can imagine the smell of the animals which were present. For any that did not grow up on a farm, that thought might not be a pleasant one. All the animals in modern-day nativity scenes look so clean and scrubbed, with hides and wool brushed and curried. Surely it wasn't like that for the wooly inhabitants of this stable. But still, while the accommodations might appear to have been less than optimal, there was a wonderful measure of seclusion and privacy which the stable afforded this couple at the time of Mary's labor.
Nothing is mentioned of a mid-wife of any sorts that may have helped Joseph with the delivery. Personally, I don't picture Joseph as being any more adept at assisting a birth than I would be - and I'll confess that I would have been no help at all! But then, maybe he was more versatile and gladly took on a more enhanced role than the typical pacing father-to-be. We're simply not told. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - for I certainly have no interest in reading about all the screaming and sweating and pushing. I'm perfectly satisfied with my first look at the infant only after the cleaning up and swaddling. And, in His grace, that's what God chose to give us.
Mary gave birth to her son, and with torn strips of cloth (probably brought with her from home), she wrapped him up warmly and placed him upon fresh hay (my own imagination here) in a manger that Joseph confiscated from the animals. It wasn't much, but they weren't complaining. Finally Mary was able to lie back and rest as the baby Jesus was safely ensconced in his makeshift cradle. For the first time in over a week, she and Joseph could breathe sighs of relief as the long-anticipated event had finally arrived and God has seen them safely through the difficulties.
It wasn't long, however, before unexpected visitors started arriving. I can't help believe that this must have come as a bit of a surprise for Joseph and Mary. Perhaps there was a knock on the stable door which solicited a response from one of them like: "Who in the world could that be at this hour?" Maybe not. The door was opened and several of the locals walk in - out-of-breath-shepherds who had just rushed down from the Judean hills. What a sight! These men, rough and ready, must have entered with a bit of awed shyness, removing their caps upon entering, as if entering a sacred place (which it was). Their eyes, wide with incredulous wonder, spoke volumes, and they must have just stood there for the longest moment to take in the very sign of which they had been told. Then, almost in a race with each other, their story began to flow forth, as with hurried speech and tumbling words, they told Joseph and Mary of what had transpired that very night out there on the hills above Bethlehem. With joy they told of the visit of the angel and of the sudden filling up of the Judean sky with more of these heavenly creatures than one could hope to count! And the singing! How they must have stammered over each other to share their own impressions of that heavenly choir. But with absolute clarity these humble men were able to convey the prophetical message of God's gift to the world. Then I imagine a somber quietness fell upon them all as the import of their words sunk in - standing round that little infant - in absolute amazement that God should do such a thing - and they were fortunate enough to be a part of it all. So in quiet reverence, they contemplated the goodness of God and Mary pondered it all in her own heart.
Yes, we may long to know more - but thankful we are for what God has revealed concerning the birth of the His Son among men!