Friday, December 22, 2017

The Mystery

I wrote the following in 2010. I think it holds up as well any post I've made.

We want things to be pretty and perfect. So much so that we ignore the reality of the story and beautify it, making it into art and yard displays.

Joseph was a carpenter, not a wealthy man. He lived in an occupied country under the rule of the Roman Empire. He engaged to Mary, a young pregnant teenager, and by what accounts we have, he did not believe the child to be his. By governmental decree, he was required to go to his family’s hometown to be counted in a census. He took the girl with him.

No paved roads, not much money for food, no place to stay. The movement related to the census would have been disruptive to everyone and created difficult traveling conditions. When he got to the town, she was in labor. There was no one to take them in, no place to stay. Just to get shelter they went into a stable.

Now a lot of us don’t have farm animals anymore, and unless you do, one rather pungent fact might escape you. Stables stink. Even the most well kept stables, which this one most likely was not. If there were sheep and cows housed there, and perhaps a camel or two, it smelled like a zoo. But it was warmer than outside, and there was a roof.

Mary went though labor and delivered a baby there. Not in a sterile medical birthing room, not even at home with her female relatives to attend to her, but in a dark stable, likely alone except for Joseph. She was perhaps 14 or 15 years old. Whatever fears and loneliness she felt are unrecorded. When the baby was born, they cleaned and wrapped him in what garments they could and laid him in a trough used to feed the animals, because that trough was off the ground and cleaner than anywhere else they had to put the baby.

They were as poor and alone as any new family you can imagine. That’s the heart of this story.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
–The book of Luke, Chapter 2:1-7


Rev. Paul said...

Luke explains, in an earlier passage, that Joseph believed Mary had been unfaithful, and was going to send her away. God had to speak to him in a dream, to let him know everything was His plan, and it would be okay. But it still had to be ... strange ... to deal with.

SiGraybeard said...

Excellent piece!

I was going to say what Rev. Paul said, so let me just say that I don't think Joseph gets the recognition he deserves in scripture. He did the right thing, steadfastly, whenever he had to. He married Mary and treated her honorably. Later, when the order was going to come down to kill all boys under the age of two, Joseph was told to get out of Israel and move to Egypt until Herod was dead Matthew 2:13-19.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Glen Filthie said...

Doesn't bother me one bit, the contradictions, the ambiguities, or the controversial details. To me - as an outhouse Christian struggling with a new faith - I have my hands full trying to buck up my friends and fellows and being worthy of my Maker. If one wants to think the nativity was clean and spic and span - and you want to believe otherwise, I am just fine with it. Those are things for my moral and intellectual superiors to quibble.

For me it is enough to believe that the bible says what it means, and means what it says. I will live by it either way as much as I can.