Carol “O Holy Night”
Finally, the night sounds quieted, the town settling into sleep. Joseph found it difficult to close his eyes. He was aware of Mary breathing by his side and knew that soon, very soon, they would both be awakened by the pangs of impending birth. He knew he needed to rest; Mary had encouraged him to do so telling him, “It is not time yet, Joseph. Sleep. I will awaken you when I need you.” But there had been so much happening and Joseph’s thoughts were taking him through the last harried days of journey preparation and the long trek to his town of origin…Bethlehem to be taxed.
He had wanted to leave Mary home, safe with her family but she would not hear of it. Somewhere in Joseph’s earliest learnings he had remembered the prophecy of a child born to a virgin in this very town. So, whether her objections to be left home swayed him or the urging of the Spirit of God moved him, Joseph finally conceded making preparation for the two to travel to Bethlehem.
Carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem”(#230)
Joseph knew there could be problems along the way. The roads between Nazareth and Bethlehem were treacherous and it was not uncommon for travelers to be accosted by roadside robbers. However, they had been fortunate. God was smiling down on them…no one stopped them. There was little Joseph could have given to any bent on theft…he was not a rich man, but he had concern for his young bride and her soon-to-be born child. His child too…a gift from God to be cared for and about as though this little one came from his own seed. At first, he accepted the terms with difficulty but who can argue with an angel sent from God. It would not have been a fairly fought exchange. But then Joseph realized what a gift he’d been given. It would not be an easy task to raise this unique and blessed child but he knew God’s grace and love would guide both Mary and himself in the care of this small, human creature. He could wonder – and he did – how this promised child could possibly be God and yet, so human, fragile and needy as he knew it must be. This little boy would be named Jesus…Savior and though Joseph couldn’t imagine such a truth, he knew Mary had no doubts. His job was simply to be there for whatever lay ahead. The night seemed so full of promise.
Carol: “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear”(#218)
Mary stirred in her sleep and Joseph quickly looked to see if the time had come. But, no. Not yet. He knew she was experiencing some minor contractions – he could hear her deeper breaths interrupted by the more rapid sound of quick inhaled and exhaled air – but her exhaustion, at least for the moment, kept her in a state of resting sleep. Not even the sounds of the animals, whose stable they shared seemed to be loud enough or disturbing enough to break Mary’s flow of quiet breathing.
Joseph had taken pity on the poor innkeeper. They had been to many inns before this one but, like this one, all were full. Here at least, a rustic stable was just outside. The innkeeper lowered his eyes in embarrassment and shame when he saw Mary exhausted and heavy with child. He mumbled the words, “Not here, but I have a stable if you want to stay in that.” His eyes met Mary’s and she smiled at him. “It’s not much”, the innkeeper said shaking his head, but my inn,” and he turned to the boisterous noise coming through the doors, to the loud crash of a well-lubricated guest throwing his mug of beer at another equally lubricated guest, “Well, as you might imagine, it would not be suitable.” “I thank you for your kindness” Joseph said with a tired smile. Your stable will do just fine.”
And so they went to the stable. Joseph wasn’t sure he wanted to spend the night in any of the inns they had approached but this didn’t seem quite right either; to have God’s child in one of these bawdy places where there was an easy flow of drink and loud laughing and talking. To bring this precious gift from heaven into the world in a mean, dirty stable. Why would God choose to come down on earth to be with his people as a human child? And why in a place where questionable language and easy angers were provoked without much cause? Where the smell of unwashed bodies and hides. It did seem odd but when Joseph mentioned these thoughts to Mary, she just smiled and said, “Where else would God appear but among those who need him?” Somehow, those words calmed Joseph. He marveled at his young bride’s wisdom and faith. And he wondered, “Was he a fit choice to care for her and for her child?” Ah…but God must know best. Was there a need within Joseph recognized by God, which would cause God to invite Joseph to be Mary’s guardian and helpmate? Yes, God must know best.
His thoughts had led Joseph very far from the dimly lit stable, the poorly constructed manger, and the soft scent of animal and hay…very, very far away but he suddenly became aware of a change. With a rush of returned presence and emotion, Joseph felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of his robe. Mary’s eyes were open and she was looking at her espoused husband…not with alarm or with fear. Her words were simple. “Joseph, the time has come. Let us prepare.” And Joseph knew the time had come. God’s moment was upon them. Jesus would soon be born to them and more than this; to the world. The two locked eyes and in Mary’s, Joseph saw peace. There was no fear in hers and now, he felt no fear in his heart. God was with them. Come, Lord Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, the child of my heart, Come!