In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
When I was a child, I used to lay on my stomach on the floor in front of our Christmas tree, my chin resting on my hands. I would lay there just gazing at our little nativity scene that my mother always placed in the front…with gifts piled beside and behind it. I would look at each tiny figure and imagine what was happening there, the day Jesus was born – what each person was thinking, feeling, or saying. I wondered what it was like to be spoken to by an angel.
Now, as a mother, I wonder what thoughts might have gone through Mary’s mind as she held her precious firstborn son. The one promised by an angel’s visit, conceived in a miraculous moment, carried all those months and finally born in humble surroundings with her husband-to- be as her birth attendant. When I held my first son, I remember feeling so awed by his tiny features, his soft skin, his fine hair and minuscule fingernails. I am sure Mary felt much the same when she looked at Jesus…and yet, knowing how he came to be her child…could she have even imagined what He would become to the world?
A tiny little fist grasps onto her finger...four miniature fingers and a thumb wrapping round with a tight grip...holding on. That hand will grow in size, in strength, in power, in might...as the One who came as a babe shares the love, joy, peace and hope of his Father in heaven. We know only bits and pieces of Jesus’ childhood, but we can imagine that Mary went through many of the same worries, struggles and fears as many parents go through now. Yet, I have always hoped she had an extra measure of strength and grace given to her by God over the years. I imagine she never forgot the feeling of that tiny hand holding on to hers.
That hand now holds you in a grip of grace that imparts strength and peace, as well. When worries come, when illness strikes, when bodies fail us, when circumstances are overwhelming and we feel we can’t hold on any longer….we need only remember that the hand of Jesus is always holding onto us. We are ever in his grip. (Isaiah 41:13) “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Merry Christmas to you. May the greatest gift you unwrap this season be the one that opens your heart and mind to the wonders of faith in the One God who loves you more than you could ever imagine.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)