When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
I have a lot of manger scenes of every size, shape and color, both at home and in my office. The largest one is a multiple character manger scene that not only has the holy family, a few animals, shepherds, and wise men; it has the whole village of Bethlehem. Every year I would go out with Tim, John, and Allie and they would pick out one character each to give to Mom for Christmas. We did this for about 13 years, until Bette finally asked me to stop. The table we set the manger on no longer had room for more characters. Including the pieces I would buy on my own, there are about 60 different characters in this manger scene. When the whole thing is set up, it looks a bit like a crowded mall on a Black Friday of old.
I also have a book called Faces in the Manger. In this in this book, all of the possible different characters are given a storyline. But the scripture only talks about Mary, Joseph, Jesus, a few shepherds, and possibly a couple of unnamed others. I'm pretty sure that when the wise men finally showed up, around two years later, they weren't still living in the manger!
As I reflect upon the reality of the manger, I think of a young girl and her young fiancé; alone, scared and tired in a cave that is used to house animals. I think of a child wrapped in rags torn from his mother’s skirt, laying in a feeding trough, asleep with the stars of the night shining down on him; the child's mother and father exhausted from their journey across the country and from the journey of the new born into this world, also asleep on the hay on the ground. I think of the smell, sound, and movement of the animals. It is a very pastoral scene. But it is also a desperate scene in which the future of this little family is at such a risk.
I remember waking up in a chair in our home in Albuquerque, looking over to the couch and seeing Bette and our newborn son Tim lying on her chest both asleep and sound. I hear the sound of Edith, my beloved mother-in-law, preparing us a wonderful meal in the kitchen. I sit there and worry about what kind of dad I'm going to be, what does the future hold, and what this child will become. I can't imagine what must've been running through Joseph's mind after his conversation with the angel. What was in store for Mary, the child, and himself? What hardships will they face by bringing God's son into the world? Would Mary and Joseph ever know peace again?
I can't imagine what Mary and Joseph’s life was like. But, I do know that through the child they raised and cared for, my life, OUR life, has been made new. In this we will never be the same again. Thanks be to God.