Thoughts about Waiting. Advent Week 4.
As is the way of all flesh, pregnancy inevitably ends with a birth.
Joseph also went up … to Bethlehem…
…While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, (Luke 2:4-7)
Mary just knew nothing good could come of this trail ride by donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And she was right. The time came for the baby to be born.
Was she early? Late? Did a midwife attend her? We don’t know.
We know that the one called great, the son of the highest, the one to inherit the throne of his father, David, arrived during the night in a byre cave because there was no guest room available for them.
…she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:7)
We have a great tendency to romanticize the manger—a comfortable place, warm from the heat of the animals keeping watch with the soft low of a gentle cow, a low pitched bleating of a goat, and the quiet nicker of the donkey, clean, sweet smelling hay, and the glow of a star in the east.
Not at all sure about that picture.
Most likely the only occupants of the byre that night were Mary and Joseph and perhaps the donkey. No mother to whisper encouraging words. Joseph, who knew livestock birthing, had never birthed a child.
Anything but warm, the byre cave smelled as byre’s commonly do, of cattle manure. Clean hay? Iffy at best. Birth’s own symphony echoed off the cave walls: tears, cries of pain, deep, dull moans of labor, and a baby’s keening cry. There is amniotic fluid and blood. How would they wash the new baby? With no running water, any available water would have been cold and scarce. Did they have the requisite salt* for rubbing a new infant? How did Mary clean-up?
Since, only the wealthy had cloths* for their infant children, Mary could not have been prepared for this. Put her newborn, unclothed (which was common,) in a manger, the only thing resembling a cradle? Utter dismay! A person of means—perhaps the one who sent them to the byre—must have had compassion on this young girl about to give birth and provided some cloths.
This is what she had waited for? Surely, she had not expected such a rude welcome for the son of God. Yet, there she was, inextricably caught in a risky, frightening situation.
And they called him JESUS.
…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21)
The long awaited Messiah had come.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-12)
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15, 16)
In the fullness of time, in the prescribed place, in the middle of the human story, announced by heaven’s angels, greeted by Bethlehem’s low life—shepherds, who left the byre convinced by the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger that Messiah had come—Christ, the Savior had come.
The Savior grew up to identify with the human condition and to taste the brutality of sin for his people and he saved them from their sins.