And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glory, Wonder, Treasure

The evening was cool as the first few stars began to shine. A thin wisp of red loomed to the west as Joseph laid a branch and straw upon the fire. Mary’s contractions were getting stronger. Oh how she longed for Elizabeth her cousin to be there. For nine months she had endured the physical and emotional pains of the pregnancy. Worse than the aches, the morning sickness, and even the journey to Bethlehem, were the thorns of ridicule she had endured. Having returned from the hill country to Nazareth she was pregnant. Her parents ostracized her. Friends became fountains of ridicule. Some would not even sell to her in the market place. She had to draw water alone. Joseph at first considered divorce, but God intervened. Because of the angel speaking to Joseph as he had to her, her marriage would last. Each painful infliction was driving them closer to each other. At least in him she had comfort.

As the contractions increased, Joseph went to get help.

Just a few miles away the pastures of the lower hills saw the shepherds bringing their flock into the pens for the night. The stone walls were short but tall enough to protect from beasts and wind. These fields were home. It was all they had and even this did not belong to them. They were despised by society as thieves and liars. The property they would look after was not even their own. Because of their reputation they constantly had to give an account for their efforts. It was a life of one day resembling the other without hope for anything better.

Mary twisted in agony. With a huge sigh, Anna the only woman who would help Joseph announced “You have a son”. She laid him on Mary’s chest. Mary relaxed as her husband dobbed her brow with cool water. Looking into each others eyes, they shared both compassionate peace and an abounding excitement. This had been the hardest three months of their entire lives, and now they praised God for all they had experienced. Joseph placed his hand upon the boy and prayed.

A brilliant light shown just in front of Andrew, son of Matthias. It immediately sent him into a defensive retreat. The angel compassionately announced, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord”. Awestruck, the others awoke and looked upon this visitor.

As Gabriel was speaking, the heavens burst into a brilliant hue of pure white. He shared that they were invited to go and see the child. He would be found in a pen, lying in a manger, wrapped in cloths as was the custom. Suddenly as if they could not longer refrain from speaking, an angelic shout was made announcing the glory of God. Though Gideon and his men had shouted and won victory over the Midianites, this shout declared victory over the curse upon mankind.

As Mary leaned against a pile of hay she ate her first bit of food in several hours. Anna had gone to tend to her home and just she and Joseph cared for the child. Joseph stood and took the child from Mary to lay him in the only safe bed they could create, an old discarded wooden trough. “Sleep now Mary, get your rest” Joseph said. She lay there trying to rest, and through closing eyes saw Joseph, kneeling at the manger, arms outstretched, and weeping as he prayed.

It was then six of them stumbled into the corral. Dressed in various pigments of brown, these shepherds were gasping for breath and excitedly talking, regardless of turn. Speaking to Joseph, they told of the angel and the message they had been given. Then casting their glance to Mary they asked forgiveness for intruding. “But, may we please see the child”, Andrew said.

Joseph again placed baby Jesus upon the lap of Mary. It seemed as if time stopped. No one spoke and a hush fell upon this solemn night. Thoughts raced through the minds of the shepherds as they wondered about all that had happened that night. Was this truly the Messiah, the chosen one of God? How could this little child ever throw off the bonds of Rome and fulfill all that God had promised Father Abraham? Their concentration was broken by the bleating of a small yet pure year old lamb which they offered as a gift.

The visitors said their farewells and departed for the fields. They were simply struck with awe and wonder. Yet Mary pondered as now Joseph slept, this was to be a treasure that would carry her through for eternity.

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