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Sunday, December 24, 2017

time to ponder


I rubbed my swollen stomach and grimaced as my foot slipped on a loose stone in the road. Dust swirled around my sandals and clung to my clothing. The crowd of people traveling with us grew with each mile. Surely that meant we were nearing our destination. By sheer willpower, I made my weary feet speed up so I might catch up to my husband a few yards ahead. I laid my hand on his arm and asked, “How much farther?”

Joseph gave me his gentle smile, concern in his eyes.“I think we will reach the village by nightfall.  How are you, my love?"

“Very tired,” I answered truthfully. My legs are aching, and I am having more pains.”

His eyes widened,“Is it time?”

I hastened to reassure him. “I think not tonight. It is just the walking that makes the pains come. But it will be soon.”

“I promise you the best room in Bethlehem. I brought extra money just for that purpose.” Joseph squeezed my hand before I dropped back to walk at a slower pace with the other women.

My mind, however, would not slow its rapid thinking. It seemed to be having trouble keeping up with my body as we made this journey. Things had just happened too quickly, too unexpectedly, for calm, rational thoughts. 

We had barely settled into the routine of newly married life. Joseph had just completed crafting our household furniture after our quiet, hasty wedding. And I, the soon-to-be mother, was in the midst of a flurry of activity, preparing for this special little one. Then, the announcement from Caesar was made in the village square. And everything was disrupted as we departed on this very unwelcome trip at such an inconvenient time.

It was just like the Romans to snatch from me even this joy – the birth of my first Child. I laid at their feet the blame for my grief as I struggled to accept the fact that my cherished dreams of motherhood were not to be fulfilled. I had imagined a tranquil setting – giving birth in my own home, with my family nearby and time after the hard labor to ponder and rejoice. With the present circumstances, that was not going to happen.

If Yahweh were truly in control of this miraculous event, why would He not at least grant me the luxury of my own home and the attendance of my mother for the birth? In all I had experienced in the months since my Baby’s unexplainable conception, I had clung to the words of the Most High as delivered by His messenger. I believed Him. Now, amid the flurry of feet and shouts of travelers, I couldn’t sense Him. The quiet peace of my waiting in Nazareth were gone. I felt panic clutch me as strongly as the birthing pains that occasionally knifed through my stomach. As I glimpsed the shadowy outline of Bethlehem’s streets ahead, I felt tears warm my cheeks. I wanted to sit down in the dusty trail and give full sway to my emotions, but instead, I kept walking . . . .

 . . . that was three days ago.
Tonight I sit beside a straw-filled feeding trough which holds the most precious possession I have . . . my infant Son. He is wrapped in the traditional swaddling clothes. His tiny hands are curled against his face; he smiles as he dreams, in the universal way of newborns. I move about gingerly in the manner of every woman whose body has just experienced the trauma of birth. My husband slumbers nearby in the exhaustion felt by new fathers since the beginning of families. And yet truly I know the Baby's Father is One who never sleeps, who always watches and keeps. 

The Baby stirs, and I trace a finger along His silken cheek. His very presence stirs my soul, and I feel oddly awakened after years of sleep, strangely seeing after years of darkness. I know in my heart that this awareness is the beginning of the fulfillment of His destiny.  

The messenger promised He would save His people. And I, His mother, need to find that salvation as well. Yet, He is so ordinary, this Child who is God’s own Son. There is nothing outwardly about his small form that demands worship. Yet, those with waiting hearts will know Him, I’m sure. 

No, I won’t tell you that I sit tonight in the tranquil place I hoped to give birth. I won’t tell you how excruciating was the pain, or how much I longed for my mother. Things weren’t perfect. In fact, everything, even His first bed, is rough and unlovely. But I am discovering that the surroundings in my life are only the background for what Jehovah is doing. The true savoring of the event is in my soul where an unearthly peace rules when I relinquish and rest. So, I turn to cradle my Son, and then sit back to ponder and rejoice. 

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