I wonder what you will be doing on Christmas Eve this year. For some it will be the time to decorate the house for Christmas, for others it will be the time to open presents, maybe after having eaten a big meal together with family or friends. For others the day may be spent in the last minute shopping rush, wrapping up the final presents, then trying to keep awake in order to get to church and celebrate midnight Communion or Eucharist.
I wonder how Mary and Joseph spent the evening. Had they just arrived in Bethlehem, or were they there for a few days before? Was this to be their first night in the stables, possibly with Mary already in labour for several hours that day – the first baby often takes a while to be birthed? For them there was no ‘holiday’ significance for the night, other than it was part of the census time and lots of people were around in a place far from home.
Perhaps there were family reunions going on in the houses around. It’s strange no-one invited Joseph and Mary to one, especially as Joseph came from Bethlehem originally. The story wouldn’t have sounded the same if Jesus had been born in Joseph’s cousin’s back bedroom!
Whatever the actual circumstances of Jesus’ birth there’s no record of practical preparations being made. Of course heaven had been preparing for this event for a long, long time, because the whole reason for the incarnation was spiritual, not festive. Perhaps heaven paused at the beginning of the labour, and everyone there watched and waited for the Son of God to arrive as the Christ-child.
This Christmas, on the eve of the day, why not stop for a while, and refocus on God-with-us Immanuel? Let’s put down the parcels, ease up on the eating and pause in the partying, so that the true wonder of Christmas can impact our spirits and lead us into that place of worship before Jesus.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are so grateful for Your willingness to come to this earth as You did, without all the fuss and preparation that we expect in 21st century births. Please enable us to meet with You this Christmas, to find time and space in the festivities, in order to spend time with You, Emmanuel, Jesus.
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