It was the night before Christmas! All was calm and all was well. Or was, it? Not really! Most cities in Israel that night were thriving with passengers and passersby. The streets were packed with travelers and their animals; the side walks overflowing with small shops and eateries. Businesses were in full bloom. Every one was spending. All hotels and motels, and everything in between were fully booked. The scene was almost festive.
Mary and Joseph had just arrived in Bethlehem. They stopped by a few places to see if they can get a room. Most had the sign out: "House Full!", "No Room!". None. Not even one. One man was kind enough to show them his manger saying, "May be you could use this?!" Joseph looked around the place with Mary and sure it wasn't their type. The walls and floors and roof, everything was wrong, but it has to do for now. It is already too late. Mary wanted off that donkey ride. She has had enough. They had traveled far and now they needed to rest!
Joseph gets her down the donkey and helps her in to the cow shed. Sits her down on some hay and quickly sets off to clean the place. The animals were just moved out and so the place was stinking. There is nothing much he can do about it and they have to adjust for the night somehow. May be tomorrow he would set off early to knock at a few more doors to find a better place. For tonight this has to do.
Mary is in no mood to look around her boarding. She is glad the ride is over. It will be a quick night she tells herself; soon it will be day. She was not worried about the baby too. After all if what the angel had told her about this child she was carrying was true, that He was the Savior of the world, then no way she was going to deliver him tonight. Not here, not tonight, not in this dirty stingy manger. The Savior has to be born in a better surrounding in more comfort where she would have maids to attend on her and atleast some warm water and clean clothes at her disposal. So she was least worried about the rest of the night.
Elsewhere in Bethlehem the shepherds had called it a day. They were locals. They had stayed put in their father's homes in their native town which made it convenient as they didn't have to travel like most others did to register their names for the ongoing census.They had gathered their flocks from the mountain sides, plains and valleys, counted them all and were satisfied with the numbers. One of them grew a fire. It was bright and warm against the dark and cold night. Few were resting their heads while the others had a conversation going. Mostly it was about the travelers they talked.
Suddenly an angel appeared before them lighting up the night sky announcing the good news that their Savior has been born! Hosts of more angels joined him singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Just like how they appeared out of nowhere they disappeared suddenly leaving the shepherds in awe of wonder and the sky still illuminated with the trail of their glow.
Mary had been wrong. The Savior was indeed born! That very night! In the dirty stingy manger! She had to do with some rags she could find here and there. She was in tears looking at the child - the God child - God Himself in human form - smiling back at her! She was blaming herself for not being prepared to receive Him. Joseph was speechless. He felt bad too that inspite of the angel's advance notification about the nature of this Child, how was it that He didn't make arrangements for a better place? It was God Himself in human form, the child he was holding. He couldn't believe his eyes.
If only He had been born at his home, he wouldn't have had to deal with Him first hand. Maids would have cleaned the child up, helped Mary up and he would have made sure the needs of the Mother and Child were met. Here he is all alone with the new born. What was he to do? How was he to care? Could he quickly set out to buy something for Mary? Could she manage while he was gone? Is the Child too cold in the rags? Is the hay too prickly for His back? Is Mary okay? So many thoughts rush through his mind and he is not sure what to do and in which order.
If only he had some company... Sooner than he finished his thoughts loads of shepherds show up at the stall, to salute the King Child. They have brought with them milk, honey and curd and other eatables. They are helping around the place. They know what is best to keep warm for the night. Someone grows a fire. Someone shares his extra blanket with Joseph. Someone warms up some water and roasts some grains for Mary. The Child is lovely. He is their Savior! Sure He is!
This very Child who later gave up His life to redeem the lost world, more importantly me... My Savior whose flesh was torn, whose body was pierced, whose hands were nailed down, whose words were ridiculed, who was mocked at, yelled at, spit at, who was abandoned by all, to the point of death! However, He endured it all and conqured them all! All for me!