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Often when we tell the Christmas story or have Christmas plays in our churches, we romanticize the birth of our Savior. All the children are angelic (at least for a while), clean and in clean clothes. There is clean hay for the barn. Everything seems calm.

Let’s travel back 2,000 years to see what that Christmas morning really was like. First, Mary and Joseph had to travel more than 70 miles on foot and by donkey to reach Bethlehem. Can you imagine being 9 months pregnant and walking or riding a donkey for 70 miles?

On the way, did they sleep outside or find shelter? We don’t know, but it couldn’t have been easy.

Once they got to Bethlehem, all Mary probably wanted was a place to lie down and rest. But, as we all know, there was no room at the inn. How helpless José must have felt and how tired María must have been. So the only place they could find was a stable. Most of us imagine a barn. However, scholars often think that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a cave. (Side note, if you haven’t seen the Nativity Story movie, I highly recommend it for its accuracy.) Therefore, it is most likely that Mary alone, without her mother or any female relatives, gave birth to the Son of God. Can’t you imagine that Joseph wanted Mary’s mother or her mother too? I guess he wasn’t too excited about having to help deliver a baby. We often forget how young Mary and Joseph were. Many scholars believe that Maria was around 14 or 15 years old. Jose was probably a bit older. What a great responsibility for two very young people. However, María and José were not alone. Angels and shepherds announce his birth. The wise men who are always in our Christmas plays probably didn’t arrive for another 2 years. God was certainly watching over Mary and Joseph that first beautiful Christmas day.

As we reflect on Christmas, let us not forget that the first Christmas was not the sanitized version that we see in our minds or in our churches. There were animals with all their “glorious” smells nearby, no bed for Maria to give birth to, and two very young people far from home. However, all they would need would be her child to be born and eventually become her Savior. Mary and Joseph gave up so much to be the earthly parents of the Son of God. They were ready to leave their home to which they did not return for several years after their birth.

What are we willing to give up for Christ this Christmas and every day of the year? Are we willing to die to ourselves and live for him? Are we willing to seek his way and not the world’s? We may feel alone if we seek to follow God’s way, but we are never alone. Just like María and José feeling very lonely that one Christmas morning they were not alone. Jesus, who came to earth in human form, was with them and in his very presence. May we celebrate the Christmas season by reflecting on the greatest gift we have ever received, the gift of Christ. May we serve you daily in all that we do.

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