Although Joseph lived in Nazareth in the region of Galilee, he was descended from the great king himself, and thus he was Judean. So when the edict came down, he and Mary set off for Bethlehem, the city of David.
The closer they got, the more travelers clogged the streets. In the long line of dispersed Judeans all on the same mission, it seemed Joseph and Mary were among those bringing up the rear.
Joseph asked around but couldn’t find a place to stay, not even at the inn. Every room was full—except for the place that held a manger. It wasn’t much, but it was dry, warm, and at least had the potential to offer Mary a comfortable place to sleep. Besides, they were tired. The manger-room would be fine.
Mary’s lips pursed as she sucked in short breaths of air. Her belly went tight as a drum. She looked worried, unsure—as if her mind and her body had all at once become strangers to one another. And then as quickly as it rose, the pain subsided. Joseph was at her side, willing and eager to do whatever he could, though there didn’t seem to be much for him to do.
With the moonlight on her face, she looked beautiful—young but not quite like the girl she’d been when they first met. In a certain light that girl was still there, but her features had deepened. And so had his vision.
Between the angels, the pregnancy, the wedding, and the census, the theme of the past year had been about listening to the story of who they were. They weren’t children anymore, but they didn’t quite feel like grown-ups either. They were somewhere between who they used to be and who they were becoming, and there was no place in the world Joseph wanted to be more than right there at Mary’s side.
Minutes later the pain stabbed at her again, only this time it was worse. Then it happened again. And again.
Joseph busied himself, though he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing. Make room, he thought. Carve out some space for her to have this baby. There was no one around to coach them, no one to tell them everything would be all right.
He held her close and prayed.
They thought of the angels who visited their dreams. They thought of Adam and Eve taking the forbidden fruit and how one of the consequences of that act of rebellion was shooting through Mary from head to toe, every three minutes now.
She strained and groaned and fought for every breath. She pushed as sweat beaded on her forehead. Joseph wiped her brow and told her a hundred times that he loved her, he loved her, he loved her.
Swept up in waves of pain and contractions, Mary continued to push and breathe and strain while time passed. Eventually, as if cresting a ridge, her labor gave way to delivery, and her groaning gave way to the sound of the cries and the coos of little lungs drawing in the breath of earth for the first time.
Joseph laid the baby on Mary’s chest, and to the wonder of the helpless man and the relief of the weary woman, they beheld him who, though he was the Son of God, was every bit a fragile, tiny baby.
The little stranger was nothing like Mary imagined—not because he looked different from other babies but because the face of a newborn has little room for distinctive features. It would be a while before this child’s wide eyes would stare into hers or his baby fat would fill in the wrinkles around his neck and thighs.
But one thing was certain. He was beautiful.
She loved everything about him—his tiny nose, his wisps of dark hair, his perfect little fingers and toes. The sound of his first cry was the loveliest tune she had ever heard. It was as if this baby had gone from being her burden to being her physician, healing the toll her pregnancy had taken on her body simply by lying across her breast, absorbing her warmth.
Together, Mary and her husband cleaned him and wrapped his little arms and legs in strips of cloth to keep him warm. When they laid him in a manger and finally exhaled, they gave him the name Jesus. And both remembered why.
The incarnation of the Savior of the world could have come to pass in any number of ways. But God in his infinite wisdom chose this couple for this night in this shelter. This boy, the angel had told them, would be the heir to David’s throne. He would be their wonderful counselor, their mighty God, their everlasting Father, their prince of peace. The government would be upon his shoulders.
But there was nothing particularly complex or regal about this moment. There were no heralds in the streets announcing the birth of a king. By all appearances it was a humble, simple affair, seemingly unconnected to everything else going on in David’s town that night.
But it wasn’t inconsequential. It was the most significant moment in the history of the world. There on the edge of Bethlehem, a child was born. A son was given. And the zeal of the Lord Almighty accomplished this.
Taken from The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. ©2018 by Russell Brown Ramsey. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com.