What child is this, who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this tiny baby in the manger–how he came so humbly into the world and in such an unassuming way…the image of a young Mary cradling her newborn, resting on piles of hay in a humble stable with Joseph beside them…
It all captivates me year round, but especially at Christmastime.
When I lived in Egypt, we visited places that somehow drew me closer to the scenes we see everywhere depicting the Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem. I’d never imagined walking through places where I could actually envision Mary on a donkey, full with our Savior, and I don’t think I realized what my heart was doing as we wandered through a small desert town ten years ago. Now though, I can’t separate the two in my head–this experience of dusty feet and a vast starry sky in my memory and the story of the long, long road to a safe place for Mary to give birth to Christ.
Tonight, I am especially captivated by Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the stable, because I’m trying to reconcile the true Christmas with the one I’m experiencing here in the world in 2015. I can’t help but think about the simplicity of what happened; even though I know that Mary was in labor and Joseph was hurriedly seeking a place for her to give birth, I don’t recognize any striving in the story.
Mary and Joseph were acting in obedience to God–clearly blessed by a high and holy calling on their lives, and yet, very, very human. As it was the first Christmas, I suppose there were no traditions of the holiday to consider, but still…
Where was the striving?
On the night Christ was born, the Glory of the Lord shone brightly on the hills of Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph set eyes on their baby boy. No doubt he was perfect in every way, but still a baby who needed to be cared for and loved, nurtured and fed. He was human and divine, and the young, newlywed couple became mother and father to the Son of God.
When this took place, Mary and Joseph were not preoccupied with everything they had to do back at home or how well prepared they’d be for visitors. They lived out their reality by living in it–by being present in the moment and not allowing anything else to overshadow it. I’m sure the two felt the weight of what had just happened, and yet, nothing about their story tells us there was panic or alarm.
Why would they strive or worry when God had orchestrated this plan from the beginning? When they knew that they had partaken in a miracle, and that the whole world would change because of the new life in their arms?
Why, when I’m trying to celebrate this most holy night in a reverent way, do I find myself striving each Christmas season?
The very first Christmas and its amazing, beautiful, life-changing story had nothing to do with striving. It didn’t speak hurry and stress and worry then, and it doesn’t now.
I am quite-imperfectly pursuing a graceful December in hopes of living out more of the peace that came on the night Christ was born 2,015 years ago. It doesn’t feel as simple as just resting and letting all of the Christmas “things” go (although Christmas would come anyway, details or not), but I’m certain that it can be more simple than a whole month full of days consumed by the dazzle of consumer Christmas and the striving to accomplish every last Christmas task.
I’m not trying to be lax about the holiday. I just want to celebrate it well. And I don’t want a 2015 version of Christmas to detract from the ancient miracle that we seek to remember in the carefully placed nativity scene.
I want my babies to know the baby in the manger. The child who laid to rest on Mary’s lap, asleep.
The whole world was waiting for a Savior then, and it still is today. But now there should be even more peace than on the day of His birth, because we know that He has come and He will come again.
There is no striving in the birth narrative. Just grace. A humble place for the King of All Kings to enter the world as one of us–a place of welcome. Of reverence. Of rest.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary.
May we find respite from striving this Christmas. And may we take rest in the lap of a Holy God who sent his Son as a baby, that we might have life and life to the full!