We’ve heard the story of the Nativity many times. But have we ever paused to seriously ponder over it? Picture the scene… imagine these two young parents and how they might have felt. Was Mary worried? Tired? Scared? Might she have been calm, confident, and filled with trust in God? What about Joseph - was he more concerned or confident?
I consider the place and what surrounded this sacred event. I envision an old brown wooden barn filled with hay, stalls for animals which likely included: cattle, sheep, goats, perhaps another donkey. I assume Joseph’s donkey was there too. I smell a woodsy scent from the hay and wood materials.
What about temperature? Was it cold or damp? How cold? Did someone make a fire in an old barrel or perhaps on the ground outside the open doors that warmed the night air. For a few moments, I hear… nothing… silence… no music, no loud voices, no cash registers, no car horns, not even ringing bells or children playing… just… peace…
This holy family is surrounded by exactly what God wanted for them - nothing - or “no-things”. No things except these three aspects:
First, nature: the hay, the wood, the animals, the trees, the wide, clear sky, the shining star above. How simple and how beautiful! Jesus did not come to the world with, through, or in anything but simplicity and humility. He arrived without fanfare, fancy ceremony, not even with traditional comforts. Yet how eloquent!
Second, people. They didn’t have things, but they did have each other. Even if they were afraid, having very little certainty as to what was or would happen, they cared for one another. I wonder, was a handmaid present? I think likely, yes. What about others? Did other travelers find no lodging and wander out to that same barn? I’d never envisioned other people, but... perhaps. If others joined Mary and Joseph, did their hearts rejoice in the baby’s delivery? Was the family huddled in a stall or did anyone else witness in awe? Did they help find those swaddling cloths? Was Jesus passed from one to another to be held and warmed, admired and shared like the gift that He is?
Third, love. The final aspect I’m certain was present over any other thing is love. They must have been enveloped in an atmosphere of… pure love. Love between each other and love from heaven. After all, the angels ensured this couple was cared for. Mary and Joseph were guided to where they were supposed to be safely and securely. The angels directed the wise men, gathered the shepherds, and must have provided necessities (water, food, shelter). Those angels led them both into and out of Bethlehem unharmed.
During the holiday season, I always seem to have at least one week of panic - feeling hurried, overwhelmed, and flustered. I have list after list of all the things I need to get or accomplish, in addition to regular work and chores: buying gifts, wrapping presents, creating and addressing cards, obtaining all ingredients for cooking, baking, the many decorations... The pressure and worry bring me to a place of un-health, or at least less joy. I forget, for a few days, the key - it’s all about love - love given by our Father, love shared in family meals and traditions, and love felt simply through our interactions with one another.
In light of that first Christmas, I breathe... deep. I remind myself, simple is not only adequate, it is exquisite. I remember that night, the only decorations were glistening trees, twinkling stars and glowing hearts (hearts I envision filled with faith, peace, joy, and hope). I look at my lists and all the things around me - in the house, in the yard, in the town, in the office… there are a lot of things. Perhaps they are not so necessary. Only these were needed that first noel, that most holy night: God’s creation, each other, and love.
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.