This past December 23rd as I fell exhausted into bed I thought back to all the years my mother talked about how tiring Christmas was. Throughout the last few months the big question on the lips of most people I know was, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Well, whether we were ready or not, Christmas came.*
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, many people feel all kinds of pressure. Some worry they won’t be able to get the finishing touches done, some struggle with choosing the perfect gift, while many struggle with being able to provide anything special at all. There are issues of excessive commercialism struggled with as well as efforts to find lost spirituality. With all this we wonder why it is so hard, what we are doing wrong? As I lay there, mind open to God, it occurred to me that maybe we are meant to reach Christmas Eve physically and emotionally tired, worried, and all but hopeless.
I realize the idea seems strange, but stay with me. Mary was nine months pregnant. For the past several weeks it would have been all she could do to carry out the everyday tasks without becoming out of breath, her back would have been sore, along with other common issues of pregnancy. On top of this she had dealt with at least six months of gossip going around her community about her pregnancy. As a young, first-time mother I am certain that she wanted nothing more than to be at home with her mother and other family members around to support her through the birth of her baby. As the last days of waiting approached what did Mary hear? “Road trip!” Packing, planning, worry about finances and the dangers of the road, what fun!
On the road from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, which depending on your source is 79 or 80 miles as the crow flies, Mary walked or rode their donkey for approximately three days straight. Presumably at some point on the last day (not in December incidentally) she began having contractions. Riding into Bethlehem she must have been weary, frightened, and when she got the news that there was no room for them I imagine she felt like giving up!
So, there we were on Christmas Eve, with Mary, feeling drained and hopeless and then…a tiny infant breathes his first breath and hope is born into the world once again! Glory be to God in the highest; on earth peace; good will toward men Luke 2:14
*Of course, I realize that there are millions in the world who do not celebrate Christmas at all.