Tonight, let us celebrate Christmas in the Spirit of Jesus
Christ, who came to us from the heart of God's own being taking
the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.
Let us celebrate God's entering into our lives in human form,
to bring light to all the world.
May love be reborn in our hearts this night.
Let us worship God.
Did you see him? He sure is beautiful. This is a night of
magic, a night of God's blessing. It sure didn't start out that way. I
remember when Mary came and told me she was pregnant. Dear
sweet Mary. She talked about an angel telling her she was going to
give birth to God's Messiah. I wanted to believe her. I knew no
one else would. We wept together. What would we do? I love
Mary so much. I knelt so responsible for her.
That night when I couldn't sleep. My mind raced. I didn't
believe that Mary could have been with someone else behind my
back. I pounded my pillow with anger as I pictured one of those
Roman soldiers raping my beloved Mary. Maybe she was afraid to
tell me. Surely there was no angel. What would I do? Tradition
said, "Just walk away from her. She is a disgrace!" I couldn't do
that. Finally, I decided that I could just break the engagement
privately. At least then Mary's disgrace would not be public. I
didn't want to do that. We had such wonderful plans. I wept. I
cried out to God, "Why did this happen to us? We have done
nothing to deserve it?"
Eventually I fell into a troubled sleep. That's when I had the
dream. An angel spoke to me, plain ordinary me, saying, "Don't be
afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that
she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him
Jesus - because he will save his people from their sins." I knew it
wouldn't be easy. People would talk. But Mary and I would know.
So we went ahead with our plans. But of course there was
more trouble ahead. What is the saying you use, "It never rains but
it pours trouble." Caesar had to choose just that time for a census.
Return to your home town was the order. It meant I had to go all
the way to Bethlehem. I've brought Mary with me. She didn't have
to come but everyone was being so mean back home. I couldn't
leave her behind to face all that ridicule alone. The trip was long,
so very long. Poor Mary, she was so tired. She complained. I got
cranky. It sure felt as if God was punishing us. I didn't feel blessed
that's for sure. By the time we got here, Mary was in labor. The
town is teeming with people. I have lots of relatives. You would
think there would be a place for us. I think our reputation had
preceded us. No one had room for us. We ended up at this
miserable little Inn. We couldn't even pay for a room. I'll never
forget how it felt to stand there and be told yet again there was no
place. I was beaten. I had tried. I had tried to do the right thing. I
had followed the angel's commands. I had refused to be give in to
the ridicule of our friends and family. I had done my best. My best
just wasn't good enough. My life was out of control. I couldn't
carry out my responsibilities. I couldn't even take care of Mary and
our unborn child. What was ahead for us?
The innkeeper must have seen my misery for she offered us
the shed out back. Maybe being a woman, she knew Mary's need.
Maybe this was God's will. I really don't know. I do know the
shed was warm with the animal's bodies. The innkeeper was
wonderful in helping with the birth. Best of all, there is baby Jesus.
When he was born and she placed him in my arms, nothing else
mattered. The wonder and joy of new life, the miracle. Jesus is a
miracle. He is my son, my beautiful son. I will protect him and
Mary. God is surely with us. Nothing else matters tonight.
Did you see Jesus, our wonderful baby? He is worth all the
pain, all the struggle. There certainly was struggle. People can be
so righteous, so mean. They see the outside, and they judge. They
didn't know the whole story. I had to come with Joseph. I couldn't
stay behind. My friends have abandoned me. There is only
Elizabeth. Oh what would I have done without Elizabeth. She
understood. This was such a long journey, and then no place to
stay when we got here. Joseph, it wasn't easy for him either. At
least we have been together in our suffering.
And now, I can hardly believe it. We are parents? What an
awesome responsibility! I want to protect Jesus. I don't want
people to ever ridicule him. I want him to have a smooth path
through life. I will watch over him. Even here, he has made this
stable God's place. God's blessing has shone around us and filled
this place. How do I describe to you my joy. I have wonderful
plans for Jesus. The angel told me that he was going to be a great
man, a great leader. The angel said he would be the Messiah. The
prophet Isaiah talks about the Messiah as the suffering servant. I'm
not going to let my Jesus suffer. Yet, if he is to live and grow he
probably will suffer some. My mother couldn't protect me from
everything. We all have to walk our own journey. All I will be able
to do is love him. Oh, and I love him so much already. Oh God, I
praise you. You have remembered me. You have blessed me with
this wonderful child. Thankyou.
THE INNKEEPER SPEAKS
Did you see him? Isn't he a sweet wee babe? I love helping
with a birth. All exhaustion, all problems, every worry seems to
disappear when I am with a mother in labour. And when the baby
is born - there are just no words to describe the wonder of it. Mind
you I can feel the ache in my back now. And my feet, they have
walked a million miles in the last few days. What a time I have had.
Oh don't get me wrong. I am happy to have the business. Caesar's
census has certainly brought lots of money to me. There have been
so many people. Not all people are easy to have around. The more
crowded it gets the harder people are to please. "More wood for
the fire! The soup is cold! Hot water for a bath! The bed is hard!
Supper is late!" Somehow it seems as if all people can do is
complain. They've forgotten how to say please. Demands,
Demands Demands. At the beginning of this evening I was
beginning to wonder if it was worth it. My life had disappeared.
The days had become just a treadmill of people wanting, wanting,
WANTING. When Joseph came to the door, I just said, "Go away.
We're full." I wasn't being mean. I had had it. I was exhausted. I
had done all I could. I had nothing left to give. The look on his
face. I have never seen a man look so defeated. As he turned to
go, I caught sight of his wife, so tired, so pregnant, obviously in
pain. Then I felt awful. I couldn't just turn them away. "Just a
minute," I said. I went back inside. The loft was full - people wall
to wall. All the rooms were overfull. The noise was horrendous.
Where would I put them. Then I thought of the stable, the leanto
out back. At least there would be some privacy there. I had lots of
clean straw. We could make a place. I said to Joseph, "All I have
to offer is the stable. It's not much but at least there will be privacy
and quiet. Your wife, is she in labour?" Yes said Joseph. "I'm a
midwife," I told him. "I'll help." It was as if I was offering a cup of
cold water to a man dying of thirst i
desert. His relief, his joy, his thankfulness brought tears to my eyes.
I put the stable hands to work, clearing a place. We laid down
fresh straw. I did what I could.
Out here in the stable there is an oasis of peace tonight. The
Hurry, hurry! Too many tasks, too little time. The greed, the push
for success, the needs, the misery. It's all gone for the moment.
There is only God, and the child and his parents. It's as if the stars
are shining right inside the stable. God's peace is there. The
wonder of it all. I feel as if I can cope with anything tonight. I
think my life is back on track. All this and he's only a baby.
THE SHEPHERD CHILD SPEAKS:
Did you see him? Did you see Jesus? Oh he is wonderful. A
new baby. He laid there and cooed, his eyes so wide open. I am
sure he looked right at me. I feel, I feel better, older, more
valuable. What a night! Let me tell you about it.
We were out on the hillside with the sheep. I have been
tending sheep with my father for about a year now. I can think of
things I'd rather do, but my dad needs me, and tradition says I must
follow in his footsteps. I like the sheep. I truly like being outside.
It's lonely though, out there on the hillside all day with no one but
father to talk to and the sheep. Night time is better. The shepherds
gather in little groups. Then there are more of us to keep watch
over the sheep. I like sitting around the fire and listening to the
conversation. Last night was clear and cold. There were so many
stars. My uncle pointed out one that was especially bright. We
were all looking at it when the angels came. Wow! You should
have been there. First there was one - a real angel in the sky and
speaking to us. I was sure I was dreaming but everyone else saw
and heard it too. That angel said, "Don't be afraid. I bring you
Good News. This very night in Bethlehem your Saviour was born.
You will find the baby wrapped and lying in a manger." Then the
whole heaven was filled with angels, singing "Glory to God in the
highest heaven, and peace on earth." The whole sky was alight as if
it were day, even more than day. Then they were gone as suddenly
as they came. There was silence - not a sound. Finally, my father
said, let's go and see. Then everyone began talking at once. What
a hubbub. I just stood there. I didn't want to talk. A few didn't
want to go. They didn't know what had happened but they were
sure it was just an illusion. A few had slept through the whole thing
- missed it all together. Most of them weren't interested either. So
a few of us set out for Bethlehem. It really was not very far away,
about an hours walk. Here we are. I am so glad I came. I wasn't
sure about any of it. I knew that if I stayed behind I would never
understand. Sometimes its a good idea to follow your father's
suggestions. This time it sure was. This baby, this Jesus, seeing
him, coming to Bethlehem ha
difference in me. I don't know what that difference is yet. My dad
says I will understand in time. I feel as if God I have somehow
experienced God, felt God's blessing. Dad says, "just be thankful".
A KING SPEAKS
Did you see him? He's just a baby - a baby - and born to those
two peasants in this stable. Yet, I can feel the wonder, the joy. It's
like that with babies you know. Yet this is something more. It's
sure not the way I planned it.
I've been looking forward to this night most of my life. As a
child the stars always held a magic, a mystery for me. So I was
enthusiastic when my father apprenticed me to the old magi
Estaban. We studied the stars together. It was Estaban who told
me about the new star that would come to signify the birth of a
king, a very special king. There were so many legends around that
star. I learned them all. The night it appeared for the first time, I
was so excited. Estaban's eyes had grown dim with age and with
searching the skies. I told him about it. The joy on his face, the
wonder. It was as if he too could see the star. He couldn't come
with me, but he financed this journey. On the way I met up with
these other two. Each of us has come from a different place, but
we are all following the same star. We were all searching for
something, for this king, this Saviour who would bring peace to the
world, give reason for living. Each of us brought a gift. Mine is
myrrh. That is the bitter perfume that is used in preparing a body
for burial. It doesn't seem very appropriate for a baby, yet the
legends say that this king will suffer great pain, and death. It was
the gift I needed to bring. I don't know how to explain it. I would
rather have brought the gold, or the frankincense, but it was my
place to bring the myrrh. We have had a long, and uncomfortable
trip. It's hard to travel into the unknown, with your faith in the
stories of old. Even though I could see the star, and feel God's
leading, it was hard to keep coming. We had some wonderful
experiences along the way.
The worst one was being in Herod's court. We had all gotten
anxious. We wanted some assurance that we were on the right
path. King Herod seemed to be the right one to consult. You
know how easy it is to give up believing, following your faith, the
story, and look to worldly things to show you the way. That's
really what happened to us. Well, I sure was frightened in Herod's
court. I could feel the evil all around me. He said he was
interested in worshipping this king, but I could see the envy and
jealousy in his eyes. We're going to have to be very careful going
home. We're certainly not going back to Herod. We have all
agreed on that. Tomorrow we'll head out a different way.
For tonight, we're here, here in this place of wonder and
peace. If I had known that we would end up in a stable with a
baby, I might not have come. I thought we would be in a king's
palace. Yet, I know this is the right place. We all start out as
babies. We all have to be born. I know that God is in this place, I
can feel God here, just as surely as I could feel evil in Herod's
palace. That baby has the most beautiful eyes. They seem to be
filled with love. Being here has brought a change in
me. There has been a change in my values somehow. I am not sure
yet, I just know that as I return home, I will follow a new path. I
know that God walks with me. I have followed the star.
By Janet White