Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Savior in a Feed Box

The rocks crunched under their feet. A young couple was on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The man was leading the donkey carrying his pregnant wife, and it was slow going at times. The heat got to them, and they were sweaty. Riding a donkey isn’t comfortable in the best of times, and it’s especially tough when you’re pregnant. But it was better than having to walk all that way! Joseph the carpenter lived in Nazareth, but Emperor Caesar had ordered a census, and everyone had to go to the place their ancestors were from so they could be counted. Joseph and his wife Mary were descendants of King David, and David had once been a shepherd in Bethlehem. So here they were making a trip they had hoped they wouldn’t have to make right now, while Mary was in the hardest part of her pregnancy.

It was probably spring time, right near the Passover celebration. So maybe it was appropriate for Joseph and Mary to celebrate the Passover in the town of their ancestors. But when they finally got there, they discovered a new problem. Not only had the journey been difficult, but they couldn’t find anywhere to stay! A lot of others had come for the census too. Here they were in a town that was pretty far from home, with Mary going into labor any time now. Where could they go? They had to make do with the best they could find. A really nice person who lived there didn’t have room in his guest room, but it was very important in that culture to give visitors the best they could give. In this case, the best they could give was in a room with their animals. There was a box in the floor where they kept hay to feed the animals, and that was the softest place they could find. So that was where the baby was born. As with any birth, the pain Mary had just gone through was nothing compared to her pain as the baby was coming out. But pretty soon, they heard a cry. It was a beautiful sound. Mary and Joseph felt a new kind of love they had never felt before, as their child came into the world. After they cleaned him off, they wrapped him in cloths and laid him in the best place they could find: the feed box.

Meanwhile, sheep grazed in a nearby field. The shepherds in the area may have been there so they could sell some of them for sacrifices to be used in the Passover. It was getting dark, and the shepherds were standing around taking care of their sheep. Suddenly, it was bright as day! Confused and shocked, the shepherds looked up into the sky and saw the last thing they had expected to see. Someone was up there, and the light seemed to be coming from him! The shepherds’ first thought was, “RUN!” But they had to take care of their sheep, so they couldn’t just bolt.

I wonder if Gabriel got used to having to tell people not to be scared. He had had to tell Zechariah and Mary that, and now he had to tell the same thing to the shepherds. “Whoa, it’s OK! Don’t worry!” Gabriel said in a loud voice. “I have some awesome news for everyone in the world! You know how you’ve waited for centuries for the Savior the prophets told about? Guess what! He was just born in King David’s hometown! You’ll know him when you see a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feed box.”

Just when they thought the sky couldn’t get any brighter, a huge army of angels appeared around Gabriel, and they sang something more beautiful than anything the shepherds had ever heard before: “God is more magnificent than anyone else in heaven or earth! He gives peace to everyone on earth that He chooses!”

The shepherds were speechless. They had never seen anything like this before. When they finally recovered enough from their shock to be able to talk, they all agreed that they needed to hurry to Bethlehem to find out what the angels had told them about. They found Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby in a feed box, just as they had been told. Mary and Joseph were surprised to see a group of shepherds, probably bringing their sheep along, come in the room to see their baby. When the shepherds told what they had just seen, the couple was amazed! The shepherds left, and they told everyone they met about the wonderful news. Meanwhile, Mary thought about what they had told her and about everything that had just happened. All that pain had been worth it. Here was a baby who by all accounts wasn’t even possible. Now she found out angels had appeared to shepherds to announce that her baby had arrived. It gave her a lot to think about.

Eight days passed, and the time came to give the baby a name. But Gabriel had already told Mary the name: “The Lord Saves.” Yeshua. Jesus.

יהושע‎
Ἰησοῦς

Mary had a lot to think about right now. But she would have even more to think about a couple years later when they would have more unexpected guests. More about that next week.


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