Wonder again at the miraculous events surrounding the birth of Jesus
By Angie Smith
Year after year, Christmastime arrives in a flourish with all the trimmings, and the world is tempted to upscale, overspend, and outdo. But isn’t it the small, almost insignificant moments that actually make Christmas grand?
Maybe it’s the smiling face of a four-year-old as she offers you a homemade gift. Or it’s a few words written in a card from a much-missed old friend.
Such simple moments capture the importance of Christmas, perhaps because they allow us to more closely share the wonders of that first night in Bethlehem. Instead of worldly splendor and royalty, God chose a nondescript evening, a humble scene, and ordinary people named Mary and Joseph to share in something majestic — something truly wondrous.
The angels’ voices were more glorious than any symphony today, and the sky was adorned with starlight that would outshine any modern light display.
As we gather with friends and family this Christmas, let’s notice the simple moments that offer us nothing more than joy and love. And let’s remind each other that in God’s hands the humblest of humans can be used for remarkable things, and even the most ordinary of moments can be blessed by the sacred. Just as they were long ago …
There didn’t seem to be anything extraordinary about Mary; she wasn’t wealthy or powerful or even from a famous town. She was just a girl. But God had chosen her to bring the world the most important person who would ever live.
Gabriel came to Mary’s house in Nazareth to tell her what was going to happen. As soon as she saw him, she became nervous. The angel reassured her that everything was going to be fine, and he began to explain that God had chosen her for a very special role.
Mary’s hands shook as she listened to the angel.
“You will have a son, and His name will be Jesus,” he said. “He will be the Son of God, the One who was promised so long ago. And His kingdom will never, ever end.”
She was wide-eyed and confused, knowing that she could hardly have a baby when she was still a virgin. “How?” she whispered, trying to understand.
“It may seem impossible to you, but God can do anything,” Gabriel explained. “And your cousin Elizabeth? The one who has never been able to have a baby? Well, she’s pregnant too.”
Mary didn’t know how all of this would happen, but she believed God could do whatever He wanted to do. She bowed low to the angel with tears in her eyes.
“I am the Lord’s; let it happen however He chooses,” she said to Gabriel. And with that, the angel left.
Mary hurried to get her things together, setting out for the hill country of Judah to see Elizabeth. Not long before, the angel Gabriel had visited Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, with good news as well.
“Your wife Elizabeth is going to have a son, and he won’t be just an ordinary boy,” Gabriel explained. “You will name him John, and you should know this: he will prepare the way for the Son of God.”
Just as the angel had predicted, Elizabeth became pregnant. She thanked God for giving her a baby. Little did she know that the same angel who had come to her husband would also speak to her cousin Mary, and their lives were about to be woven together in a most incredible way.
It took Mary several days to reach Judah, and as soon as she walked into Elizabeth’s house, she called out for her dear cousin. When she did, the baby in Elizabeth’s belly jumped. Immediately, Elizabeth knew something amazing had happened. She stared at Mary, shocked by what God had revealed to her.
“Your baby!” Elizabeth shouted joyfully. “I know who He is!” Elizabeth’s face grew pale as she considered how close she was to the holiness of God Himself. “What have I done to deserve being near to you, the one chosen as the mother of our Lord?” Elizabeth asked her cousin.
“Elizabeth, I’m just a girl. There’s nothing special about me,” Mary said. “But God has asked for my obedience, and I have given it to Him.” She began to thank God for all the wonderful things He had already done, and while the baby kicked and wiggled inside, she praised Him for what was to come. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three more months, and eventually went home as she neared the day of Jesus’ birth.
The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and when she delivered him, she told her friends and relatives that his name would be John. Zechariah looked at his newborn baby, sleeping in Elizabeth’s arms.
“It is finally happening,” he said in a hushed voice, glancing at the crowd around him. “We are going to be rescued, and the light from His life will flood the darkness forever.”
They could see it in his eyes — it was the truth. The sin that had followed them from the garden until now would finally be overcome through one child: Jesus. God, in His mercy, was going to send them a Redeemer.
Months later, Mary’s belly was full of baby, and she knew she was getting close to the day she would finally meet her Son.
“We have to go, Mary,” Joseph said. “We really don’t have a choice. It’ll take us several days to get there, but I’ll do all I can to make it comfortable for you.”
Caesar Augustus wanted to know how many people there were in his empire, and the best way to count all the people was to have them return to their hometowns. For Joseph and Mary, that meant riding their donkeys eighty miles from Nazareth to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem.
They saddled up the donkeys and began traveling with all the others who were heading that way. Once they reached Bethlehem, Mary was sure of one thing. The baby was coming.
“Joseph,” she whispered, “it’s almost time.”
They hurried to the nearest inn to find a room, but the innkeeper shook his head. There was no room, and time was short. Joseph took Mary to the place were the animals were kept because there was no room anywhere else. Mary delivered the baby Jesus there.
As soon as He was born, Mary gently wrapped the Baby Jesus in blankets and held Him closely to her chest. Joseph reached for her face, tenderly wiping the sweat from Mary’s flushed cheeks.
And there, in the midst of the braying donkey and the straw-covered ground, the Savior of the world breathed in the night air for the first time. His fingers opened and closed slowly, and His heart beat like His mother’s. Like ours.
He slept in peace while the angels sang praise in a nearby field, telling the shepherds of His birth. “The Christ is here,” the angels declared. “He has been born!” A bright light shone around them while the shepherds stared into the great holy.
Other than Joseph and Mary, they were the first on earth to know. Not the kings and queens, or the wealthiest and most famous people in the land. Not the religious leaders or the most powerful rulers. He could have been born anywhere, in any number of ways that would have commanded attention, but He wasn’t.
“You will find Him in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes,” the angels continued. “He is the promised One.”
The angels disappeared, and the shepherds knew they must go and find Him. As they entered Bethlehem, they came upon the humble place where the animals were kept and saw a man and a woman holding a newborn baby. The baby was swaddled in cloth exactly as the angels had said He would be, and the shepherds fell to their knees in awe.
“Angels came to us,” they said, “and they told us of the child. He is the One we have been waiting for,” they whispered.
High in the night sky, a star moved steadily toward the stable, guiding the wise men to where He was. They followed it eagerly, knowing it was leading them to the Christ child. For many months, maybe even years, they traveled underneath the star until it finally settled in Bethlehem above the house where Mary and Joseph were. As they entered the house, their knees bent in reverence.
“Blessed King of David,” they cried, “we have come to worship You and offer You gifts.” They placed gold, frankincense, and myrrh near the child. Everything that had gone wrong with the world would be made right through this Child. The Holy being filled with the breath of humanity. Jesus.
With every passing day Mary and Joseph watched as He grew like any other child; His feet outgrowing His sandals while He learned to feed Himself and to speak the words they taught Him.
It wasn’t the way many people expected the Savior to come into the world, but that’s exactly why it happened the way it did. From His first cry in the manger, God wanted us to know that He was like us. Or rather, that we were like Him.
One young woman. One yes. One manger in a small town. One Baby who brought the peace of God to the people of the world. One night where the ordinary kissed the sacred, never to be the same again.
ANGIE SMITH is the author of bestselling titles Chasing God and Audrey Bunny. Angie lives with her husband, Todd, and daughters in Nashville, Tennessee. Taken from For Such A Time As This by Angie Smith. Used by permission of B&H Publishing.