Written by Jen Yarbrough
As I sat back, a sigh I didn’t realize I’d been holding in all day came rushing out. Cool air from an open window nearby brought a refreshing breeze of comfort. Finally, I could put my feet up before retiring for the night. What a day! Travelers had come non-stop to my husband’s Inn due to the Roman emperor requiring everyone to go to their town of birth to be registered in the census. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the extra business this decree has brought, but I also know what a hardship it is on those who have to travel great distances to comply.
Several hours ago my husband had turned away a young man and woman, who was obviously with child and due any day, telling them we had no room. I could see the fatigue on the young woman’s face and couldn’t imagine what a full day’s ride on the back of a donkey would feel like when nine months pregnant. I’d nudged my husband and whispered maybe they could at least be sheltered in the barn out back. No one would mind as long as they didn’t. The look of relief on their faces made me grateful we could at least offer that. Imagine! Spending the night out with the animals! The thought made me look forward to my bed upstairs even more, but I wanted to sit and catch my breath just a little longer, glad the knocking at the door seemed to have ceased for the night.
It seems lately there are too many evenings where I sit and wonder where the day has gone. The older I get the faster the years appear to fly by. And life always seems to demand just one more thing. But tonight, at least in this moment, I am going to sit with my feet up and enjoy a cup of mint tea. Oh, the days when I was young and could go all day without my ankles swelling up like the bread dough rising in the kitchen for the morning meal!
Now that quiet is settling over both my home and my mind, I find those pesky thoughts of worry stealing in. They always seem ready to take over if I allow them. Thoughts of concern over my children . . . are they growing up to be strong men and capable women? And my husband . . . he seems to be moving a little slower these days and says the pain in his chest is of no concern, but I know better. Also, the worry lines around his eyes, which used to have more sparkle, have deepened ever since that new inn a few blocks over opened its doors. And that’s just the stuff close to home. I haven’t even mentioned the very real fear of being ruled by the Romans and the unknown trials that might bring. If only I could just shake my head and cause these thoughts to fling from my mind!
Ready to go upstairs to bed, I suddenly hear a sound that all women know and understand. The cry of a newborn child. So precious, vulnerable and helpless, all at the same time. Goodness, that poor woman! Having her child tonight out in the barn of all places. My own worries fling quickly from my mind as I jump to my feet to go see if they need any help. Grabbing some towels, a pitcher of water, and an extra blanket, I fly out the back door.
As I step out into the courtyard I am shocked to see that it is nearly as bright as day. Blinking, I look up and see a star that is shining as bright as the moon! I shake my head, thinking I might be seeing things after the day I’ve had, but the brightness remains. Then I notice movement out of the corner of my eye. I turn toward the barn and see a group of shepherds talking excitedly in low voices outside the door. What in the world? Where have these men come from, and why are they in my courtyard? The energy I thought was spent for the day quickly returns, and I stride up and ask them why they are here. One of them turns to me with a wide smile saying, “You will never believe it, but I promise it is true! A Savior has been born to us this day!” I think that surely he’s had too much wine to drink, but his eyes are clear and he says it with such certainty.
I ask him to explain himself and he tells me a story that I will never forget! He says, “The other shepherds and I were guarding our sheep just outside of town when suddenly angels appeared in the sky, telling us not to be afraid, but that they have a message from God that will bring great joy to all people. An angel told us that the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior we have read about in Scriptures and have been waiting for, has been born today, here in this very city. Then they told us we would find him lying in a manger! The very Messiah, in a manger?! This we did not believe, but here he is! Right in your barn! Go in and look for yourself!”
I tell him that I will definitely go in and see for myself because who could believe a story this astonishing! Brushing past him, I open the door and suddenly feel a rush of overwhelming love and peace. Stumbling over my feet I look up and see the child, lying in his mother’s arms. And I know. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes I know my life will never be the same. Here is my Savior. The One promised long ago who will never leave or forsake me. The one who I know I can give all my worries and cares to. Someone to turn to for healing, strength, and peace.
“After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2:17-20)
May you experience our precious Savior this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!