By Michael Coughlan
I had not been on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem in a long time. The road was worse than I remembered. It had nothing but holes and rocks and so many people. Some of them looked friendly and some looked like they would slit your throat! I held tightly to the rope while Mary was riding on our mule, and kept praying over and over: “Oh dear God, don’t let Mary deliver this very special baby on top of a mule!” I also wondered, would the Romans repair this road if we paid more taxes? I had never prayed so much in my life. Somehow I knew that God would get us there in time.
After ONLY three days I saw Bethlehem in the distance. Mary was still sitting on the mule. Baby Jesus hadn’t come yet and we made the trip in time. It was a miracle! I just knew I could feel angels all around us, pushing us along. Now if we could just find a nice comfortable room, I could get my very overdue nap!
I had never seen Bethlehem so crowded before. People were everywhere. Did they all come here to pay the Roman tax? I remember going to every inn keeper in the whole town! There were no rooms for us anywhere! “Mary, what are we going to do?” I shouted! Mary didn’t answer me. She was asleep on the mule. That’s what I wanted to do!!
“Joseph,” I told myself, “you know you need to pray hard now!” I remember that I did pray very loud. In fact, people were staring at me. I didn’t care. We had to have a place to have our baby!! I yelled, “Oh Dear God, we need a miracle quickly!”
“Ask and you shall receive.” The door to an inn that I had knocked on just before started to open just a little. The innkeeper softly spoke to me. He still said, “We have nothing for you unless you want to sleep in our stable with the cows and chickens?” “I love cows and chickens,” I told him! I remember looking up to Heaven and a beautiful big star was right above us. “Thank you, God,” I shouted! “Thank you, Thank you!”
I had woken Mary up with all my shouting and the mule knew exactly where to go. I still remember that as we walked to the stable that I kept saying, “Thank you, God, thank you, thank you!” Sometimes, that’s all you can do!
Ah yes, as we approached the stable, I remember that as I reached up to help Mary down from our mule, I saw a wonderful sight. The mule slowly kneeled to allow Mary to come down off his back. It was so beautiful. God was so much with us. There was plenty of hay and straw and the innkeeper’s wife brought blankets for Mary to lie on. She even found a manger for the baby Jesus and more animals came in to keep us warm. I remember, we prayed a lot that night Mary and I. We asked God to help her give birth to baby Jesus soon and that it would happen smoothly and easily. Later, we heard our baby cry and Mary and I cried too. That morning became the very first Christmas.
It was the most wonderful, beautiful, peaceful sight I had ever seen. My lovely wife Mary was holding our baby, who was Jesus the Messiah. He belonged to everyone! I still remember being deep in thought about that, even feeling possessive toward our first baby! How could He belong to everyone? He was ours. I continued to ponder this and other thoughts and questions. Then this peaceful scene soon became not so peaceful and a lot more crowded.
Some shepherds came running in from the hills to see Baby Jesus. They told us that a whole host of magnificent heavenly angels had appeared above them singing joyously about the birth of the Savior of the world! The angels also told them that they should come to our stable, worship Him, and then go tell all of Bethlehem! I knew then that things were not going to be so quiet. So many people would come in from all over Bethlehem to see the miracle child, and that is exactly what happened.
Take some time today and read Luke 2:1-20 and while reading ask yourself what would it be like to be in the shoes of the people in the story?
- How must it have felt to be Mary, the Shepherds, Joseph, or the inn keeper?
- What was it like to arrive in Bethlehem and find no place for a very pregnant Mary?
- How can pondering the experiences of Mary and Joseph deepen your understanding of Christmas?