Let it be to me according to your word

Correggio — Holy NightWe went to the Christmas Eve service at church tonight, and unlike the last couple times, we kept our unruly child in the service instead of the cry room-slash-penalty box — because it was being used by tots younger and rowdier even than he.

So I got to hear the Scripture, and the message, and interestingly enough, I had a thought. An actual thought! Amid the whining of my child to go downstairs and play with toys ("Downstairs! Toys!" in urgent whispers all throughout the service, so that someone sitting near us moved farther away), I had this thought imparted to me.

"And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them." (Luke 2:6-7, NLT)

I know, right?

Oh, wait, you've read that before? All right, here's my thought, then.

This story has been dramatized so often that it's burned into our heads as a mini-tragedy. Joseph, with Mary on the donkey behind him, groaning but beatific (of course), is pounding on inn doors, demanding that someone let them in, that someone give them room for his FRICKING PREGNANT-TO-BURSTING WIFE — come ON, people, can't you see she's in LABOR? Throw us a bone, here.

And Joseph is upset that all he can provide for his bride is a filthy stable, but Mary is calm (of course) and goes along with it.

But Luke's account is actually all we have, just those few bare words. She laid him in a manger, because there was no other room for them.

There's no drama at all. There might be some implied. Or there might not.

There's no record of Mary saying, "Oh, for Pete's sake" (because, of course, Peter couldn't be sworn by yet), "this is the worst birthing experience EVER."

There's no record of her feeling entitled and then disappointed, of her complaining and whining ("Downstairs! Toys!") and missing the wonder of the birth for her hurt feelings. I would have been. I would strongly have felt, I don't deserve this! I don't deserve to be treated in this crude manner. Why can't these people see that I, in labor, have more of a call to a warm bed than they do?

I would have been royally pissed off, my friends. I might have taken it out on Joseph. I might have thrown a few swears at God. I would definitely have stomped and stormed and huffed on past all the people in the inn, thankyouverymuch, who were ignoring my plight.

But there's no record of any such hissy fits. Mary just matter-of-factly lays Jesus where she can.

So I don't know how she actually felt, but I have this sense that if it had been important to include a drama in the story, it would have been included. So I'm thinking maybe there was no drama.

Maybe they both just accepted: Hey, we didn't make reservations. Good thing there's this nook they can tuck us into, and a little space for the baby.

And then I imagine Jesus, Lord of the fricking universe, accepting this, too, without protest. He doesn't insist on a gold-inlayed throne-cradle. He doesn't ask for the latest and greatest, soon to be recalled, from Babies R Us. He lies there in the manger, and he likes it. Because he came to be king of the poor, king of the outcast, king of those people who think nothing of giving birth in a lousy, poo-filled stall.

That is our God. That is Emmanuel, born to us this night.

"Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
... to the glory of God the Father."

(Philippians 2:6-11, NLT)

Merry Christmas Eve.


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