When I think about being little and hearing the story of Jesus’ birth, I remember being amazed at such an important baby being born in a manger. I even remember being amazed that Mary said yes to the angel without a second thought. But mostly I remember having a romanticized version of the Nativity in my mind.
I pictured Mary serene and sure of herself. I imagined her smiling and joyful because such an amazing thing was asked of her. My mind saw her as she was in all the pictures and Nativity scenes… lovely, peaceful, wearing spotless garments, draped in blue and hair perfect. The barn looked clean and lovely, and the manger seemed as though it was always meant for a baby.
If only life were truly that picture perfect.
A few years ago, when The Nativity Story came out in theaters, I wanted to see it so badly. It looked like such a real depiction of the events, but I wasn’t able to go see it and honestly forgot about it shortly thereafter. This week I noticed it running on TNT, so I sat myself down to watch it and got lost in the story.
The real story. The one where their lives were full of the worry of work and taxes and what neighbors think of you. The story where Mary says yes to the angel, but walks away with questions and concerns. The one where Joseph needs coaxing to believe in Mary, the one where her parents want her to stay home from the census to protect her, the one where their neighbors shun them for what is perceived as their sinful ways. The story where Mary and Joseph admit their fears to each other but continue on their journey because they answered the call to do what was right.
They didn’t just peacefully travel to Bethlehem on a donkey, as we see in the story books. They struggled. They ran out of food. They nearly lost their footing crossing a river and Mary prayed aloud that God would help them find a way to get through their journey.
She didn’t ask for a chariot. She didn’t ask for their way to be made simple. She didn’t ask for God to reveal His plan to all so she wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation. She didn’t ask for it to be easy. Mary simply asked for help and strength. And she was given both. Sometimes it seems natural for us to think that life is supposed to be easy. Or, if we’re on the right path, that it should be made smooth for us. But if we can learn anything from Mary and Joseph, it’s that we should forge ahead doing right for right’s sake. Whether the journey seems impossible, or it seems we deserve better … we need only remember that God’s own Son didn’t have an easy way into this life. Or out of it. But He was given the same help and strength that was given to His parents. The same help and strength that is offered to us every day if we choose to look, not beyond our circumstances, but in the midst of them.
Mary and Joseph didn’t wait until they were in a cozy home to be grateful that God had pulled them through. In the midst of the rough circumstances they found at the stable, they recognized the gift that had been entrusted to them. This Christmas, as we think about what didn’t go quite right or how we may have wanted things to be easier, stop and remember that just as Mary and Joseph found all those years ago, we too are always given blessings in the hay.
It’s so easy to get distracted by the difficulties instead of the joy, but today – and every day – should be about remembering why we are here. Who gave us life. The struggle He had to go through just to be born. The faithfulness of Mary and Joseph, not to be rescued and their burdens eased, but instead to fulfill what God asked of them.
We are here because He was born.
How blessed we are.