Saturday, December 26, 2009

Away, and alone, in a manger

This Christmas season, I found myself pondering the birth of our Lord.  For some reason, even though I’ve known the story of Jesus’ birth my whole life, it struck me in a new way this year.  It suddenly struck me that Mary and Joseph were alone when Jesus was born, and how unusual that would have been.  I guess, in reality, their families could have been there with them, but Luke 2 says that when the shepherds got to the stable they found only Mary, Joseph and the baby.  

What was the deal with their families?

I’m especially curious because when a woman is about to give birth she is usually surrounded by family and friends, at the very least by close relatives like her mother.   Where was Mary’s mother?   Where was the rest of Mary’s family?  For that matter, what about Joseph’s family?  

Clinton had an interesting thought about it.  He wondered if maybe they were alone because their families shunned them due to Mary’s pregnancy.   Unmarried daughter claims the child she carries is God’s child, and her fiancĂ©e is going to marry her anyway?  At the very least they would have been accused of disgraceful behavior, and at the most of being completely insane.   The possibility of the pain and suffering Mary and Joseph may have experienced, through no fault of their own, made me so sad! How lonely they must have felt!

I tried to picture what it could have been like for their families.  I would think that both families were surely in Bethlehem at the same time, as both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David.  EVERYONE had to go to his own town to be taxed and counted for the census.   Surely their families were there.

How would the families have heard about the baby if they were estranged from Mary and Joseph?  Even with Bethlehem full to overflowing with people, a story as unusual as the one the shepherds told would surely have reached every nook and cranny of every street corner.  Imagine the possibility that the new grandparents would have heard along with all the rest of Bethlehem about their grandson being born. What would the family members’ reactions have been, hearing that the baby born in a manger was their grandson/nephew/cousin?  

What could have been their reaction to the amazing story the shepherds told?  Angels declared that Mary and Joseph’s baby was the Christ.  Perhaps they reconsidered the truthfulness of what Mary had told them about Jesus’ conception.  Do you think they were more likely to have believed the shepherds’ story than the average citizen did?

I felt a glimmer of hope.  If they were estranged, could the birth of grandson Jesus have helped to heal the rift?  We know that at least by the time Jesus was twelve that He and the Holy Family were surrounded by extended family (Luke 2:44).   Even if they didn’t fully believe He was the promised Messiah, somewhere along the line forgiveness and reconciliation had to have occurred.

Jesus' conception and birth may have caused a rift in his earthly family. I don't really know.  But I am comforted that if there was an estrangement, that it seems to have been temporary.  Maybe “on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests” included Jesus’ own family.