Pastor’s Desk December 23rd

Scripture Passage:  “And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7
Dear Friends,
     A baby changes everything.   My advice to young couples entering in to marriage is to wait a while before they begin to have children.  They need time to adjust to marriage and the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of intimacy without having added responsibilities.
     Joseph and Mary did not have a honeymoon. During their engagement period, Mary found out she was pregnant.  She knew she had not had sexual relations with anyone so you can imagine her surprise and shock.  According to the angel the baby’s father was the Holy Ghost.  The angel told her to fear not for she had found favor with God.  Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy also.  He knew he had not had sexual relations with her, so it could not be his child.  He contemplated putting her away privately so she would not have to go through the shame and possible punishment for having a baby out of wedlock. Imagine his surprise when the angel came to him and told him to go ahead and take Mary as his wife.  Only an angel could have convinced him that the baby’s father was heavenly rather than earthly.  In obedience, he arose to the occasion, took Mary to be his wife, and withheld from having sexual relations with her until after the baby was born.  Joseph was probably older than Mary, but both would have born the burden of what would have been perceived as a scandalous affair.  In modern days, as well as back then, the proper thing to do would have been to marry quickly to keep the idle gossip at a minimum.
     Augustus Caesar could not have known that his taxation of Judah would set in motion the events that led to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  What woman in her ninth month of pregnancy would have wanted to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot?  Did she not have family she could stay with?  Had her family turned against her and did the neighbors shun her?  I do not know, but having seen the terrain she and Joseph would have been traveling, it would have been an arduous journey.  I believe Joseph truly loved Mary and cared for her deeply.  He would have wanted Mary to have the best he could provide her with in the birth of their first son.  Most men, if they travel alone, are not so much concerned with comfort as they are with convenience.  Joseph would not have cared a bit to sleep in a barn, but to subject his pregnant wife to such primitive conditions would have been a bitter pill to swallow.  The only thing the barn would have provided was shelter.  Joseph would have sought out the cleanest part, scattered some fresh hay, and placed their sleeping mat over the hay to provide as much comfort as possible.  As the labor pains intensified, he would have swabbed her brow, held her hand, and spoken kind words of encouragement to her.  When the time came, it would have been up to him to deliver the baby.  The Lord, and each other, was all they had.
     Once the baby was born, it would have been rubbed with salt to help heal any cuts, abrasions and bruises and then wrapped in swaddling cloth.  This cloth was long narrow strips much like an “Ace” bandage would be today.  The baby would have been wrapped from head to toe in these strips to ensure the correct early development of the limbs.  Swaddling was a mark of parental love and care and symbolized the humble dependent position of the newborn child.  The swaddling cloth would provide the comfort the infant had known in its mother’s womb and the stone manger filled with hay would have been the incubator.  My final thoughts on the subject is how sad it was that the inn keeper did not give up his own bed to a woman ready to deliver a child.  Was she looked down upon as a lowly peasant girl undeserving of such sacrifice?  Was his heart so hard that he could not be touched by the needs of others?  Were the peasants of the lower class perceived as little better than the animals and worthy of nothing more?  I do not know.  What I do know is that the barn became the hospital, the husband the mid-wife, and the animals the attendants.  The supervisor was the Creator of the Universe and everything worked according to His plan.  On this glorious night, everything was just right.  May the same be said of your Christmas this year.
In Christ, Pastor Johnny