By Heather Cox
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
I have probably read today’s passage hundreds of times, and I would bet that I am not alone. The nativity story may be the most familiar one in the Bible, which makes it prone for us to fall prey to “The Lullaby Effect.” When we read these words from Luke, “she wrapped him up in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” it is easy to overlook the details of the events due to the stupefying effects of familiarity. One way to overcome this effect is to try to imagine what it was like to be in the events that the Bible describes.
The arrival of anyone’s first child brings with it tons of uncertainty. Fifteen years ago, when it was time for my daughter to be born, I happened to know just when she would arrive, as she was a scheduled C-section. I knew I would have pain-relieving drugs and basically my job was just to show up at the hospital at the time I was told and let the doctors and nurses do the rest. Mary and I both had babies—that is about the extent of what we had in common!
I imagine Mary’s pregnancy was full of whispers and judgements of those in her community surrounding the suspicious nature of Jesus’ conception. Add that to, you know, the whole being-pregnant-in-the-ancient-world thing, and then throw in a road trip! Caesar Augustus required everyone to go to their hometown so they could be counted for a census. For Joseph, this meant Nazareth, so for Mary this meant a 70-mile trek . . . still pregnant! To say the couple was ready to rest after this journey would be the understatement of the century. Yet this is not what happened. Due to the large number of people in Nazareth for the census (Luke 2:1-3), all of the local hotels were full and the parents-to-be were told there was “no room for them in the inn.”
Can you imagine the desperation they must have felt? The hopelessness? The fear and anxiety? The sheer fatigue? Yet months earlier, when Mary was told by an angel that she would conceive and give birth to a Son who would rule over His kingdom forever (Luke 1:31-33), we see she had already surrendered to God. As a result, I imagine she handled this “no room at the inn” situation better than I would have. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
What if we responded to life’s surprises like Mary did? In our hopeless situations, where it feels like there is no resolution, what if we said, “Lord, I am your servant, use me for Your glory in this hardship, however it may turn out.”
In this season of Advent, may we remember that we serve a God that is near and with us in our circumstances, even the difficult and seemingly hopeless ones . . . Emmanuel: God with us. Always.