the sky was black, the terrain, rough, the journey, long - with no end in sight. on the backside of a two day journey, at least (perhaps longer since one was with child). there were no rest areas or 24 hour waffle houses. no Starbucks or truck stops. just the stars above and the ground below. it was the darkest night of the year, an eternity in waiting... and she knew, in the back of her mind, that things would never be the same. but did she realize in her moments of enduring pain that 'twas not only her life that would be change forever?
just as pain was about to bring forth a blessed hope so to would pain, in time, bring forth the ultimate second chance for all mankind - but that time was not for now. the world wasn't ready for that... yet.
nor was the world ready for the humbleness of what was coming... the gentleness... and lowliness.
upon arrival in the man's hometown - a simple town called Bethlehem - it appeared difficult to find a place to house him and his young bride, now nine months pregnant. it was late and the little town was quiet. no one even noticed their arrival. whom would they bother? where could they go? the trip had taken longer than expected and the estimated arrival at mid day came and went. it was now the middle of the night and the woman was in great pain, tired and weak from a long journey. uncomfortable. out of breath. the man, Joseph, had blisters on his sandled feet. ankles scratched and bloodied. his legs shivering from the cold, trembling with exhaustion from the walk. yet, not a word of complaint dripped from his lips.
in the quiet of the night his mind raced, trying to find a solution to their midnight loneliness. his family long gone from the region left him with limited options. Mary, his wife began to cry. to be pregnant sans shelter was not the way she had imagined it all. deep down she knew that tonight was the night.
Joseph's pride was crushed, his head sulked - wishing and hoping for a miracle - that some form of shelter would appear... that some kind soul would be awake and willing. little did he realize the true miracle that would soon take place. he did his best to conceal his worry worn across his face as they wandered through town. finally, on the outskirts on the east end - a half empty stable. a few cows lingered. some sheep penned up behind. a cold wind rushed across the barren night sky. clouds now hid the stars. this place was the best option.
Mary dismounted from the donkey and crawled to a gathering of hay. her discomfort was overwhelming. Joseph did his best to make her at peace. she tried to send the pain below - but it was too much to bear. She cried out 'My God, My God - where are you now!' 'Your will be done!' the man did his best to support her, his heart aching as he watched his new bride go through torment. But deep down, both tried to squelch the little doubt that would creep into heart and mind. they yearned to believe, to hope that all that had been foretold was about to happen... that a Messiah would be born from her womb. and then the pain overtook her, to the point that not a mere thought could be completed.
Despite the smells of that old barn; despite the cold chill that seeped through the cracks; despite the small fire that barely cut through the darkness, Mary endured for what seemed like hours, the livestock none the wiser to their role in what would become the greatest of stories. the sheep resting peacefully were undisturbed from the cries of agony.
and the moment finally came.
and the world would never be the same.
a sigh of relief. a comforting husband. a simple birth in the lowest of places... the first of many unexpected signs of grace. and the Savior of the world entered the world. the cord was cut, cloths wrapped around him, now nestled tightly against his mothers breast.
and their was peace. stillness. across the land.
passed out from exhaustion, Mary lay with child, resting in the hay. and in the distance a shining light followed by what sounded like exuberant celebration. somewhat surprising at this hour. it was not quite daybreak. Soon, some shepherds from a nearby pasture made their way to the stable. Joseph stoked the fire, a sort of symbolic stirring of the gift of life, the gift of light that was to be found in this newborn son - both his son and His son. Joseph looked to the sky and gave thanks. 'Here, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One. Thanks be to God. May my lips never cease to praise Your majestic name.'
as he was praying the shepherds arrived. 'Is it true? Is this for real?' History in the making, they thought. 'We've come to see the baby - the chosen one, the Messiah!' An angel had appeared to them and told them of the majesty.
it was at that time that the Christ child first showed himself to mankind - a mankind that would, in time, betray and rebel against him. But in the humbleness of his birth a message was implanted into the hearts of all that would receive it.
The one true God works in mysterious ways. Sending his son to Earth in the form of a baby - sweet, innocent, gentle, meek and mild was the only way for hope to arrive, so that it could not be manipulated and abused.
Hope for the world arrived on that dark night. and it was the last time that darkness would have dominion. from that point the true light would shine. in time, some would attempt to extinguish God's messenger of peace, hope and love - but that too was only temporary. This new light was life - for now and always for all eternity.
and the void within man's heart could now be filled - and his name was the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel. Wonderful. Counselor. who entered the world on that darkest night of the year. and our lives would never be the same...
and so the story goes...