I woke early this morning, memories of past Christmas mornings causing me to expect to hear the sound of our sons talking in low whispers as they pick through their Christmas stockings. Instead I hear the silence that comes with the gentle rise and fall of my wife sleeping, and not a peep from the living room that sits beyond the closed bedroom door.
But now I am awake, and for me, there is typically no going back into an interrupted dream, or deep slumber. No, when my eyes pop open in the morning, they want to stay open — much to my chagrin. As I lay there, immediately my thoughts go to the first Christmas, and I wondered what that morning was like. Was it as silent as it is for me now? Did Joseph and Mary have the option of sleeping in like my family is doing now? Probably not.
We focus so much each year on the birth of the baby in the middle of the night, but rarely do we think much about the next morning. Wait, WAS Jesus born in the night, like every Christmas card and movie portrays? What does the Bible tell us?
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:9-11)
Well, that should answer that question for us. So, yes, he was born at night, and yes, there would have been “the next morning”. Did the Silent Night we sing about carry over? Probably not.
Think for a moment about where Joseph and Mary were (a stable), and where they placed Jesus after he was born (a manger). That’s a barn and a feeding trough. At the local hotel.
Now, one of the things I appreciate about traveling is staying in hotels that provide a free breakfast. My favorite hotel to stay in is Homewood Suites, because they also typically provide some kind of free dinner as well — but this isn’t about them, it’s about what happened in Bethlehem some 2000 or so years ago. To provide that breakfast, someone has to get up early and make it all. Really early.
So, think about the patrons of THAT inn in Bethlehem. I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming they maybe provided breakfast for those who stayed there — after all, it was THEIR stable, and they were an inn and not a farm. That means someone had to come out and get milk from the cow, collect eggs from the chickens. Oh, and we know there wasn’t any bacon… these are Jewish folks. So, if someone had to come out, that would be the equivalent of the maid not only knocking on your door while you’re still asleep, but then coming in regardless of how you respond so she can get to work cleaning your room.
OK, so maybe you’re thinking, “Um, Barry, you can NOT make those kind of specific assumptions when it comes to the Word of God — especially with details surrounding the birth of our Savior!” Alright. I can give you that, BUT even if they didn’t provide breakfast… and there was no cow to milk or chickens to collect eggs from… it was still a stable. That means at the very least, horses, donkeys (and maybe even camels!) were kept out there for those traveling. Consider it the parking lot behind the Homewood Suites.
That would mean, early the next morning someone from the inn would come out to feed and water those animals — and most likely, some of those travelers would want to get their horse and be on their way. Think of the commotion in the stable that morning.
“Um, Mr. Joseph, sir… I’m sorry to wake you — yes, I know it’s been a long night… again, I apologize. But, um, Mr. Rabinowitz’s horse needs to be fed, and… well… your baby is sleeping in it’s bowl. Can you please move it?”
Maybe a silent night, but probably not a silent morning — and definitely not the start of the first day that Jesus deserved… or Joseph and Mary. The reality though, is they said ‘yes’ to God, and in doing so, agreed to all that life would bring their way.
“‘I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38)
Servant. The Greek there is the word “doule” which literally means slave. She didn’t know the details, but her heart was positioned right — and in her defense, I don’t think she was complaining about their arrangements that first night. She had the memory of the angel Gabriel coming to both her and Joseph, and then in the middle of the night all those shepherds showed up and had to tell them they were there because the angels sent them. When you have moments like that to cling to, the barn, the manger, and being woken up so early — while still frustrating — were probably tolerable.
So, for me the quietness of the house this morning (actually, my mother-in-law’s apartment), was a reminder of how blessed we are as a family. God provides for us today in 2014, just as He did for them in Bethlehem all those years ago. Just like Mary and Joseph, we signed on to God’s plan at the beginning of our life together… and just like them, we are still trusting Him every step of the way.
Now, if only my sons would wake up so we can eat the amazing breakfast being whipped up in the kitchen! Thankfully, no babies will have to be moved so we can eat this morning.