Luke 1:57-66 ~ (New International Version)
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
We know what the Nativity looked like.
Do any of us really know what it looks like, with certainty, when the Lord's hand is with us?
I know someone who had sudden voice loss, due to nodules on the vocal cords. It was incredibly stressful. Their marriage suffered. The patient suffered. It was difficult for them to think of any other subject, just disability and permanent loss. The uncertainty continued for several operations and then therapy after the successful operation. If Zechariah didn't believe the angel about the impeding birth of his son John, why would he have rested comfortably in the angel's promise of restoration of speech?
Stables in Bethlehem, partial cave. c 1888. Much of Israel more than 100 years ago would have looked - as a way of life - as it did for millenniums. Vast population increases have changed this.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Surprisingly to people waiting for the Son of God, for millenniums, Jesus wasn't born in a palace. God's hand didn't place Him in luxury.
The Nativity has a message for us today. Troubles don't come to stay, and even those following the Lord have stresses and worries. God will see us through.
What do the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, our Christ, have in common? The people doing God's plan of salvation are not at ease. It isn't comfortable. Roses are not scattered down the path. In neither miracle, do angels play music and sing during the months of decisions. There are fears and questions. No one is ever able to say, "Sure it's rough for you, but look how easy Jesus' parents had it."
What brought them to the place where God's plan actually began to unfold? God. Each day had uncertainty, each day Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary and Joseph wondered. Each day they put their trust in the Lord to bring them forward. We know this, the Gospels tell us people around Mary & Joseph were not happy with the events, both in the telling of the birth of Jesus and in what the Gospels don't tell about. We never hear of Mary's family giving her assistance, or Joseph's family. Mary & Joseph journey alone, there do not seem to be siblings or cousins who travel with them - reporting to the census.
Later, in their escape to Egypt to avoid Herod's infant killings, they must trust the Lord to provide for them against highway robbery, for shelter and for provisions. And years later, they return to become such a part of Nazareth, the community sees no difference in the family between Mary & Joseph's children and the Son of God. It is a credit to the godliness of Mary & Joseph they blend back into their community.
"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"
"Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Yet the joy of the people trusting the Lord.
God's Precious Gift in a Manger, by Rebecca Ann Lamb & Illustrated by David Erickson
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
28 Simeon took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen Your Salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a Light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for Glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem!
For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.