Throughout my life I have heard the nativity story many times, but never really thought twice about the people that were there when Jesus was born. These aren't just characters that just 'appeared' for this miraculous story in the Bible, but these were people that had a life, walked around here on earth and had something miraculous happen.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is "A Baby Changes Everything," by Faith Hill. Within the last few years I have really become attached to the song Because it is about Mary, an what is she is going through.
Mary was a teenage girl where we come into 'view' of her story- she had her usual chores of fixing the food, feeding the animals, washing clothes and other household chores. She became engaged to be married to Joseph, a carpenter.
Times were different back then - the engagement period wasn't a time to figure out the wedding dress, color of napkins or Dj's for the reception - like how the engagement period is nowadays.
You see, it took many years for men to establish themselves enough to support a wife and a family. When they did have it all together, they would typically seek out a much younger girl, that way they were strong enough to bear and raise lots of children .Mary was likely to be somewhere between 12 and 14 years old during this time. 12 -14 sounds young for our time to become a mother, but this was common during this time.We know that she was of childbearing age, but if she was any older than 14, she would be considered as too old for marriage in her culture.
She had great faith, especially being such a young girl. She wasn't a middle aged woman who had experienced the world, but she had great faith in God.
During the period of her engagement with Joseph, when he was establishing himself and a home for Mary and a future family, Mary was visited by an angel, Gabriel.
He appeared to her : and said"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you".
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." (Luke 1:28-29)
Mary was troubled, I think I would be too, if an angel appeared, and began to tell me that me that I am highly favored..." I probably thought it was some kind of joke or something.
-Gabriel reassured her though, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with god. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. "How will this be?" Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child, in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail." "I am the Lord's servant, " Mary answered. ""May your word to me be fulfilled. " then the angel Left her.
This would be alot of news... 1) God favors Mary 2) She was to conceive and have a son, even though she was a virgin, 3) the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and make her be conceived 4) not with just ANY baby- but with the Son of God....... 5) Her cousin, Elizabeth, who is old is having a baby in just a few months!
Being pregnant out of wedlock was a very serious offense in their law. She could have been sentenced to death, if she had been brought before priests, and if they accused her of sexual promiscuity. even still, If that didn't happen, her life would be ruined - no man would marry a girl who had not remained a virgin until they were married, and there was no such thing as a single mom during those days. Never before in history had a virgin become pregnant, it was an outrageous story. After Mary told Joseph about what was going on, Joseph was troubled. Joseph was obedient to the law, but didn't want to expose her to the public, he had it in his mind that they would quietly go their separate ways (Matthew 1:19)
Mary went and visited her cousin, Elizabeth, after-all she also had something miraculous going on.And she could relate to what Mary was going through. While she was away, Joseph had a dream, and the Lord appeared to him in it, and told him to take Mary home as your wife because what is conceived in her is from the holy Spirit She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.(Matthew 20-21)
The government at that time decided to conduct a census, every family in Israel had to travel back to their ancestral home to be counted. For Mary & Joseph, that meant that they had to travel back to Bethlehem. Mary, who was 9 months pregnant, rode on a donkey for that 60 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They didnt have the luxuries of a car... they had a donkey... probably a very uncomfortable mode of transportation even without being pregnant, much less about to have a baby... Every hotel was booked because everyone was in town for the census. Finally an innkeeper felt pity for them, and loaned them his stable.
Of course That very night is when Jesus was born. There was mary & Joseph in this barn, Mary having this baby. No doctor, no medical equipment.... having a baby in a barn. not even a home. a barn. I can't imagine what went on that night and what joy it was for Mary and Joseph to have
Some shepherds in a nearby field (which was possibly King David's great-grandparents Boaz and Ruth's field) were the first to know about the Messiah's birth. While tending their flocks, an angel came and informed them of Jesus' birth. Pilgrims bought the lambs from the flocks that these shepherds were tending at Passover and when making sacrifices for sins, they were born to die for the sins of the people .... (Which is why Jesus was born) --- So it was fitting that these shepherds learned first to learn about Jesus.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
After Jesus was born someone handed Mary swaddling cloths. This wasn't a nice pretty blue blanket from a hospital, this was some cloths that were made from the worn out linen undergarments of the temple priests, they normally were woven into wicks for the menorah in the temple courtyard.
Sometime after Jesus was born, King Herod was in reign, some wise men came to Jerusalem, and they asked for the King of the Jews, because they had seen the eastern star and they had come to worship him. King Herod heard this and wanted to know where this King was.... He was disturbed that there was a king that was born, and feared that this newborn would overthrow his power.
So Herod had priests and teachers look into where this child was born, and in the prophesy it was written that he was in Bethlehem. Herod told the wise men to go and search for this king, then come back to tell him exactly where this king was. The wise men found the star, and found Mary, Joseph and Jesus, they bowed, worshiped and presented them with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. After having a dream about not going back to Herod, they decided to find another route.
Joseph was also warned in a dream that night. An angel told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt quickly because Herod was out to kill Jesus. They left just in time because Herod's soldiers stormed into Bethlehem and murdered all the boys under 2 years old. They stayed in Egypt until the angel told them that Herod had died and it was safe to go back. (Matthew 2:13-23)
It is amazing of how Mary, who was so young, went through all of it...A true blessing to be carrying the Savior, and then to be the Savior's mother.