The busiest day for mailing typically is the Monday before Christmas. The busiest shopping day often is Christmas Eve. This, then, has been a very busy week.
Amid the holiday bustle, it’s important to remember that the lines at the post offices and the cash registers wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for a special family crowding into Bethlehem two millennia ago.
Remember the scene: Joseph, with the unfathomable humility of a man committed to a child-bride who is carrying someone else’s baby, takes his new family to his home community for census registration. Like last-minute shoppers having to scramble for ideas when the must-have toy of the season is sold out, Joseph and Mary discover that when you don’t make reservations, sometimes all the hotels are booked.
Some versions of the Christmas story depict the innkeeper as heartless for kicking a pregnant woman out back to deliver her baby in a barn. But under the circumstances, the property owner is best regarded as helpful, if not downright kindly.
It would have been enough for the innkeeper to have just waved off Joseph and Mary with a “no vacancy” sign; after all, they didn’t call in advance and leave a Mastercard number for a guaranteed reservation. All the rooms were booked and there was nothing left for stragglers.
Instead, the innkeeper took pity on them and made his manger available. It’s not as bad as it sounds; historically, mangers weren’t the dusty, open-air sheds depicted in modern nativity scenes, but usually were caves. Certainly, though, that isn’t the sort of maternity ward any of us would expect for the birth of our own child, much less the birth of the son of God.
Joseph made the best of it, and Mary delivered the baby without trouble. The Bible doesn’t give details - after all, Jesus’ arrival isn’t as important as what he did once he got here - but clearly the baby was healthy and Mary was able to wrap him snugly and keep him safe and warm.
He’s been returning the favor by doing the same for Christians ever since.
Religious or secular, or a little of both, the annual celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ provides an excuse for hustle and bustle, long lines, frayed tempers and overextended credit. But it also is a time for fellowship and family. After the last-minute rush is all over, just as it was on that night 2,000 years ago, wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas is like the beloved song Silent Night: All is calm; all is bright.
After the seasonal storm, may all of us have a calm and merry Christmas.
(Reprinted from 2008)