Christmas is coming up fast, it seems. I feel like I am so far behind and totally not ready. Maybe it’s because it’s so warm yet. My brain thinks it’s still October. Anyway, I thought I would share a little exercise that I am doing with my friends from church – it is helping me practice gratitude and reminding me of the joy that came with the birth of Christ.
The holidays are busy for everyone and some of us fly south for the winter (not me, in case you were wondering – although with El Nino upon us, I’m not sure you can tell the difference between Florida and Wisconsin right now) so we are participating, via email, in prayerful reflection (lectio divine) over a single scripture.
The scripture we are reflecting on is this: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Luke 2:1
Yeah, what a fun one…government and taxes.
But of course, we all know the “rest of the story..” (read in Paul Harvey’s voice for best results). Because of this decree, Joseph and Mary have to schlep from Nazareth to Bethlehem of Judea – 80 odd miles via roadways made 2000 years ago (translation: really crappy roads). On foot. For over a week. During the rainy season. Wearing layers of woolen cloaks. Up and down and up and down hills. Sleeping outside. In the mud. And the cold. Carrying all of their own provisions. With Mary 9 months pregnant (NINE MONTHS!).
Oh wait – they had a donkey. That makes it so much better.
I just realized that Mary had the perfect labor and delivery story to use on Jesus. “I had to walk 80 miles! Pregnant! In the rain! Uphill! And after we got there, we couldn’t find a hotel and ended up having you in a cave. And then a bunch of smelly shepherds piled in and then those singing angels! Oy! The singing! The noise! The smell! And the next day we had to go pay taxes. TAXES! You should be so lucky. So don’t tell me you’re “too tired” to heal the sick. I’ll give you “too tired….”
Meanwhile Jesus is rolling his eyes and picking at the food on his plate, wondering why all the OTHER kids get to go to the camel races.
I remember my ninth month with both of my pregnancies. I don’t recall it as being a “good time”. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a time for an 80 mile hike – with or without a donkey. I couldn’t see my feet, which is surprising because they had grown a size and were swollen to the point that the only shoes that fit were Dave’s slippers. I had to pee every 5 minutes which meant I had to somehow negotiate the physics of sitting down and standing up without tipping over into the bathtub.
I couldn’t stand very long without my stomach muscles threatening to flee the country and when I sat down, my pelvis felt like it was burrowing it’s way to China. Laying down was marginally better, except the having to pee every 5 minutes thing and flopping around like a big ole fat fish trying to get out of the waterbed (a sight to see, mind you. And stop raising your eyebrows about the waterbed. This was the eighties. I’m old, remember?).
So the very idea of poor Mary and Joseph spending the last week of her pregnancy hiking thru the hills of Galilee and Judea gives me a new appreciation for my millennial comforts. I think I shall go out in the garage and hug my car now, thank you very much. And my accountant. And my nice hospital where I gave birth to my children in my fancy birthing suite. And that county road worker over there, laying down the new asphalt so I can drive my car on nice smooth roads. Oh wait…he’s running away. Why is he running? Wow, he is fast! Fine! Don’t get your hug then! Your loss, buddy!
So “it came to pass” that cars were invented and hospitals and accountants and yoga pants and cute maternity tunics and Skechers. And women sometimes took these things for granted until they read about Mary and then became ever so grateful that God had allowed them to be born in a time that did not require 80 mile hikes and riding on donkeys and giving birth in caves in front of smelly shepherds because it was weird enough having half the nursing and intern staff staring at her nether regions.
May the peace and joy of our living Savior follow you throughout this holiday season, as we celebrate His humble birth.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:7-14