I've been sitting here for nearly an hour, trying to put my thoughts and feelings about this Christmas into some beautiful words like I usually do. I've tried carols. I've thought of metaphors. I've even considered just copying a beautiful poem about Christmas and calling it a day.
But the truth is that isn't what it's all about.
You see, the first Christmas was anything but beautiful.
Mary was a teenage mother. She had never had a baby before. She was newly married to a man who wasn't the baby's father. She'd been traveling for days. She was tired...and I'm willing to imagine that she was frustrated with Joseph, the census, and the Lord.
Joseph was trying his hardest. He really was. But there simply was no room. The stable was all they had. Imagine any man hearing that they had to live in a barn. They'd simply be furious. I imagine Joseph was...but he was keeping it together for Mary.
There were animals. Everywhere. Sheep, goats, cows, pigs, donkeys...I'm sure they had them all. Add the odd mouse and stray cat, and you have a full house. Not only was it full, I'm sure it wasn't pleasing to the nose or the ears. Imagine laboring for the first time...surrounded by the sounds of grunting pigs and the smells that cows leave behind. It's just not a pretty picture.
The labor gets hard and intense. Mary has no idea what is coming next, no idea what to do. And Joseph? Well, he probably was doing what any new father would be doing: pacing and muttering. I imagine they both we questioning the Lord at this point. "Was this really what you had in mind for your Son, Lord? I thought I would at least have a bed..." "Can't you see the pain she is in, God? Why did you put me with this woman?"
Mary pushes through, determined to be faithful to the Lord, to literally see the face of God. Joseph prays constantly for her safety, for his own sanity. They are surrounded by animals, far away from home, and yet they are steadfast, facing the Lord's plan and seeing it as good.
One final moment of pain...and then the heart-breakingly beautiful sound of a baby's first cry, a cry that is often joined by the joyous tears of his parents. I imagine that Mary gently cradled her son, and whispered His name over and over, assuring Him of her love and marveling at His. Perhaps Joseph praised the Lord loudly, and then joined his wife on the floor to see the face of his Son and Savior.
I like to think that this little family had their own moment of adoration and worship, a moment they could truly cherish throughout the coming years. I can almost see Mary glow as she sings a song of praise for and to the Christ Child. I can imagine Joseph's face as he held the baby for the first time. Tears streaming down his face, strong arms holding the One whose arms hold the world.
I imagine they were both filled with wonder at the Baby. This tiny child...this is the Messiah? This is the Rescue for Israel? Yes, Yes. This is the Savior who is Christ the Lord. This is your Jesus.
No, the Christmas story doesn't seem to be terribly beautiful...but the center of it, the heart of the Father and His desire to save us...that is true beauty. The eyes of a little girl, weeping over her Son...that is gorgeous. The heart of a father, claiming a Child who shares no genes with him...that is precious.
The tiny Baby, somehow fully God and fully Man, the Messiah, the Chosen One, Emmanuel...
That is beautiful.