by Gail Rodgers
It was an exciting time for the little town of Bethlehem. Life was usually quiet and predictable in the sleepy town nestled among the hills. But ever since Caesar Augustus had ordered everyone back to their birth place to be counted in the census, life had begun to stir! Excitement was in the air and it was building as the day of the census drew near.
Housewives cleaned and baked in preparation of the arrival of relatives that seldom passed that way. Young girls expectantly fashioned new dresses as they happily anticipated the influx of eligible young men, men who had traveled unlike the shepherd boys of the town. Merchants worked hard preparing their wares. Why this was a rare opportunity to make perhaps a years wages in a few short weeks when the population of the little town would swell. Yes, innkeepers were getting every available space ready. Oh the visiting and laughing and partying that would be theirs as each anticipated their own particular delight in the event. Such a time would not soon be forgotten!
The parties began as the visitors registered for the census and found their loved ones and friends, old and new! Just as the townsfolk had anticipated, the crowds descended and the streets thronged with people. Inns were crowded and business in the market was booming. Young girls, dressed in their fine new gowns, laughed together in crowded little clusters as they enjoyed the party atmosphere.
And it was into this milling throng of activity came another young girl, riding on a donkey, nine months pregnant and tired. She and Joseph had made the long journey and were happy to be at their destination. Joseph was feeling anxious about Mary and hurried to the inn to find her a place of rest. Weariness grew in each step as he realized the town was full. There was no room. As he made his request at the last inn in Bethlehem the innkeeper offered them a place to rest in the stable. Gratefully they fell upon the hay and slept while the parties carried on nearby.
During the night Mary’s labor began. She was grateful to be at the journey’s end and not out along the road. She did so wish for something more for her baby yet she did not complain. Mary knew the child within her was special. An angel had appeared to her and told her this was to be the Son of God. She had been very careful who she shared that news with! People were already talking. Bing pregnant before the wedding date was certainly not acceptable in her circle. And to have said she was pregnant by the Spirit of God would have likely gotten her stoned. But she did tell Joseph of course. Joseph was a good man. He confided to Mary that an angel had appeared to him too and that he knew this baby was the Son of God.
That night in the stable, with weary bodies and wondering minds they beheld the birth of the child! And they knew… he was special! They did not understand why they were in a stable rather than a more noteworthy place, but they did know this baby was God’s son and Joseph named him JESUS as the angel had told him to. And they slept.
Outside of Bethlehem the young shepherds watched over the flocks of sheep. They could hear the sounds in the still night air of the busy town in the distance. They watched the stars as they had many a night on the quiet hillside. This night though, an amazing thing happened! Would anyone even believe them? They saw an angel! They heard him speak! He told them that this night the son of God was born in the City of David which was Bethlehem. They heard a host of angels praising God and they were overwhelmed! What a spectacular night it was!
After their fear and wonder subsided and they began to discuss the event, they determined to go and find the baby. They themselves were their own spectacle of sorts as they wondered through the streets in their shepherd’s garb looking for the Child. And they found Him. And they knew! This baby was special! And they worshiped Him. This Baby would be the Savior of the world! This Baby would be the gateway to God. Wonder of wonders!
Today life goes on much as it did that busy day in Bethlehem. Partying and visiting, baking and cleaning, buying and selling, calculating profits and losses, marrying and giving in marriage. It would be just as easy today to miss the presence of the Savior as it was on that night so long ago. God looks for those who are quiet and still, as the Shepherds were. He still looks for those who take the time to listen. He reveals Himself to those who are not so busy that they drown out His voice with a frenzy of activity. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Knowing God and being still go hand in hand. The harried busyness of our day can rob our souls and bring a dryness that only quiet time in His presence can water.
This Christmas find your own quiet hillside. Carve out a corner in your world where you can “Be still and know that He is God”. Not only will you give Him the gift of your worship but you will receive rest for your soul.
Blessings to you this Christmas Season!