Good Friday morning ...

Not yet a week after Christmas ... and the manger is still on my mind.

I envision Mary and Joseph passing the hours away in that lonely Bethlehem stable. The night wears on as the pain increases. Finally the pains seem to be as one and the moment arrived. Mary cried out ... straining with all her might ... pushing ... struggling ... laboring ... and then fell back onto the blanket covering the straw. Nothing. Or so it seemed. Then a tiny sound ... a whimper ... then a loud cry. It was a boy ... a beautiful, healthy, brand-spanking-new baby boy.

Joseph held up the baby for Mary to see. "Let me hold him," she said. And she did. There she lay for a moment and marveled ... her baby on her chest. Then the sleep she had fought for hours came to her eyes, the stress of the long trip finally catching up with her. More than anything in all the world, she wanted to go to sleep. But before she did ... she picked up a rough piece of cloth, tore it into strips, and wrapped her baby tightly.

Then she looked for a place to lay him. The only place she could find was a feeding trough ... carved out of stone, rough-hewn, with bits of grain stuck in the bottom. It was perfect. She laid him in the feeding trough and then lay down beside it to go to sleep. It had been a long, long day. As she drifted off to sleep, she wondered where they would go in the morning. It didn't matter. Her husband would take care of that.

Joseph didn't sleep just yet. Too much to think about. What a lucky man he was. He looked first at his wife ... so tired and yet so beautiful. He loved her dearly. And then he gazed at the baby ... certainly the most handsome baby boy in the entire world. And he loved him immediately.

How strange, yet how fitting that it should end like this. It had happened just as the angel said it would. Joseph didn't worry about naming the baby. The angel had taken care of that. "Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21].

How strange that it should happen to him ... Joseph, just an ordinary carpenter. And to Mary ... just an innocent teenage girl. Who could figure it all out? Immanuel, the angel had said, God with us. Mary, who had never known Joseph, now delivering her first child. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son" [Isaiah 7:14].

That's the way it was that first Christmas night 2000 plus years ago. Baby sleeping, mother dreaming, father thinking, and God watching over it all.

Have a blessed, productive and peaceful New Year under the umbrella of God's love. And remember ... He's still watching over it all!

PR