Note: The Story Below Is Loosely Based On The Book of Luke
The heavens in the night sky glowed in streaks of red and gold. It was the middle of summer and the land in Galilee was hot and dry. Out of nowhere in the universe, a white dove burst out of a bright star. The dove soared like a rocket to the dark earth below. It rose over snow-capped mountains, dips of valleys, deserts, and wheat fields. The strong wind propelled the bird over the Dead Sea. As the town of Nazareth came into view, the bird swooped down and flew its way into an open-walled courtyard. It landed on a flat roof of a modest stone hut. The hut had a wood ladder extending to the earth floor, and on the other end of the yard, three sheep grazed quietly from a wheat clay trough. Wild chickens ran hither and yon on the earth floor, looking confused. They seemed to have trouble deciding where to settle in for the night.
The dove waddled to the window sill and peered inside the hut. An oil lamp sitting on a wood table gave the hut some soft light. And in a corner, curled up on a woven reed pallet on the floor, fast asleep was a petite young woman with olive skin and long, thick black braids. Her name was Mary, and she was exhausted from a full day’s work. She had worked from dawn to dusk, minding the sheep, washing clothes, and sweeping the courtyard. Single with no children, Mary was to marry Joseph, a descendant of King David, in the next few days. Although she hardly knew Joseph, she liked him, and she looked forward to her upcoming marriage.
The dove turned into a fiery shimmering light, and when the light faded momentarily, a colossal-looking angel appeared in its place. The angel stood ten feet tall, and its magnificent bronze skin and wings shone like the sun. The angel’s presence woke Mary from a deep slumber, forcing her to sit straight up. Mary stared at the bright shining image with big dark brown eyes. She rubbed her eyes once, twice, three times trying hard to comprehend the beautiful creature standing before her. Mary stuttered with fear, barely getting out the words. “Who?…Who?…Who are you, my Lord?”
The angel roared with a loud voice.“ Greetings, you are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Mary trembled and she was deeply troubled. She grabbed her shawl and flung it around her shoulders. Unable to speak with her lips sealed tight, Mary sat in a frozen state on her pallet. Sensing Mary’s fear, the angel offered comforting words. “Mary, Do Not Be afraid, You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most Highest. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Mary looked confused. Surely this couldn’t be so. I’m still a virgin, and besides, I’m not married! To make sure Mary heard the angel correctly, she bravely asked the angel a pointed question. “How could this be? I’m still a virgin.”
The angel’s eyes burned with fire as he answered Mary’s question. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most Highest will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God, for nothing is impossible with God!”
Mary fell face down on her pallet. In awe over the angel’s words. “I’m the Lord’s servant,” she whispered. “May it be me as you have said.” Darkness fell over the room, and when Mary looked up, the angel was gone.
The next day, Mary, still recovering from the angel’s visit, could no longer hold her joy. She had to share her happiness with someone, so she packed a lunch and walked to the next town, a hilly area in the land of Judea. Elizabeth and Zechariah lived there, and Mary and Elizabeth were best friends. It took all day to get there, and Mary was exhausted and sweaty. Mary tapped on the stone door, and it swung open. Elizabeth stood in the dirt doorway with a wide smile. “Mary, you came such a long way! Why?” she asked with out-stretched arms.
“I’ve joy in my heart, and I must share it with you!”
“Come to me, my child.” Elizabeth grabbed Mary and hugged her. She was up in age, and her long silver-gray hair hung down to her waist. Her warm sea-green eyes adorned her wrinkled olive face, and a protruding stomach weighed down her petite, frail figure. Mary wondered if she was ill.”What’s wrong with your stomach? Are you sick?”
Elizabeth laughed out loud. “No child, I’m not sick. All of these years, my womb was barren, the Lord God finally saw fit to blessed me with a child!”
Mary slapped her hands over her mouth in awe. “Oh, my goodness, what a miracle! I, too, have exciting news! Last night, the Lord’s angel came to me. He told me I’m to give birth to the Son of God!”
When Elizabeth heard this, she felt the baby in her womb leaped for joy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth shouted. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! The baby in my womb leaps for joy at the sound of your news! Blessed you for believing that what the Lord has said will be accomplished!” The two women fell on their knees and pray. After a day or two, Mary returned home to Nazareth.
Nine months later, in March, Caesar Augustus, a Roman tyrant, issued a decree for a census be taken over the entire Roman empire. Caesar ordered everyone to register at the town where they were born. By this time, Mary and Joseph were married, and she was with child. Her time to deliver grew near, and her back ached from the weight of her stomach. When Joseph heard the news about the census, he hurried home and told Mary. “We must leave at once. We’ve to go to Bethlehem!”
“Why?” Mary answered as she gently rubbed her stomach.
“Caesar is demanding a census of each town. Everyone must register in the town they are from. We have to go!” Joseph belonged to the house and line of David, who originated from the town of Bethlehem. He was a slight man with thick curly black hair and dark brown eyes. He stood five feet and ten inches tall, and his skin was copper brown from the sun.
“I see, when do we leave?” Mary incredulously asked.
“At dawn, the journey is long,” Joseph replied. The next morning, before dawn. Mary got up, dressed, and packed food in a burlap bag for their long journey to Bethlehem. Joseph tied the packet on the donkey and adjusted the animal’s bridle on its face. He held on to Mary as she climbed on the donkey’s back. Once she was settled comfortably on the donkey, Joseph grabbed his wood staff. He wrapped one hand around the donkey’s bridle strap and headed out.
The air was crisp and dry. Stars twinkled brightly in the dark sky. The journey was long and exhausting, and by mid-day, they finally arrived in Bethlehem. After Joseph registered himself and Mary at the Registrar’s office, Mary went into labor, and she moaned with pain. “I need a place to rest. The baby will be here soon,” she warned Joseph with tear-filled eyes.
“Yes, dear, I know,” he calmly replied. But deep inside, Joseph was worried. Mary’s contractions were now five minutes apart. He needed to find a place for the baby to be born. For hours, they searched for shelter, stopping at several places, and being told by every innkeeper that there was no room. Frustrated, Joseph was about to give up, and then Mary said. “Tried that place over there,” she said, pointing to an inn with a manger made of sticks and clay.
Joseph shook his head and sighed heavily. “They’re going to say no, I just know it.”
“Have faith, just go and ask,” Mary groaned as another contraction ripped through her abdomen.
“All right.” Joseph tied the donkey to the post and went to the door. He knocked three times, and the innkeeper answered. The innkeeper stood in the doorway, looking scruffy with his white beard knotted like moss on his face. He was bald with white hair growing around his temples. The innkeeper’s laughing, light brown eyes were wide with intrigue. “Son, what brings you here this evening? It’s late.”
“I’m looking for a place for the night for my wife and me,” Joseph said. The innkeeper stretched his neck to checked out Mary. When he realized she was with child, the innkeeper wanted to help. “There are no rooms in my inn, but you and your wife can stay in my manger. I’ll get you some towels to lie on.”
Joseph pressed his hands together and bowed repeatedly. “Thank you, sir, bless you!”
While the innkeeper went back inside to retrieve some towels, excited and relieved, Joseph ran straight to Mary. “The innkeeper is going to let us stay in his manger! He’s getting us some towels to lie on.”
Mary drifted her eyes heavenward and whispered. “Thank you, Lord for looking after us.”
A few minutes later, the innkeeper came out of the inn and waved at Joseph and Mary. “Follow me,” he hollered. Joseph helped Mary off the donkey and flung his arm around her waist. Unsteady on her feet because of her labor pain, Joseph carefully guided Mary to the manger. Once they were inside, they soon discovered they wouldn’t be alone. Two cows, three sheep, two swine, and a few fowl also had sheltered there. The innkeeper immediately apologized as he handed Joseph the towels. “I’m sorry for the lowly accommodations, but this is the best I can do for now.”
“We’re grateful,” Joseph smiled.
“Good, I leave you to settled in.” The innkeeper left, leaving Mary and Joseph to themselves. Joseph grabbed a bale of hay and made a makeshift bed. After he arranged the towels on the hay bed, Mary laid down. The contractions came more forcibly as time progressed, and by midnight, Mary had given birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clean towels and placed him next to her on a makeshift hay bed. Mary and Joseph rejoiced, praising God, amazed and thankful that God had chosen them for Jesus’ earthly parents.
Down the road, a few miles from Bethlehem, shepherds stood shivering in a wheat field. They were keeping an eye on their sheep to protect them from predators. They covered their heads with part of their shawls then wrapped the remaining material snugged around their bodies. The temperature had dropped, and the cold night air ripped through them like a sharp knife. The only light in the sky was a massive bright star. As they meandered among their flock trying to keep warm, a colossal-looking angel appeared in their midst out of nowhere. The glory of the Lord shone around them, and the shepherds hid their faces, terrified. The angel said to them. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord, this will be a sign to you: You will find him a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly more angels appeared with the head angel, and they praised God with loud voices. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom favor rests!”
Then the angels flew off into the heavens, leaving them alone. Except for the bright star shining in the sky, it was pitch dark. The shepherds said to one another. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried down the road to Bethlehem, and an hour later, they found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus lying in the manger. The glory of God shone brightly around them, and the shepherds fell to their knees, worshipping God. After they laid eyes on the Christ Baby, they took off spreading the news to everyone they met. All who heard the shepherds’ fantastic story, they too, praised and glorified God. Jesus’ birth was so long ago but it changed the world forever. Have A Joyful Holiday And Merry Christmas To Everyone!