It is Christmas Eve. I think this is the most unChristmassy feeling Christmas I’ve experienced in a long time. The problem isn’t the lack of decorations, though they aren’t how I measure Christmas. The issue definitely isn’t the lack of Christmas songs. Last night, friends came over and we spent the evening singing old favorites, pondering the words, and even learning a new one. Are presents missing? No. I’ve been blessed by a couple of friends, and am eternally grateful for the gift of grace and mercy that we celebrate at Christmas – the incarnation. The problem is my joy. Every day, I feel like I’m pushing through a fog to lay hold of the Joy of the Lord – which is my strength.

And now it’s Christmas Eve. No, it most likely isn’t the real birthday of Jesus (Yeshua). Many people think it is more likely that Yeshua was born near Passover. But still, it’s good to have a day and time set aside to ponder the miracle of Christmas. This year, pondering the birth of Yeshua encourages me. I think I’m not alone in my struggle.

No room – in the guest house?

When I think about the Christmas story and the movies I’ve seen, Joseph is a bit scared but steadfast, and Mary is calm and sublime. Seriously? I think of the young parents I’ve known as they approach the births of their first children. True, Mary and Joseph had both been visited by an angel. They knew that God was in charge. But did anyone else know? I listened to a study by Brandon Robbins on YouTube the other day, and was reminded that if Joseph had put Mary aside quietly, he might have saved her life, but his own reputation would have been destroyed. Their marriage, after the fact, did nothing to stop the sharp tongues of observant gossips.

Then I was reminded of a mistranslation in the following verse:

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

Brandon Robbins reminded me that the word “inn” actually means “guest room.” In fact (and I double-checked, yes, he is correct), the only other place this word is used is in Mark 14:14:

“Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’”

I’ve been pondering this in the back of my mind, and ponder it anew as I think about that first Christmas. It makes sense to me. Joseph was of the lineage of David. He most likely had family in Bethlehem and planned to stay with them. I was talking with friends last night about it. Did it make sense to them that family would not make room for Joseph and Mary to have a nice room where she could give birth?

A couple of people thought it made sense. The family was probably large; there were lots of them, and only one woman was ready to give birth. Maybe the house only had one guest room. At least the “stable” was a part of the family house, right? I suppose. Yet I can’t help but wonder – if that is what happened, how did Mary and Joseph feel? I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments on my website.

From my perspective, even if the rationale made sense and was handled in kindness… Sorry Joseph, yes I know your wife is due any day now, but we can’t move all the guests out just for you. Was there a hint of accusation? The unspoken, after all, if you two had behaved yourselves, you wouldn’t have this problem. Or was it just plain simple practicality, the people in the guest room are older, they need this space…. You and Mary are young. You’ll get over it.

In the end, no room in the guest room, is, well, no room. I am sure that Joseph was not thrilled, and Mary? Considering the timing implied by the passage, real contractions, not the early birth pains, had set in. No I don’t think Mary was daydreaming about all those songs that would be written romanticizing giving birth with the household animals.

It must have hurt so much to be cut off from everyone else in the house and be sent to stay with the animals. I wonder if she cried, like I am, just thinking about it. Somehow, I don’t think Joseph or Mary felt very joyful. They were, after all, humans, just like you and me.

And then she goes into labor

So there Mary and Joseph are, and she goes into labor. Now what? Perhaps – we don’t know – but perhaps someone from the guest room had come down to the stable and helped her get cleaned up. Did baby Yeshua cry? I think He gave a good, healthy birth cry as he took His first breath of air. And he was wet, and wrinkly, and, well, a mess. He needed to be cleaned up and wrapped tightly in cloths to keep him warm. Someone had to hold Him while Mary pushed out the afterbirth. Did Joseph have any help at all? Despite the lack of room upstairs, I hope so. I hope someone in his family had mercy on them and came and helped.

And then later, rather than sooner, Mary and Joseph were alone together with their newborn son. And like every parent, they counted his toes and fingers and were amazed by this little life who would be their responsibility for many years to come. Whatever the stresses, tiredness, and the realities waiting for them in the coming days – for a few moments that had joy. Joy in Yeshua! Joy in their firstborn son. The song “Mary Did You Know,” says it better than I can. The birth pains are passed, a son is born, and for a few moments, all is well.

Joy in Yeshua

I am struck by that thought. Whatever the concerns Joseph had, like every new father, for a few moments his worries were set aside as he gazed at this child that he would call “son.” Joy as he beheld Yeshua. As exhausted as she was, as much as she longed for sleep, Mary must have been in awe as she looked at her son. The joy must have filled her to overflowing, if only for a few minutes before wonder was interrupted by the visit of noisy shepherds.

But no one could take that joy from them – that joy in Yeshua. They would always remember the moment of His birth in their lives, and they would always love Him.

As I ponder this, I realize that I just need to do what Mary and Joseph did for the rest of their lives. I just need to remember that moment when Yeshua was birthed into my life.

I realize that Yeshua never left His earthly parents without help. Yeshua was part of Joseph’s life until He died. And when Yeshua was on the cross, He made sure His mother would be cared for by others. He was always there for her, in one way or another. In the same way, Yeshua will be the center of my life until I die. He will take care of me. He has brought amazing people into my life to encourage and help me. He is and always will be there for me.

And just as Mary and Joseph surely found joy in gazing upon the wonder of this baby who would grow into an amazing more than man – but Emmanuel – I too need to keep my eyes on the wonder of Emmanuel. God with us.

Emmanual is the joy in this dark world

As I think of the wonder of Yeshua my joy starts to resurface. It was never really gone. I had just given too much attention to the darkness and heaviness of the world. I imagine life didn’t get easier for Mary and Joseph. And as I look at what is happening in this world, in Israel, in the countries surrounding us, in this horrid war, in the nations of the world, I have no hope for an earthly or political solution. Scripture seems to agree with that perspective.

And yet, there is hope. The same hope that Mary and Joseph had 2,000 years ago as they gazed upon their newborn son and realized that God had done all that He promised them. Yeshua promised us that He would come back for us. He has kept all His other promises. Yes, we’ve been waiting a long time for His return, but it just means we are a little bit closer to that day.

I won’t close by wishing you a happy new year. I’ll be honest. I don’t think the coming year will be happy. I think things are going to get harder, darker, and a lot worse. Perhaps it’s time for us to celebrate the first coming of Yeshua every single day for the rest of our lives. Let’s keep our eyes on Him – the wonder of who He is – for He is truly wonderful! Born with the household animals, crucified like a common criminal on our behalf, our Emmanuel conquered death, and rose from the dead.

I will close by wishing you a blessed Christmas, rejoicing in the birth of Yeshua – Jesus – our savior.

I have found the following book to be amazingly helpful to me in my meditations on Jesus. I hope you can enjoy it as well: The Glories of Our Lord by H C Hewlett.

Enjoy this song to celebrate Christmas this year:

About the featured image: The night sky in Haifa. My own photography and photo editing. Let shine the Joy of Yeshua this Christmas.