Back when the world was much younger, but still quite a while after the Bible began, our ancestors celebrated Christmas – the Birth of Jesus – each year, when the darkness of winter stopped - and the light began to come back.
That glorious bit of history told through the centuries that their neighbors in Nazareth town told Joseph that they, the neighbors, distant cousins really, could register in Bethlehem for him and Mary, as they had to go to register themselves anyway. A tiny gift to the officials there would be sufficient. It was a kind-hearted gesture. That Joseph would not need fret and worry of having pregnant Mary make that several-days difficult journey to Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary talked. Maybe it was a good idea. Maybe they didn’t have to travel after all. Pregnant Mary said to Joseph, "We both have to go ourselves, I believe and know from all the old stories and legends passed on through the centuries - prophecies really. I know and am convinced in my heart of hearts that the Messiah, my baby, must be born in Bethlehem. The angel did not tell us where the Child is to be born, but I believe and know we must make the trip. That is the right thing to do. No matter how difficult."
Thus Joseph with Pregnant Mary and the neighbors all traveled together - for safety sake - traveled by mule, by foot, by camel, south from Nazareth to Bethlehem town. A day’s walk outside of Jerusalem. And of course, they believed that their special Angels hid them from sight along the five day journey - kept them invisible from robbers and brigands.
In the old language: " Thus it came to pass” - Jesus was born in Bethlehem in a cove stable – offered to Mary and Joseph in desperation by an apologetic kindly inn keeper and his wife. His wife had told him sternly “How can we possibly turn away a Pregnant woman.” Old Belief is that there was truly no room available, and this was the best they could do. But that the inn keeper’s wife and her friends, plus the women coming with them from Nazareth tried to help Mary best as they could. Helping as women do, with the birth of a child.
Years later, Joseph and Mary re-told of those days: We didn’t know before hand. How could we know? But we were met by Angels singing in High Heavens, Shepherds, their wives and children. And three Wise Men, learned men whose advise was sought by the great of this world. They had traveled far, several months from the East to worship our new born Child. Offered gifts of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh to Baby Jesus.
The Wise Men said they had long followed this unique Star, brighter than all the rest. A Star that the Sacred Books say: somehow "came down" to light up the cove stable where Jesus was born - to point the way for the Shepherds and later the Magi.
And the women brought food for Mary and Joseph, and clothing for her Infant Baby Jesus against the cold. The Shepherd children wanted to touch Mary’s new born Baby… and Mary let them… but ever so carefully. An old shepherd man, respected in those parts for his sage wisdom told them, “Keep the gold and the gifts of the Wise Men safely. There will be a time soon when you will need them – a time when you have nothing else. “
As Pregnant Mary said to Joseph, “we must go ourselves, no one can go in our place.” And the women cooking and sharing their food, helping to look after Mary and her new born child; and the men standing by, watching, protecting; the children playing; the Magi bring life-saving gifts. And again, thus it is, and thus it must be with each of us.
Later on, much more happened, but that’s for another day.
So it’s Christmas. “From theological mists, true then, true now becoming present reality.” We all, somehow, in our lives, do walk to Bethlehem and we “meet on the street corners of the world.”
fr. joe maier