Bēṯ Leḥem- the House of Bread
It was autumn, and Yosef tried to gingerly cross the desert with his young wife Miriam. She was fourteen, not much past the time of young girls beginning to be women. They had been betrothed for a long time and deeply in love. Miriam had become pregnant. She claimed that an angel named Gavriel (God is my strength) had come as a messenger and that the Adonai had come over her. And soon she was found to be with child.
This terrified Yosef. He loved her passionately. His eyes brimmed with tears. Gavriel had come hundreds of years prior during the time of Daniyyel. The angel had predicted the coming of the Mashiah, the Annointed one, and the words were confusing and frightening mixed with other prophesies. It was beyond him. “I'm just a carpenter.”
When Miriam had gotten pregnant, some laughed at Yosef in sly amusement. Pregnancies happened from time to time as young people who were betrothed, simply got tired of waiting. Others poked fun of her story. Others said he should get rid of her. He considered it. He loved her and believed her. He himself had seen Gavriel and he told him to marry Miriam.
Her elderly kinswoman Elisheva six months prior had been visited by the same angel, as had her husband, the priest Zechariah. Though they both were elderly, she'd gotten pregnant, though her husband didn't believe it at first. He'd seen Gavriel within the Holy of Holies, a place that no one felt comfortable entering, and while within was startled to be visited. The idea that they could have a child now had seemed impossible, and because of his unbelief he'd been struck mute.
Yosef knew the details well. He'd had his own encounter with the Adonai's messenger. He was a deeply spiritual man, and he wasn't about to refuse to do what the Adonai had asked. It came out of duty and love but also fear.
Now they moved slowly from Natzrat to Bēṯ Leḥem. It was seventy to eighty miles and they were hindered by the bumping of her traveling and potentially giving birth, but concerned about the availability of water and shelter along the way. They'd had to prepare by bringing along their supplies but not over weighing their pack animal. That meant walking some for Miriam. Yosef alone could make the trip in four days, but with Miriam and her condition, he hoped it wouldn't take a week. There were cities along the way: Megido, Shechem, Shilo...he mentally noted them and considered where he might have to stop.
They weren't the only ones on the road. Because they were occupied by the Romans, they had to follow their laws and their own. It was census time, so since Yosef came from Bēṯ Leḥem, he must return there with his betrothed.
They finally wearily arrived and looked for a place to stay. With all of the travelers, nothing was available. They needed some help, a midiwife to assist Miriam in her birth, clean water, a way to heat it, a shelter. But they were alone in the town of his childhood, and only by the grace of the Adonai did Yosef find a stable in a cave. They felt very humbled sleeping in the same place as the livestock, with only a manger for their newly born son.
They named his Yeshua (possibly Yehoshua), God with us. He was wrapped in what clothes they had to protect him. The newly born Annointed One, the Son of the Adonai, the Mashiah. It was Miriam's first birth, and Yosef gazed upon his betrothed and new son, and was thankful that despite being alone, that they both were alive and well. He was shaking but grateful.
Nearby in the fields, the sheep bleeted. Several shepherds rubbed their eyes. They watched over them since predators could take one easily in the night. Some walked among them since it was hard to see in the darkness, and others glanced from the watchfires. Most slept. Soon it would be time to switch up, and get some sleep while others took their turn at watch.
Suddenly an angel of the Adonai was in their midst. They were terrified. In the darkness the appearance of the most powerful beings of the Adonai most likely meant death. They were powerless by comparison.
But the angel said, “Shhhh. Don't be afraid. Listen. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Today in the town of Daveed, a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Mashiah, the Adonai. This is a sign for you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.”
There were afraid. None of them was a smart man. They'd had some lessons like the other boys of their tribe, but they also knew that the coming of the Mashiah meant war.
Then suddenly a great company of angels appeared. The shepherds were stunned and terrified even more. This mighty group of the heavenly host said “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The shepherds were even more afraid but curious. They were still alive, and had been favored by the angels, even though they were lowly even despised by some of their tribe. They hoped that the Adonai's favor rested on them.
Then the angels left, returning from whence they came.
Though their responsibility lay with taking care of the sheep and resting for the new day, the shepherds rose and gathered their flock and said “Let's go visit Bet Leḥem, and see this thing that has happened, which the Adonai has told us about”.
Tomorrow we remember the birth of the Son. It's not about giving presents to each other. We've forgotten the power of the story of His birth. It's about encountering an omnipotent, omniscient, and all loving God who humbled Himself and became flesh and blood like us as an innocent infant (who has no power, no strength). It's meeting God made flesh in Yeshua. It's about bringing our time, talent, and treasure to Him so that we can honor, respect, and love Him.
It's the most important event in the history of Mankind and God's creation.
It's not about who can get the first Air Jordans, Apple Ipads, or shiny toys. It's about Jesus (Yeshua).
In our benevolence and wish for generosity and peace, we've settled for sentimentality, and forgotten the awe, fear, respect, and wonder of the most mighty supernatural event that ever occurred. I challenge you as we celebrate Christmas this year to consider what it really means. Then if convicted by the power of God's actions and the Holy Spirit, then allow it to transform you.
Yield to it, like shepherds(who protect the flock), like wise men humbling themselves and bring Him gifts, like innocent young maidens, like trusting spiritual husbands, like the person in the mirror that is you.