Wikipedia tells us : “The nativity of Jesus or birth of Jesus is described in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. The two accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the time of Herod the Great to a betrothed virgin whose name was Mary.”
To many of us who are Christian a crèche or Manger scene is the focal point of our Christmas décor. Treasured in as many forms as you can imagine, the art piece may be made of porcelain or crystal, carved from olive wood from Jerusalem or crafted by your youngest from popsicle sticks. Pictured here is an heirloom piece which has been passed down from generation to generation. Imagine the many hands which have tenderly unwrapped the figurines each Christmas season. Chubby baby fingers taught to gently place Mary and Joseph beside the manger and a great grandmothers hand, shaking and gnarled with arthritis intent on making certain the Magi and their camels stood appropriate watch. The placement of the baby Jesus in the manager a sentimental moment and maybe a gentle prayer of Happy Birthday was whispered then and today.
The vision of the Nativity scene is very picturesque and our imaginations have filled in some of the blanks with modern images and experiences. Wouldn’t it be historically more likely that the young Jewish couple were not traveling alone? It was the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, in Judea. Joseph having been ordered from Nazareth in Galilee to return to David’s town, his town of birth, in order to be registered with his future wife, Mary, now in the later stages of her pregnancy. Would not all of the descendants of the House of David have been traveling together to be counted? There was no room at the Inn, perhaps because of number of travelers? There are no descriptions of childbirth in the Bible, not surprising as the Bible is a compilation of men’s stories and concerns. Woman had their own stories of course, but since theirs was an oral tradition, not written down, the stories were mostly lost. I imagine that Mary was surrounded by women she knew and trusted – her relatives and friends, and that Joseph was not present at the moment of birth. The women gathered around her, working in shifts to massage her, support her under the arms and wipe her face with damp cloths. Truly a sisterhood in the Christmas season.
This scenario would likely have created overcrowding for a living nativity scene in which real humans and animals participate. Perhaps the first staging, of which was credited to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223, was pared down for simplicity sake. Images of the blessed event are not without controversy, in the United States, nativity scenes on public lands and in public buildings have provoked court challenges. In private homes across the world the Nativity whether simple or ornate remains a symbol of faith and a visual means to share the origin and rich history of the birth of Jesus. Christmas is the 25th of December by the calendar, but Christmas as a state of mind can be everyday. Each day that blessings are counted and joy is shared or a hand is extended in consideration is a Christmas Day. Some days you may find that blessings are a lot of work to identify – while admitting everything may be far from perfect but taking note of that one little thing that went right today, is a blessing counted.
Our wish for you today and every day of every season is to always count your blessings.
Merry Christmas Sisterhood – counting each of you as a blessing!