Advent Reading: Luke 2:1-7; Luke 1:46-55
One night when I was nine months pregnant with our first child, my husband and I decided to go out for a drive. We ended up driving for several miles down a long, bumpy dirt road. It was like being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. I felt every bump. And it was painful.
And I believe, to this day, that the jostling I received that night was a contributing factor to going into labor the very next day.
When I read these verses in Luke 2, I can’t even imagine how grueling a journey that would have been for Mary. At full-term, she had to undertake what would have been about a 100-mile trek to Bethlehem.
At 8 months pregnant, I’m having trouble just getting from the back of the parking lot to the mall entrance.
She must have been wondering what in the world God was doing (or not doing) that she had to go through this. Shouldn’t He be clearing the way for the Messiah to come? Shouldn’t He be removing the obstacles in her path?
When they finally arrive, and she is desperate for a good meal, a warm bath and a comfy bed there are no beds to be found. Just an unsympathetic ‘No Vacancy’ sign hanging out front. In fact, there’s nowhere to go at all.
Except for the pile of straw in the stable out back. That is the only place she can rest her weary body.
Talk about the story to end all nightmare pregnancy stories.
Rejoicing Despite Your Circumstances
When she was first pregnant, visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary wrote a beautiful song. It started out like this:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
Was Mary still rejoicing in her heart as she made the long, arduous journey to Bethlehem? There certainly wasn’t much to rejoice over in her circumstances. In fact, her situation seemed to warrant some extensive complaining.
But I don’t think Mary did that. I think she tried to focus her heart on trusting God, despite the unexpected hardships she encountered. I think she kept trying to trust Him with the big picture. Even the parts of it she couldn’t see.
We get to look back at her story now and glimpse the beautiful intricacies God was weaving on that journey to Bethlehem. Not only was He fulfilling a prophecy He spoke hundreds of years earlier, He was revealing something absolutely unthinkable about His character – that the Sovereign God of the universe would be so humble as to enter His creation as a tiny baby born in the squalid shelter of a stable.
Hope in the Big Picture
Our lives can be are hard. It’s hard to hang on sometimes. It’s hard to rejoice in God and hope in the big picture because some days there doesn’t seem to be a big picture at all. Just a series of hard situations and circumstances.
But there is a God who became a Savior. And there is a big picture being skillfully woven throughout every chapter of our lives. And so we can cling hard to hope. And we can know that one day we will stand with our Savior and see the big picture and finally know for certain what we believe to be true now – that all the hard days were worth it.
That was the hope in Mary’s heart that first Christmas.
I pray that is the hope in yours this year.