The Stable {Advent}

Image credit: Steve Wilson

We have finally arrived. Bethlehem. It has been a long journey, but we made it. I look at Mary atop the donkey, alternating between rubbing her very pregnant belly and her aching back. I feel somehow that we have made it just in time.

She asks for help down. She wants to walk. I grab her hands and support her the best way I know how. I am eager to do anything that might help her. It is difficult to see her in this state.

Her pregnancy has been unexpected and confusing. We are still coming to know each other in this role of husband and wife, and the surprise of her pregnancy has brought us together but also, at times, isolated us from others. They cannot relate to our unusual experience.

Together, our family moves through the crowded streets of Bethlehem. The city is bursting with so many here for the census. Chickens are clucking. Merchants hawk their goods. Donkeys and carts push through the streets. I stay close to Mary, trying to shield her and the baby from being jostled or pushed.

We arrive at an inn, and my uncle speaks with the innkeeper. Mary and I huddle near the back of our tired group, keeping eyes on the younger kids playing in the street. My uncle returns with the news that the inn is full. We move on.

This same message is repeated as we move from door to door, seeking a place to stay. Mary is quiet, but I can see in her eyes that she needs to lie down. I feel frustrated that I cannot find a place for her. As the next innkeeper opens his door, I want to shout, “This woman is pregnant with the Christ child! Find her a room!” I want to provide for Mary… and the baby. I want to make her comfortable and ease her weariness.

But the reality is clear. There is no room in Bethlehem. A kind innkeeper takes pity on our road-weary tribe and offers us to sleep in his stable. As I gather straw to place under Mary, I feel ashamed. This is not how I imagined caring for my son… for God’s son.

Hearing her breathing becoming deeper and sometimes more labored, I fear the baby will be born here. I worry I have somehow let them both down, allowing our family to bed in the margins of Bethlehem.

The angel told me that this baby will save the people from their sins. It hardly seems right that such a rescuer would enter the world among the pigs and donkeys. But this baby has already been full of surprises. No one would have expected Mary… or me... to be entrusted with such a responsibility as to raise the son of God.

Maybe God has chosen this place for Jesus to be born. Another surprise. The baby King begins his life in an unexpected place, among unworthy people, and amidst the dusty backdrop of a messy life on earth. As I watch the young cousins snuggle in to sleep, I hold Mary’s hand. Maybe this is just the place God has chosen to enter into the world.

All posts in this year's Advent series:
1. The Journey
2. The Stable
3. The Birth
4. The Visitors

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