It was an exciting time for the little town of Bethlehem where life was usually quiet and predictable. But ever since Caesar Augustus had ordered everyone back to his birthplace to be counted in the census, life had begun to stir!
Housewives cleaned and baked in preparation for the arrival of relatives who seldom passed that way. Young girls fashioned new dresses as they happily anticipated the influx of eligible young men.
Merchants worked hard preparing their wares. It was a rare opportunity to make perhaps a year’s wages in a few short weeks when the population of the town would swell. Innkeepers were making every available space ready. The visiting, laughing and partying was anticipated by all.
Just as the townsfolk had expected, the crowds descended and the streets thronged with people. Parties began as visitors registered for the census and found their loved ones and friends. Inns were crowded and business in the market was booming. Young girls, dressed in their fine new gowns, laughed together in crowded little clusters as they enjoyed the atmosphere.
Riding on a donkey, nine months pregnant
It was into this milling throng of activity that another young girl came, riding on a donkey, nine months pregnant and tired. She and Joseph had made the long journey and were happy to arrive at their destination. Joseph was feeling anxious about Mary and hurried to find her a place of rest at an inn. Weariness grew in each step as he realized the town was full. He made his request at the last inn in Bethlehem where the innkeeper could only offer them a stable. Gratefully they fell upon the hay and slept while the parties carried on nearby.
During the night Mary’s labor began. She was grateful to be at the journey’s end and not out along the road. Although she wished for something more for her baby, she did not complain. Mary knew the child within her was special ? an angel had appeared to her and told her this was to be the Son of God.
She had been very careful with whom she shared the news. Being pregnant before the wedding date was certainly not acceptable in her circle. And to have said she was pregnant by the Spirit of God would have likely gotten her stoned. But she did tell Joseph, of course. He was a good man. An angel had appeared to him as well so that he knew this baby was the Son of God.
That night in the stable, with weary bodies and wondering minds, they beheld the birth of the child! They didn’t understand why they were in a stable rather than a more noteworthy place, but they did know this baby was God’s Son. Joseph named him JESUS as the angel had told him to. And they slept.
He was no ordinary child
Outside of Bethlehem the young shepherds watched over the flocks of sheep. They could hear the sounds in the still night air of the busy town in the distance as they watched the stars on the quiet hillside. This night however, an amazing thing happened. They saw an angel who told them that this night the Son of God was born in the City of David, which was Bethlehem. They heard a host of angels praising God and they were overwhelmed!
After their fear and wonder subsided, they began to discuss the event and determined to go and find the baby. Wandering through the streets in their shepherd’s garb, they looked for the Child. When they found Him, they worshipped Him knowing that this Baby would be the Savior of the world ? the gateway to God.
The life He brings
Today life goes on much as it did that busy day in Bethlehem. Partying and visiting, baking and cleaning, buying and selling, calculating profits and losses, marrying and giving in marriage. It would be just as easy today to miss the presence of the Savior as it was on that night so long ago.
God looks for those who are quiet and still, as the shepherds were. He looks for those who take the time to listen. He reveals Himself to those who are not so busy that they drown out His voice with a frenzy of activity. He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a). Knowing God and being still go hand in hand. The harried busyness of our day can rob our souls and bring a dryness that only quiet time in His presence can water.
This Christmas, find your own quiet hillside. Carve out a corner in your world where you can “be still and know that He is God.” Not only will you give Him the gift of your worship, but you will receive rest for your soul.
If you’ve been caught up in the rush of the season and desire to be still before God, pray this prayer asking God to fill you with His Holy Spirit, who gives us life and enables us to hear His voice.
Father God, it’s a long time since I have been still. The busyness only leaves me more tired and feeling empty. I need You. I want to know Your power in my life. I thank You that You forgive my sins. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit and guide me in paths that will help me grow in my faith. Father, let this Christmas be the changing point in my life. Thank You for Your gift of being there for me. Teach my heart to be still. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Copyright © 2004 Gail Rodgers. Used with permission. Originally seen at FamilyLifeCanada.
Gail Rodgers draws from her own life experience in her roles as wife, mother of three, business woman and as a pastor to women. She has a passion for discovering and sharing how the Scriptures apply in very practical ways where we live and walk each day. She resides in Alberta, Canada with her family.