Christmas is a day to share with loved ones at home. And yet Mary didn't have that opportunity. She was called away, on someone else's timetable, to someone else's home town, and was far away from home when the birth of her first child was due. At the moment when a woman needs her family most of all, she was miles away from Nazareth because her husband-to-be was keeping some emotionless civil servant happy. Birth is an emotionally wringing time in the best of circumstances, and the only help she had was from Joseph, who I'm sure was just as scared as she was. And it wasn't in a nice, neat, clean stable with crisp yellow straw and a cute little wooden cot all nicely sanded and varnished. This was a cave or a basement, a bit of animal bedding rescued from the floor, and a feeding-trough. And all the spit and shit you'd expect to find when the innkeeper's been the busiest he's ever known and the last thing on his mind that week is the mucking out of the animals.
Christmas is a day to share with loved ones at home. And you don't want a bunch of unwashed shepherds clumping in straight off the hillside to paw at your baby and keep you up when the only thing you want to do, please god, is to sleep.
Christmas is a day to share with loved ones at home. And that's a comforting fiction, and an ideal, and something to plan towards and work for. But the reality is that often family is a long way away, and the people you really want to see can't or won't be there, and the visits you make you're making out of duty, and the children cry, and the adults argue, and do we have to watch this flaming film again, and where do you expect me to find batteries at a time like this, and mummy he's broken it, and if your father does that one more time I'm going to kill him, and ...
I really don't think that Mary enjoyed that first Christmas very much. That's probably not what you want to read today, but that's the way it is. I hope, for all of you, that your Christmas is better than Mary's was. At least the shepherds had a good time. I hope that you're as excited as they were by the news of the birth, and I hope you get the visits and visitors that you want. A very merry Christmas to you all.
Cradled in a manger, meanly,
Laid the Son of Man His head;
Sleeping His first earthly slumber
Where the oxen had been fed.
Happy were those shepherds listening
To the holy angel’s word;
Happy they within that stable
Worshipping their infant Lord.
Happy all who hear the message
Of His coming from above;
Happier still who hail His coming,
And with praises greet His love.
Blessèd Savior, Christ most holy,
In a manger Thou didst rest;
Canst Thou stoop again, yet lower,
And abide within my breast?
Evil things are there before Thee;
In the heart, where they have fed,
Wilt Thou pitifully enter,
Son of Man, and lay Thy head?
Enter, then, O Christ most holy;
Make a Christmas in my heart;
Make a heaven of my manger:
It is heaven where Thou art.
And to those who never listened
To the message of Thy birth,
Who have winter, but no Christmas
Bringing them Thy peace on earth,
Send to these the joyful tidings;
By all people, in each home,
Be there heard the Christmas anthem;
Praise to God, the Christ has come!
George S Rowe (1830-1913)
Full set of [LC] posts here.