Mary Did You Know?
Where Would I Be?
From the Heart of Dr. Rexella Van Impe
We are in my favorite time of the year. As we get ready to celebrate Christmas my mind goes back to all those wonderful times I had together with my family. We had a wonderful tradition in our home for Christmas. We would never open our gifts until my Father read the entire Christmas story. He always emphasized that the birth of the Savior is what Christmas is truly about, not the opening of gifts, not even enjoying Mother’s wonderful dinner, but the awe inspiring fact that God became Flesh to dwell among us. What a blessing it was to be reared in a home that taught the truths of God’s love and the joy of celebrating the birth of Christ as a family.
We recognize the contrast this is to what the world celebrates today. The emphasis in our society is shopping, decorating, and rushing around so much to the point that we hardly have time to enjoy Christmas. It seems like the stores put up their Christmas sale displays earlier and earlier each year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them come up with a "Back to School Christmas Sale" in the month of August. Christmas has become a time when people often go out on a limb financially, and even get into debt in order to provide gifts for friends and loved ones. There is nothing wrong with wanting to give someone a gift. There is a special joy and blessing in sharing as long as we put the right value on it. A gift under the tree should always remind us of the gift from Heaven - the tree also should remind us ultimately of why Jesus came to be our Savior. And of course this reminds us of Calvary’s tree.
Every gift that we buy; every gift that we open, and every gift that we look at under the tree should remind us of the greatest gift of all - a gift that was laid in the manger and wrapped in the simplest way - in swaddling clothes; which brings us to the Christmas story.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7).
As I read of our Lord’s birth in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, I cannot help but wonder two things. Where would I have been and what would I have done if I had been on the earth at that time. Would I have reacted the same way to this ancient scenario as some people reacted? First of all where would I have been and how would I have responded if I had been the innkeeper?
We all know that as a result of the decree of Caesar Augustus every person was required to go to the town of his or her birth to register and pay taxes. This is why the innkeeper had a problem. Yes, the inn was filled to capacity and therefore no room was available for Joseph and Mary. I’m sure that if he had an extra room he would have said "Oh yes, you are going to have a baby, you are going to soon bring forth a child and so I need to give you the best room in my inn". But because of the overflow of people there was no room in the inn. If I had been the innkeeper would I have been sitting behind the desk saying "I don’t have room for you, but I’ll put you in the stable"? Or would I have come out from behind that desk with compassion and understanding and found a warm and comfortable place for Mary to have her precious baby?
Every time I read this passage I think of the story of the young boy who was born with Down Syndrome who had a part in his church’s Christmas pageant. This young boy loved the Lord and was so proud to be playing the part of the innkeeper. He went around the house practicing his lines: "There’s no room at the inn - you will have to stay in the stable." The night of the pageant came and there he was, dressed in costume and standing before the audience. The two children came in who were playing the parts of Joseph and Mary; said their lines and waited for the response from the innkeeper. He looked nervous, but then took a deep breath and said his line just as he had practiced it - "There’s no room at the inn - you’ll have to stay in the stable." As Mary and Joseph started to exit the stage to move on to the next scene, a pained look came across his face and suddenly he cried out: "No, wait, wait, you can have MY room!"
Oh, to have such a loving heart as that precious child exhibited. What a joy that would have been for me if I had been able to say as the innkeeper, please come and stay in my room; enjoy my humble dwelling and let me help you through this special time as you are ready to give birth. Would I have just remained behind that desk and said to my co-workers ‘Take them into the stable and they can have the straw out there on which to lay the baby’. It brings tears to my eyes to think that this is where God knew and divinely planned for His Son to be born.
The Gospel is story in inclusive of every class of people; the lowly as well as the middle and upper class of society. I would probably say that the innkeeper would be considered, in that era of time, as the middle class of his society. Had I been in the Middle class of that day would I have been humble enough to say "I will go into the stable, you stay in my room" where would I have been if God had given me this choice to make. What a great opportunity to show my love and compassion for the parents and for the Savior of the world.
Let’s take a look at another class of people - the lowly shepherds.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:8-10)
Being a shepherd during the time of Christ was not a 9 - 5 job. The shepherds would spend every hour of every day with their sheep, leading them, protecting them from predators and thieves, and tending their wounds. If I had been a chosen shepherd that heard the voice of an angel would I have received the message? Or would I have said "Oh no, oh my goodness, this is just a dream, I can’t accept this. This is too much to absorb, who am I? I’m just a poor little shepherd out here I can’t be expected to actually have seen an angel and have the glory of the Lord around me and hear the angel announce "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" I find it hard to imagine what they thought. But where would I have been? Would I have said "I’m going to leave the sheep and I’m going to follow the greatest announcement that has ever been given to the world and that is that Christ the Lord has been born.
Traditionally, the sheep that were raised in the fields near Bethlehem were used for the Temple sacrifices to cover the sins of the people. How beautiful and how perfect is it that God called these shepherds, who were very familiar with the requirements for a sacrificial lamb, to be the first ones to see, outside of Mary and Joseph, the "...Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"
I pray that I would have done exactly what these lowly shepherds did. That I would have not only listened to the announcement but I would have heard and reacted positively "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
I can almost hear God saying: Well, you may have trouble believing in the message from one angel, so I’ll show you the Heavenly Host. If there had been any shadow of a doubt in their minds, there could be no question that this was something tremendously out of the ordinary.
Think of it, the shepherds could have been frightened beyond all description, but the minute they heard the host praising God and saying Glory to God, the shepherds said "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem..." I can’t imagine the tremendous shaking in their hearts as they thought "here is God’s Son being born. Let’s go now to see heavens greatest gift to the world."
Once we get a message from Heaven, our response should be "let’s go now." When Jesus gave the great commission our response should be "let’s go now."
I am so grateful that God not only gave the Middle Class (the innkeeper) the opportunity to come forth and be blessed, but He also gave the humble lowly shepherds the same opportunity.
Once again let’s consider a third class of people. The wealthy upper class - yes the lofty wise men who responded to another heavenly sign and came to worship Jesus.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1,2)
Nothing much is known about these wise men, or Magi, other than they were from the Orient. Historically the Magi were scholars, with a great knowledge of science, agriculture, mathematics, and history. These Magi saw a spectacular star appear in the sky, such as they had never seen before, and they took it to be an indication of an extraordinary person being born in the land of Judea.
If I had been a scholar, a wealthy wise man, and I saw a star suddenly appear before me, would I have followed it? It would have been very easy for them to say: "If an important King was born that warrants such a sign, I’m sure that we will hear of it soon in our own country and then we can go and pay homage to him." But they did not wait, they set out to find this King, and to worship Him. It was not easy as they traveled the dusty, hot long trail on their camels. Yes it necessitated going through the desert and all of this simply because of a star giving the announcement of Christ’s birth.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they began asking: "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" The original Greek here emphasizes a continual action, suggesting that they went up to every person they saw and asked this question. Because they as foreigners knew of this monumental birth, they assumed that everyone in Judea, and especially in Jerusalem would have been aware of this also. Can you imagine the shock they felt when no one seemed to know about that to which they were referring?
I believe that they must have begun to question all that they had seen and heard up to this point. Here they were after having traveled a long distance because of a star that they had seen while in their homeland. They must have been terribly confused as to where they should go. Despite what is traditionally taught, the Bible here indicates that the star did not appear to them and lead them during their travels. The passage here tells us that they did not see the star again until after they had met with Herod.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. (Matthew 2:9,10)
The joy that they felt when they saw the star once again was almost indescribable. The original text piles up superlative upon superlative to emphasize the extent of exhilaration they felt. The star not only reappeared, but it led them directly to the home where Jesus was.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
When they got to the house of Mary and Joseph, they did something that they longed to do, they bowed down and worshipped Jesus. Then they presented their gifts to Him, Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. The Bible does not tell us what was done with these gifts, but it is very likely that Joseph used them to finance their trip they had made to Egypt and help to support the family while they were there. We know the reason for their journey to Egypt as found in Matthew 2:13-15.
Now, I must put myself in the Magi’s place. Where would I have been while in the atmosphere of my homeland? Could I be thinking "I don’t need the desert, I don’t need to get on that camel and go to who knows where and would I have tried to rationalize the signs away? After all there could be many meanings to that star, how do I know for certain that this is really something special. It could just be an unusual confluence of stars in the sky, and it doesn’t have any special meaning. Thank the Lord they said that this is significant, this is important, we have to go and find out about the true meaning of this special sign. They went, they asked the right questions until they got the true answer they needed to find Christ Jesus the Savior of the world. Would I have been that persistent?
As the innkeeper would I have stayed behind the counter and told Mary her she could go into the stable to have her child amongst the animals? Instead I trust that I would have been quickly on my feet to help her.
I pray that I would have been one of the shepherds quickly on my feet to say "let us go now" as the angels have instructed us.
And if I had been a wealthy Magi I trust that I would have used that wisdom to follow the star and keep asking the right question until I found the way to worship Jesus.
What would I have done if I lived back then? Whether I was wealthy, middle class, or poor, where would I be? I trust that I would have made the right choice. Today I have the joy of making the right choice! I have chosen to open my heart and life to Jesus the Lord and ask Him to dwell there. Truly one can only be complete if He is in the heart!
As we celebrate this glorious season we need to keep our eyes on what is truly important. This is so beautifully illustrated in the painting by Rembrandt The Adoration of the Shepherds where all of the light was made to fall on the baby in the manger. Every one and everything else was only in the shadows. Let us focus on Him, now and always.
Mary Did You Know?
Mark Lowry with Gaither Vocal Band sings this song!
By SIMPLY DIVINE LOVE on Tuesday, December 14, 2010