It usually starts around October. You'll see stores starting to put out Christmas stuff, advertisements urging you to buy the latest thing. Capitalism revs up to a hyper-pitch trying to squeeze every possible cent out of the holidays. Rudolph and Frosty and our modern image of Santa Clause, beloved by many, were created to get us to spend more at Christmastime. Some over zealous types will even start playing Christmas music. If there is a theme that describes our modern celebration of Christmas, it is surely stress. There is so much pressure to buy the right thing, wear the right thing, I've even heard ads for laser-liposuction so that you will look good for Christmas photos. There are so many special productions just for the season, movies, television, theater, concerts, pageants, displays, boutiques, and on and on. There are gifts to buy and make (but mostly buy), Christmas cards, treats and goodies, and on and on. We worry about getting the right gifts, not forgetting anyone, not spending too much and how to pay for it all. As Christians, we are frequently reminded to remember the true reason for the season and we struggle to find the balance between worship and Santa without it turning into worship OF Santa. With the balancing of schedules, the budgeting of money, the making of lists, shopping, School productions and parties for every member of the family, traffic, black Friday, chaos in the stores and grumpy people everywhere, it may be tempting to wish to have lived in a simpler time, long ago.
Joseph was engaged to be married, he was making arrangements for a new household, Finding a place to live, perhaps building a house. they would need some furniture which he would probably build, beds and bedding pots and pans tools and dishes and various household items. He was in love with Mary and surely excited to begin his life with her when he discovered her pregnancy. He must have felt anguished and betrayed as he considered all the social and legal implications, but his faith was strong enough that a message from an angel in a dream calmed his fears. Then the word came that Caesar would tax everyone and that they must return to the city of their birth. Joseph now must plan a long journey with a pregnant Mary, who, I'm sure was not excited about the prospect, AND worry about being able to pay the taxes. Not much is recorded about the journey, but it's not hard to imagine frequent bathroom breaks, (I wonder what they called them) probably labor pains on a donkey, dust and crowded roads. They made it, and though they were really on a divine mission, they were not spared from the realities of mortality. Joseph's instincts were surely to protect and provide for his wife and unborn child so the lack of available shelter must have caused great anxiety. They found the stable and, with a wife in labor, I'm sure they sought the help of a local midwife. The smell of manure, sharing a room with cows, sheep, chickens and their various noises, the cold air, the dirt and dust, and at the peak of his anxiety,
Jesus was born.
Surely he brought peace. Any new Father can attest to the eclipsing joy, wonder and pride that comes with the birth of a child. His focus was suddenly narrowed to that small boy that was now his to care for, along with the knowledge of his special and essential mission. The trials of the journey are suddenly insignificant, the love of God certainly radiated through the hearts of everyone who witnessed the Child. The Angels were so excited that they could not contain themselves as they took the news to the shepherds who were ready to receive it.
The celebration of Christmas will still require a balancing act, we probably won't be spared the onslaught of commercialism that gave us Rudolph and Frosty but we can take comfort in the promise of the peace that comes as we welcome The Savior on Christmas day.