Christmas is so much more than busy days of shopping, fancy decorations, and Santa. It’s much more than admiring a special baby in the manger with his parents and shepherds. It’s all about the why of his birth, and the hope he brings to our world. But I wonder if I take my faith for granted. I’ve known Jesus and been “in the church” since I was a baby. I have seen God work in my life in special ways, felt Him draw me to His side as my Savior with a peace that passes understanding, and heard Him speak to my heart with a gentle nudge or a loud voice. Yet, what would I have thought if I had walked where Jesus walked when He lived upon this earth?
How would I have reacted when Jesus taught his disciples and the crowds that gathered? What would I have thought of His combined humanity and deity, His love for us sinners, and His great miracles? Would I have accepted Him as my Savior? Or, would I have turned my back and rejected Him, calling for His death as others did? Yet, even in this, He willingly went to the cross to give us the greatest gift.
What would I have thought if I had been Mary? With her pregnancy foretold by an angel, not yet married to Joseph, she was initially troubled. But Mary soon felt overjoyed to be chosen mother of the Son of God as the angel had said (Luke 1:26-38) and glorified her Lord in song! (Luke 1:46-53) Joseph was also visited in a dream by an angel to help him understand Mary’s pregnancy. Still, what about the attitudes they may have faced among family and friends? Despite what the angel said, and Mary’s simple but steadfast faith in God, she could have been stoned to death for her supposed unfaithfulness to Joseph by being pregnant before marriage. (Deuteronomy 22:20) Yet Joseph was a good man, heeding the angel’s message, loving and protecting Mary rather than walking away from her. And into these humble but loving beginnings was the Son of God, the baby Jesus, set to be born… (Matthew 1:18-24)
When it was time, Mary gave birth in a stable or cave full of dirty smelly animals because no one, no one, had even a small room where they could welcome their precious newborn. After all, they were part of the crowds descending on Bethlehem for the census. As she gently wrapped her baby in swaddling cloths, quieted his tears, snuggled him in her arms and nursed him, I imagine she gazed on him with the tender love and joy in her heart that every new mother feels. When he’d fallen asleep, she laid him gently on a bed of hay in the manger, as the animals made their own soft chorus of night-time noises. (Luke 2:4-7)
And what would I have thought if I were a shepherd on the hills protecting my sheep when suddenly a brilliant light appeared? Imagine hearing an angel say that a Savior had been born. A Savior? Was this the Messiah promised to the world so long ago? And then the heavens opened as a great host of angels appeared in the brilliantly-lit sky, all singing and praising God! What an awesome sight and sound! It must have left them speechless! (Luke 2:8-13)
When the angels left, the shepherds rushed to Bethlehem to search for this newborn babe. And they found him exactly as they’d been told, lying in a manger in a stable. Quietly, the shepherds gazed in awe upon Mary’s little boy. She was amazed they knew all about him, and he was just born! She heard about how the angels sang praises of her baby, calling him Christ the Lord. Now these humble men glorified and praised God for her baby… as Mary treasured and pondered it all in her heart. (Luke 2:15-20)
And how could Mary ever forget the time she and Joseph couldn’t find Jesus among the crowds as they walked back to Nazareth? Imagine their consternation on finding him teaching the elder rabbis in the tabernacle. Her little boy was only 12 years old! He even told his parents, “Don’t you understand I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49) His father’s business? His father was a carpenter, not a rabbi! She and Joseph did not understand, but she pondered these things in her heart… how odd it all was, and yet how amazing! Surely, she remembered what the angel had said about her little boy…
Mary saw the crowds who followed after her son as a grown man, hanging onto every word he spoke… going from town to town. How well did she and others understand that Jesus truly was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah? The religious leaders walked away deeply troubled by his teachings. Yet, there were so many miracles… and no one had ever seen or heard anything like this before!
Then there were the 12 men who were called her son’s disciples. Jesus had chosen them to follow Him, and follow they did… going everywhere with their beloved teacher. But even they did not truly understand. Oh, sure, Jesus taught them with authority and an earnestness. One time he even asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Peter had answered, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon… you are Peter (which means rock)… for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven…” (Matthew 16:13-20) Peter knew, he understood and believed; but just how deep was his faith? Anyone’s faith at that time?
Because later, after the soldiers had taken Jesus from their midst in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was questioned by two servant girls and others around a warming fire. Three times he told them “I don’t know the man!”… and then the cock crowed… and Peter remembered Jesus had said he would deny him. (Matthew 26: 69-74) “Even if I have to die with you, I never will disown you!” Peter had exclaimed. (Matthew 26:31-35) But now he had done just that. Oh, the shame of it all!
Peter walked off by himself, sobbing with a broken heart. (Matthew 26:75) He had abandoned his best friend, the man who had called him a rock for the firm foundation within him, for the church to be built on this rock, this faith. He, Peter, who had been nothing more than a humble, dirty, smelly fisherman before Jesus saw something more in him… he, Peter, afraid of people’s reactions, afraid to admit how close a friend he had been to Jesus. Did Peter really understand that his best friend, Jesus, truly was God?
So many things Mary pondered in her heart as her son was dying a horrendous death above her on a cross. Did she understand what her son’s birth and life on earth had been all about? That he really had been going about His Father’s business? That His heavenly Father was hers also? That her son was born to live among them, that He came with a purpose… to die for their sins, our sins, and that He arose and returned to Heaven, that we all might have the gift of salvation and eternal life with Him? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 KJV)
Would we have understood the truth Jesus was teaching… without the written Word in our hands? Would we have followed Him, regardless of the cost? Would we have shown others what the love of Jesus means? So much to consider… so much to ponder… that I have to ask, would I?
Linda A. Roorda
Would I know this Child from Heaven sent?
Would I pause like Mary to ponder?
Would I grasp His Love meant for me?
Would I walk the paths that He trod?
Or, Would I be ashamed to know Him?
Would I know the depth of His love?
Would I feel the sorrow His heart felt?
Would I stay awake as He prayed?
Would I take His cross upon my back?
Or, Would I pound the nails in His hands?
Would I know Jesus died for me?
Would I feel His grief for my sin?
Would I know my Lord in risen glory?
Would I in joy to God’s Gift be true?
And, Would I love, forgive, and shine forth His Light?
Linda Roorda writes from her home in Spencer.