I wonder if I’ve so romanticized and sanitized that first Christmas that I’ve missed the truth. If the Christ-child were around Lexington today, would I notice? The reality of that first Christmas was less than pleasant. Mary was an unwed mother. She and Joseph were forced to travel for reasons of obligatory census which had to do with taxation. Their travel was at a most difficult time as it was Mary’s late term pregnancy. Their accommodations in Bethlehem were less than the best. I even wonder why some of Joseph’s extended family didn’t provide them hospitality since it was his ancestor’s home. Who helped Mary with the birth? Was it Joseph? Perhaps it was some of the Shepherds as they would have known something about birthing lambs. A couple of years after the first Christmas, the family became refugees fleeing the violence of a ruler. That first Christmas and those couple of years that followed were not pleasant times.
Near our Counseling Center is a home for unwed mothers. These young women and their infants often walk around our neighborhood. I sometimes wonder if this is what Mary experienced with her new born infant. Around the corner from the Center is a ministry helping to settle immigrants and refugees in the Lexington area. Could there be a “Holy Family” among them? When it is a rainy night, there is a man and woman who sleep on the Center’s porch because the local shelter for the homeless won’t let them stay the night together. Did Joseph and Mary experience something similar?
Perhaps what I really need this Christmas is some nudging from the angels, who nudged the shepherds, so I can better recognize what God is doing on Christmas. Whatever else Christmas may mean, the truth of Christmas or the incarnation is that “The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5b). If that is still true then the Lord is near even in my little corner of Lexington, Kentucky; and Christmas is still happening, only not necessarily as I think, expect, imagine or want it to happen.