It was getting dark and the weary travelers needed a place to sleep. It’s almost 70 miles between Nazareth and Bethlehem, and Joseph and Mary were making the long journey that was required of them in order to pay taxes to the Roman Empire. It was a long journey for everyone, but Mary was feeling each mile a bit more than some, as she was about to give birth, and she was oh, so tired. But there was a blessing: one of their neighbors in Nazareth had offered them a donkey for her to ride on the long trip. Kindness can make any journey a bit easier.
The trip to Bethlehem wasn’t the only journey they were on. Mary and Joseph were on that exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking journey toward parenthood. It had been nine months since the angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary, asking her if she would carry this child, this son of God. “Here I am,” she had said, “let it be with me.” And so with her consent, which is hopefully how all children come to be, Mary was pregnant. And there was another blessing: her dear sweet Joseph, who believed her, who had faith in her and in God. Faith can help when times are confusing and difficult.
And there in Bethlehem this young couple was blessed with generosity: a place to stay. They were given space to rest until their baby was born. It wasn’t fancy, but it was warm and safe.
Out in the fields, there were shepherds, watching over their sheep. It is said that angels came, announcing that a child was born. Now, I would guess that shepherds don’t always feel important. They might not always remember that they matter, especially when they’re out in a field at night. But on that night, there was a blessing: the angels came and sang, and they not only felt hope hearing of the birth of this little baby, but they also remembered, at least for that night, that they were each precious.
And a new star rose in the heavens, telling of the birth of one who would bring a message of peace, one who would bring change, one who would be called a king. Far away, wise ones heard of the star. They went to King Herod to tell him that a new king had been born. Herod was jealous, and afraid of what a new king might mean, and so he sent them to find the baby. And though the stories say they traveled to find him, there was a blessing: the wise ones felt compassion for this family, and they chose not to tell King Herod what they had seen.
And as Jesus was held, and rocked, and snuggled, and fed, and sung to, there was a blessing of love and wonder. There they were, all the people and animals gathered around a new baby, caring for him and for one another, resting in that amazing love.
Over 2,000 years later, we retell the story of Jesus’ birth, and of his life and teachings. And there is a blessing: a possibility of a better world. This possibility arises when we remember that we are all connected; when we choose kindness, faith, generosity; when we remember that each one of us matters. The possibility for a better world happens when we practice compassion; when we allow our hearts to be changed by love and wonder.
This Christmas — and every day — may you be touched by such blessings, and share them with all those you meet.