I am truly amazed at how Christmas is this year. 2009 is not my favorite year, and I think a lot of you know that. And it seems like 2009 is still not done with all its surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. This is one of those years when you wonder if Christmas would still be a happy one, you know?
But if there was anything I learned from the flood, it’s that no matter what happens, there’s only one thing that I am sure of: it’s God. Whatever flood, storm, calamity, temptation, crime and bad things that come, there’s still Someone who is bigger and stronger who is there, and it cannot stop Christmas from coming. It is CHRISTmas after all. :)
This Christmas, I present to you a little story. I’m not really sure if it’s accurate with what’s in the Bible, so please treat this thing as a work of fiction, an interpretation of one of my favorite Christmas songs by MercyMe, Joseph’s Lullaby. This tells the story of the first Christmas night, after Mary has received visits form the shepherds and the wise men (not the usual gifts for new moms, right?). This is also hardly edited, so please excuse grammatical errors. I hope that somehow, this story would help us remember that Christmas is not about gifts or what we want, or even how we would have spent Christmas if so and so didn’t happen. Christmas is, ultimately, about the One born on this day. :)
Blessed Christmas to you and your family! :)
It had been a strange day. Joseph stood outside the place where his wife and child slept soundly, and for the first time in the longest time, he found a moment where he could be by himself.
Come to think of it, it had been a strange nine months, Joseph realized. He hadn’t counted on his life turning upside down in less than a year. He was just a lowly carpenter. Sometimes he even felt highly insignificant – belonging to a huge clan can do that sometimes. He never asked for anything like this.
The wind picked up, and Joseph wrapped his cloak tighter around him. He wondered briefly if there would be another show of angels from the heavens. His lips quirked as he remembered how the shepherds suddenly showed up shortly after the baby was swaddled. Joseph watched as they all fell on their knees and told them what the angel and the Hosts of Heaven told them. His wife just accepted them in her gracious way as if she understood everything — and maybe she did.
And Joseph? He understood what he can, but the rest is a mystery.
He tried to recall all that happened in the past months to him. His betrothal to Mary, the quiet girl from Nazareth, daughter of Joachim and Anne. Learning that Mary was pregnant before they were married. That news tore him up inside — he loved her in all her gentle ways, and he knew there was something special about her. All of those were gone when Joseph learned of her pregnancy, but he loved her too much to give her more embarrassment so he decided to just divorce her silently. Maybe then she can hide or do something so the people would not condemn her.
That was when things changed. He may not have seen the angels that the shepherds mentioned earlier, but he was visited by one in his dreams. He could still remember their words clearly until now, as if it was etched in his mind: Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.
Save people from their sins. How could a man do that? How could a baby do that?
Joseph looked up at the night sky and watched the stars twinkle merrily down at him. It almost felt like the heavens were smiling down at him, at them. And maybe they were. He would not be surprised at all.
The silence of the night was broken by a soft whimper. Joseph walked back inside the stable, checking if any of the animals that shared the place with them had made the noise, but they were all asleep. He walked towards the back of the stable, and found Mary and the child sleeping soundly, bathed in the dimmed lamplight.
Or, it was only Mary that slept soundly. The baby, who laid in a manger, was stirring, and from the sounds of his little whimpers, Joseph could sense that the baby was about to cry.
Joseph knelt down beside the manger and glanced at Mary, wondering if he should wake her up to take care of the baby. But one look at his wife’s face stopped him from doing so — she had had a long day, from their travel, to the birth and the visitors. She needed to rest.
He slid his hands under the baby and carried him gently in his arms. Joseph felt awkward in carrying him, like he wasn’t sure if he was doing it right. Mary had it down pat — then again she carried him for nine months, and she knew more about him than Joseph did. It made sense.
But still, even if the baby wasn’t really his child in the biological sense, he couldn’t just leave him alone and crying.
The baby stirred again, and Joseph made shushing noises to still him, like how he remembered his mother doing it to his brothers when he was younger. He shifted his arms slightly to make sure the baby was comfortable and stood up, and then he began pacing back and forth the little space.
The child stopped squirming and Joseph thought he would go back to sleep. To his surprise, however, the baby opened his eyes and looked at him.
Joseph stopped pacing and looked back into the eyes of the child he held in his arms. It was the first time he had a chance to see the baby’s eyes, and what he saw almost took his breath away. An old prophecy flashed in his mind: Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
“Immanuel.” Joseph whispered, still gazing at the child. The child blinked and then gurgled, as if he was laughing and agreeing with what Joseph said. “God with us.”
The baby gurgled again. Joseph felt another stirring in his heart — something he wasn’t quite sure what. It was like a mixture of awe, wonder and pain: awe at the little baby he held in his arms, wonder at how he got here and pain at the thought of what he must go through, if he was indeed the one sent to save the people from their sins.
As if sensing Joseph’s unease, the baby’s face crumpled and he let out a little cry. Tears pooled in the corner of his eyes and leaked down his cheeks. Joseph snapped back in attention and started rocking the baby, making shushing noises to calm him down.
And then the words were in Joseph’s head and he started singing softly to the baby, pulling him closer so he could hear his words without disturbing his wife.
Go to sleep, my son,
This manger for your bed.
You have a long road before You,
Rest your little head.
The baby’s cries died down and his breathing slowed. He looked up at Joseph again and this time, Joseph smiled down at him. He rocked him back and forth again gently and continued to sing.
Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Joseph stopped and felt hot tears prick the back of his eyes. Does the child know about what he will be going through? Can he and Mary protect him from it? How can they raise him up with not knowing what their child had to do to save the people? He sang the next line of the song, but the question was also sent up to the heavens, a question to the Father who brought them there.
Does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?
The baby closed his eyes, and his breathing became even. Joseph knew he was falling asleep.
Go to sleep, my Son.
Go and chase Your dreams.
The world can wait for one more moment,
Go and sleep in peace.
I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight.
Joseph couldn’t help it. A tear rolled down his cheek and dropped on the forehead of the child. He was afraid for a moment that the child would wake up, but instead, he stayed asleep, his head lying on Joseph’s arms. His face was calm, peaceful, trusting. Could Joseph do the same thing and trust the Father that He knew what He was doing when he sent this baby to them?
Lord I ask that He for just this moment
Simply be my child.
Joseph took a deep breath. He still couldn’t understand, and he knew he may never understand it, at least while he was still here. But he knew that Yahweh understands and knows, and for tonight that should be enough.
The baby stirred again and Joseph opened his mouth to finish the lullaby:
Go to sleep, my Son.
Baby close Your eyes.
Soon enough You’ll save the day
But for now, dear child of mine.
Oh my Jesus, sleep tight.
Joseph kissed his child’s forehead gently before putting him back in the manger, and sat there watching Jesus for the entire night until the darkness made way for the sunlight the next morning.
Happy birthday, Jesus. :)