Often I reflect upon the nativity story and the images conjured up in my mind. Some are based upon my childhood and the stories we were told about baby Jesus, born in the manger, on a cold winter's night. I can see the storybook stars glistening in the sky above, with a rather bright star just over the stable. A small yellowish glow emitting from within - signifying a spectacular, holy event is taking place. My participation in small church re-enactments of this event as an angel, wearing a white flowing robe and a halo, which was made from a clothes hanger wrapped in tinfoil, standing on a piano bench proclaiming "a child is born" seems a bit hokey to me now as an adult - but as a child I meant every word of it. Like I was there and this was actually happening and I was a part of it and all was good.
As I grow older, I learn that it probably wasn't all that cold after all, as it was census time and the people had to travel great distances. And it wasn't on December 25th! And instead of a stable it was more likely a cave of sorts. No drummer boy either. Don't even get me started on the wise men and their gifts and showing up three years later at somebody's house. I swear they are at the manger scene!
I wonder what it would have been like to have been there that night. Admist the cows, sheep and donkeys, and the barnyard smells of hay and manure?
What would it have been like to witness Joseph trying to figure out what he was going to do with this whole situation. And Mary, a frightened teenager who was about to give birth in a strange smelly place, without friends or family to encourage them and assist in the birth a feedings and oh so much more. What would it have like to witness the birth of the saviour, the beginning of a revolution that would turn the world upside-down. I suspect it is much different than the nativity scene I have displayed in my living room.
However you envision this event, either from childhood memories of cute plays or bedtime stories, or factual accounts from historians, one thing seems to be remain constant: Hope. The whole point of the story, the event, is that God sent Hope into the world. If you've seen a baby born, you know that it is a miracle within itself. But this baby being born was more than that. Enter the creator, writer and director of the story, who inserts himself into the play and changes the course of mankind. It was God, at his best, fulfilling the unimaginable. Hope.
Hope arrives in the bundle of a tiny man-child. And I, standing on a piano stool, proclaim "a child is born!"