That First Holy Night

December 23, 2009

Oh, what a night it must have been that first Christmas, the  wonder and the awe that must have filled the air.  I can only imagine the hush of the wind and the stillness of the  night.  I imagine for the shepherds the  night began as any other night.  I can  see the shepherds as they walked the hillsides, watching their sheep and  witnessing the blackness of night as it filled the sky.  I can see the stars race across the sky with  the star in the East shining in the forefront.   The heavens were all aglow and the stage was set.  God was sending the greatest gift of all to  each of us in the gift of His son, Jesus.

It never ceases to amaze me how the greatest night of all  was ushered in during a time when most people were miserable and  frustrated.  The greatest gift came  demanding nothing and offering everything.   This gift was given in the midst of Caesar Augustus, giving nothing and demanding  much.  Jesus came to give while all the  world was to be taxed.  The journey was  long and no doubt difficult for a woman nearly ready to give birth to a baby  boy.  But, there was little one could  do, as “we must give unto Caesar that which is due him.”  So, Joseph packed up his house and placed  Mary on a donkey and traveled to Bethlehem because he was a descendant of  David.

I don’t know whether Mary had any idea that this night was  going to be the night that would change the world.  I don’t know whether Mary knew it was God’s divine plan that this  night would usher in the Saviour of the world or whether she thought it was the  rough ride to Bethlehem that caused her son to be delivered.  But, I do know that when they arrived in  Bethlehem the arrival of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords was at  hand.  I can only imagine how very  worried and frantic Joseph must have been.   Here was his beloved wife whom he adored great with child, and he  couldn’t find a place for them to rest and for her to deliver their baby boy.  And oh, the frustration that must have  filled his being as he knew that the boy that Mary was carrying was not his own  but was the very son of God.  He knew  his espoused wife had never known a man, and he must have remembered what the  angel said when he was raised from his sleep all that many nights ago.  The angel’s words must have echoed in his  heart and played continually in his mind.   I am sure he just kept repeating the directions divinely sent to  him.  “Take Mary to be thy wife.  Call the name of the son she shall bear,  Jesus.  The baby boy she is carrying is  conceived by the Holy Ghost.  They will  call Him Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  Oh, how it must have weighed heavy on his  mind when it sunk in that the baby Mary was carrying was the Son of God.  Can you imagine how he must of felt when the  innkeeper told him there was no room for them in the inn?  I imagine his heart sank and he must have  felt helpless.  But, don’t lose sight of  the fact this baby boy was the son of God and He had prepared the way not only  for His son but for us as well through His son.  Just as the heavens had prepared for this blessed event, all of  nature was ready as well.  The King of  Kings and Lord of Lords had come wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a  manger.  There was no smell of baby  lotion, sterile cleansers and you can be sure no one was covered in protective  clothing guarding against germs.  No,  the baby Jesus came into this world in a smelly, dirty manger meant for the  animals.  It was his creation of nature  that ushered in the Son of God and bowed to Him that first Holy night.  Instead of pomp and circumstance worthy of a  King, the Son of God was heralded by angels and visited by shepherds.

The blackness of night made a beautiful backdrop for the  star shining in the East.  Though it  appeared to be a normal night, something was very different to the shepherds as  they gazed into the night sky.  There  was something about that star, the star of Bethlehem.  It beckoned them and they followed.  The light led them to the Saviour just as His light leads us  today.  I can’t help but imagine what  the shepherds were talking about as they journeyed following the star.  I think some of them joked about leaving  their work for an adventure, but some must have said, ‘Haven’t you heard?  The baby Jesus has arrived!’  The boys must have sung and whistled on their  way, wondering what the baby would be like.   They knew He was the King of the Jews and they were prepared to worship  Him.  Since they were prepared to  worship no doubt they must have reflected upon their lives and peered deep  within their souls.  They had made a  connection with the light that had led them and they were prepared to adore the  King of the Jews.  No matter how much  they had thought or how vivid their imaginations, they could not have imagined  the glory they were about to witness.   The angels sang.  The heavenly  hosts commenced praising God and the proclamation was made, “Peace on earth,  good will toward men.”  The Saviour  of the world had arrived.  The Son of  God was here!  Hope had risen and life had  come.  When the shepherds saw the light  they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.   What a celebration on that first Holy night.  The shepherds rejoiced.   The angels sang.  Mary pondered  and the Saviour of the World made His entrance.  The shepherds could not contain themselves.  The news they held within their hearts was  just too great.  They couldn’t keep what  they had seen and heard to themselves.   So, after the angels departed, the dust settled around the manger and  all of creation stood in adoration, the shepherds “returned, glorifying and  praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.”  Oh, what a wonderful night, that first Holy  night!


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