And Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in a manger, because there was not place for them at the inn. Luke 2:7
Like many parents, I treasure the evening ritual of reading aloud to the children before bedtime. Climbing up into each of their loft beds and snuggling beside them to read a book is precious and fleeting time. Recently, our 11 year old has wanted to take a break from reading Harry Potter to read from scripture. I am not sure if it is the Advent season and all the talk of Christmas approaching or for some other reason, but I was more than delighted to put down the tale of muggles and wizards, and pick up the Holy Bible.
Since the preparations of Christmas are all around us, this faith-filled child asked if I would read the story of Jesus’ birth. Turning to Luke chapter 2, I read aloud the narrative of our savior coming to live among us. Wonderfully, this opened up so many questions. One question she asked that I have pondered often since that evening is “Why didn’t God make it easier for Jesus to be born?”
At first, I was taken aback – “Why didn’t God make it easier for Jesus to be born?” I never considered this before. Of course, I had thought about how Jesus was born to a poor family – a father who labored with his hands, a mother who had to place the child in a feed trough as his first crib. But why didn’t God intervene when it was time for Jesus to be born? Why didn’t God make the 80 mile walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem less strenuous? Or better yet make the census happen at a different time all together? Why couldn’t God find a comfortable, clean home for baby Jesus to be born?
God is all powerful, able to intervene at any time or place, but God came to live among us on this earth, a broken and often dark place. Emmanuel, God-with-us, was not born into an easy world. The circumstances of his birth were not easy. His life was not easy.
God does not promise us an easy life – a life free from pain and struggles – a life in which all our wants and needs are met. What God does promise us is that God will be with us – through it all. God came to live among us, born a tiny, dependent baby. King Herod wished to kill him. His parents had to flee the area to protect the baby Jesus. Those times were not easy.
Times are not easy now. Most of us have all of our basic needs met, and we live in relative abundance. But we all have struggles. There are areas in each of our lives in which the darkness and difficulties can seem insurmountable. It may be troubled relationships, financial woes, emotional, psychological, or physical illness, debilitating grief or loss, or countless other troubles. It may be the political divisions in our country, or the civil unrest that seems to be epidemic in our society today. The darkness in our world can knock us down to the point where we cannot seem to get back on our feet.
Jesus came into this kind of world, and Jesus lives with us today in this kind of world. Life is not easy and was never promised to be. This time of year, the Christmas season, we are reminded that Jesus came into our world to be with us – to share in our joys and triumphs – to share in our pain and heartache. We are reminded that we do not have to navigate this earthly journey on our own. Jesus wants to walk with us – to skip and run with us – to crawl and limp with us – through all of our life’s journey.
This Christmas, let’s not only seek Jesus. Let’s invite Jesus to live among us again.
The Rev. Teresa Ryan Seagle
Dean of Spiritual Life and Service