Christmas / by daniel hamlin

 Photo:  Chris Burkard

I love December. Christmas is around the corner and everyone seems a little festive. Plus where I live we tend to get beautiful, crisp autumn days during December. It’s hard not to enjoy Christmas. 

Some years ago just days before Christmas a few friends and I backpacked into an isolated surf spot to camp. We set up our tents on a ridge overlooking the waves. The sunset looked as if heaven itself were casting it’s light over the vast Pacific; the colors were magnificent. 

The hike isn’t super long, but it can be a bit grueling. Due to the landscape it is easy to draw comparisons to somewhere in the Middle East. And since we returned home on Christmas Eve it’s not surprising my mind went to Mary and Joseph and the trek they made to Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. For a long time now I’ve been quite fascinated by what it cost them (particularly Mary) to birth and raise the Savior of the world. 

Just getting to Bethlehem was a miracle in itself. When they made their trek to Bethlehem Mary was almost nine months pregnant. It’s not like there were cars in those days, and they weren’t wealthy enough to have some sort of coach transport them. They would have made the five day journey by foot and the aid of a donkey. Imagine being almost nine months pregnant and having to backpack through the desert for five days; it’s hard to comprehend, yet they did it. 

Beside the logistical nightmare of getting to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary would have to endure heavy disdain from their peers due to Mary’s miraculous conception. Rather than believe the miracle that took place, most people assumed Mary was promiscuous and got pregnant the old fashioned way. She would have to carry that stigma for the rest of her life. In that culture it wasn’t something people would forget and move on from. Joseph would have to carry a similar stigma, his peer group questioning his wife’s faithfulness and love. And even Jesus would have to endure a lifetime of ridicule, being mocked about not knowing who His dad really was.

Joseph and Mary would have been aware these things would happen to them by saying yes to the Lord in this matter. Something they likely wouldn’t have realized though was the fact that Jesus would have to ultimately die in the most humiliating and demeaning fashion possible. Mary would have to helplessly watch as her perfect son was falsely accused, given a mock trial, beaten senselessly, and ultimately killed as a criminal. But yet, they said yes to the Lord and it resulted in salvation to the world.

I often think about what I will say to Mary when I see her in heaven. I know it is Jesus who forgives us and takes our sin away, but I can’t help but want to apologize to Mary as well. You see, it was my sin that made it necessary for her firstborn to be crucified. It was my sin that He came to pay for. It was my sin that caused Him to be hung on that cross while Mary had to watch on in horror. In the divine plan of heaven Joseph and Mary were ultimately rewarded far more than any hardships they had to endure here on earth. But still, it’s hard for me not to feel responsible for the agony Mary had to endure while her son was crucified. 

Joseph and Mary give me hope. They were as human as you and I. They had the same shortcomings, the same temptations, the same failures. Yet God used them in the greatest miracle He’s ever performed on earth. He used them because they said yes. I can only hope and pray that I will respond to the Lord in similar manner in my life. 

I’m sorry Mary, but thank you for saying yes.