Did you know that when Jesus was born, they wrapped him in burial cloths? Like, “Here, Mary, I know you just had a baby, but here’s the cloth for wrapping me up in when I’m dead. You can keep your baby warm with these.” It’s true. In those days when you would take a long journey like Joseph and Mary did to Bethlehem, you would carry your own burial cloths, also known as swaddling cloths, on the journey so they’d have something to wrap your dead body in case you were to die. Jesus was immediately telling his life’s purpose from the moment he was born, he was born to die.
I wonder how often Mary thought about that, if she woke up every single day and thought, “Will today be the day my son is taken from me?” And all the while knowing her son’s death is the only way her nation would be delivered, for he was the prophesied Messiah. I imagine Joseph and Mary started out with a plan for their family, and then she got pregnant. They probably had a plan for his birth, and then they ended up in an animal den. They repeatedly had plans and expectations, but that’s not how it happened. Instead, they were embarrassed in front of people they loved, probably feeling forgotten, and then asked to trust even when things didn’t add up. This was the Almighty God who made an unmarried woman pregnant and allowed the Messiah to be born among livestock. Really, God? I can’t imagine the doubt Joseph must have been tempted with. But still, he stayed, he trusted, he was faithful and believed God. His plans and expectations had to change. He had to hope. Believing that there is a different ending than the one in front of us; that’s what hope is.
It’s easy during this season to be faced with those plans that got changed for us. Sometimes, someone we love isn’t with us, or we’re not quite where we envisioned we would be in life, and we feel loss. But that’s just it; we remember this story every year because we NEED to. We need the reminder that there’s more than just this fear-induced world, more than loss or anger or denial, that we have hope beyond what we can see, and that what may look like just a baby in a dirty stable is actually the King of all Kings. That’s exactly how God works.
I once heard a pastor say that we often hear that Jesus is the reason for the season, but the truth is, YOU are the reason for the season. Jesus, Son of the Living God, left Heaven, gave up all that is glorious and perfect and came as a helpless baby to a place surrounded with sinners and slept in an animal trough because of YOU. You right there, reading this. You’re it! He didn’t need to have every other soul on earth to save; He wanted you. He wanted you to know freedom of sin, to know perfect love, to experience life to its fullest, and to know His hope. Don’t get lost in these next few weeks of a busy holiday season; stop and remember there is a different ending to your story than the one you see in front of you. And let your hope be renewed.