Summary: Narrative story of how Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem and gave birth to Jesus
“Why A Manger?”
Introduction: The sun sits high over the dusty road. The air is quiet, except for the buzzing of insects and the occasional beating of sheep. A man carefully leads a donkey over rocky terrain, as his very pregnant wife, a girl of no older than sixteen, gently rubs her swollen belly and readjusts herself atop the weary animal. The road to Bethlehem, busy with pilgrims making their way to the city of David, is now mostly deserted.
A young carpenter, Joseph, and his nine-months pregnant wife, Mary, are almost at their destination. Why did the decree from Augustus have to come at this time? How would they handle the birth of their first child so far away from their families and homes in Nazareth? Who would be mid-wife when the moment came for the baby’s birth? More questions than answers were the topics of conversation that broke the silence of the journey and the occasional braying of the donkey.
What accommodations would they find when they finally reached Bethlehem? Though Joseph’s ancestral home, no one in his family had any relatives - that they could remember - still living there. They would have to find an inn to stay in until the registration could be completed. And then make the arduous journey back to Nazareth.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES
A year earlier, Mary had been a young teenaged girl, playing with her friends, scrubbing clothes in the stream to get them clean; helping her mother bake bread, clean chickens, gather eggs, and learn how to set a proper Jewish table for meals. She occasionally allowed herself to get involved in typical teenager conversations about handsome boys, future husbands, and how many children she would have to carry on the family line.
She had even stopped playing long enough to meet with the match-maker. This older woman had been brought to her home by her father in order to plan and select a suitable husband for her. She had argued that she wasn’t ready for marriage and settling down - she wanted to enjoy her teen-age years a little longer.
But her parents had insisted, and so at the appointed time, freshly cleaned and with her brushed, she met with the matchmaker. And a kind of handsome apprentice carpenter named Joseph. He looked so old - so manly.
What could he see in me? she had asked herself. After several minutes of talking by the matchmaker and her parents, and a few hesitant words and phrases spoken by the two young people, the announcement was made. Her parents had agreed to the match - hands were shaken - and her future was decided. There would be plenty of time to plan the wedding nearly a year away.
Mary left the room after Joseph and the matchmaker had concluded the arrangements. She changed her clothes, went back outside to tell her friends about her engagement, and play before it was dinner time.
Joseph returned to his parent’s house. He announced that the deal had been made - he and Mary would marry in another year - more than enough time to build them a house, save money, build their furniture. His young life was changing too. All the responsibilities of a husband would soon be his to bear. A home, a wife, a business. A lot for a young man to shoulder.
Several months later, during a night of restless sleep, Mary was surprised and overwhelmed! The angel Gabriel suddenly appeared before her. He announced the impossible. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31) Mary was puzzled - “How will this be since I am a virgin?” she asked. (1:34).
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born to you will be called the Son of God.” (1:35)
She had heard about strange things happening before, but never anything as strange as this. But Mary had learned her lessons well. All the teachings from the Torah about obedience to God brought forth her humble, innocent response: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered; “May it be to me as you have said.” (1:38)
Not everyone took the news of Mary’s pregnancy with the same calm and humble demeanor that she had displayed before Gabriel. Gossip has a way of preceding our own explanation about circumstances, doesn’t it? Joseph hadn’t seen Mary for several months when word reached him that Mary was beginning to show signs of being pregnant. Like any normal male of his time, he was immediately angry! When they had arranged the marriage the matchmaker had assured him that Mary was a virgin. Who had lied? The matchmaker? Mary? Her parents? He wanted an answer - immediately! Tomorrow he would confront her and demand an explanation.His attempts at sleep that night were very fitful.