Today at lunch Paige and I were playing a game. She’d sing a lyric from Away in a Manger then stop and expect me to fill in the blank. We got to the end and she sang, “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the ________,” then looked at me to finish the song.
I played dumb and guessed, “Pillow?” She giggled and said, “No, try again.” To which I guessed, “Bed?” met by more giggles then “Blanket?” Finally Paige interjected, “Hay Mom. It’s hay.”
I acted shocked and said, “What? Jesus wasn’t born in a hospital with a doctor and a nice clean bed?” She looked at me like I must be from another planet to be a “gwown up” and not know the story of Baby Jesus. Incredulously she said, “No Mom. Don’t you know the story? I’ll tell you.”
She launched into this story. “So Mary and Joseph had no kids. The angel came and told Mary that she was going to have Little Lord Jesus and she was really happy. They had a donkey. So they got their donkey out and went to Bethlehem to pay their cash. Mary rode on the donkey with Lord Jesus in her belly. When they got to Bethlehem it was time to have Lord Jesus but all the hotels were full. They couldn’t find a hotel room so the person in charge of the rooms said they could stay in the barn.”
At this point I interrupted and said, “A stinky barn? With cow poop and smelly animals? Where was the doctor?”
She got all worked up and said, “No Mom. There was no doctor. And they were nice animals. There was a cow and a sheep and a place for Mary and Joseph’s donkey and these animals were nice. They made room for Mary and Joseph so they could have Lord Jesus.”
When I questioned her about the stinky poop she finally conceded that there probably was poop and it might have been smelly but the nice animals gave Lord Jesus the best spot in the barn.
She finished her story by saying, “Mary had Lord Jesus in the barn and used the thing, I can’t remember what it’s called, that the cows and horses eat and drink out of, as a bed for Lord Jesus. They put hay in the bed-thing and that’s where He fell asleep like the song says.” She acted like she was done, then added for good measure, “And they all lived happily ever after.”
If only it was that simple. They really never lived “happily ever after.” Jesus was born in a cold, stinky, unsterile poop-filled barn with no medical help or basic amenities. Mary and Joseph spent the first few years of Jesus’ life on the run. Sneaking away at night in the pitch black, running for their lives. Hiding Jesus from a Madman who, bent on killing Jesus and protecting his throne, slaughtered hundreds of two-year-old boys in an effort to kill the King of the Jews in the purge. Can you imagine the guilt, relief and grief Mary and Joseph must have felt knowing Jesus miraculously survived that holocaust?
They were forced to take refuge in a foreign country where they didn’t know the language, the culture or have any friends. They were finally able to sneak back into their own country, but settled in an unfamiliar area forcing them again to start from scratch with friends and employment. The “holy family” lived in poverty, the bottom rung of society, barely scratching out enough money to feed their family. Then Jesus started his very public and very controversial career as a religious teacher. Always pushing the envelope and challenging people’s thinking, he was both revered and hated. His gentle power and humble spirit ended up with Him being illegally arrested, given a rigged trial and brutally murdered. Not exactly what I’d call a happy ending.
Yet I’m sure Mary would say her life was full of joy, contentment and peace that passes all understanding. She bathed the Son of God. Changed his diapers. Sewed his clothes. Cooked his meals. Laughed at his jokes. Kissed his tears. Worshipped at His feet as He suffered and died for her sins. Can you imagine the privilege and the pain of being the mom of Lord Jesus? I can’t wait to ask her all about it when I get to heaven.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay. The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Thank you Little Lord Jesus. Thank you.