Posted by Stephen Venable

“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:15–19, NASB95)  

Assuming from the sparse details offered in the narrative that the shepherds did, in fact, visit Jesus on the very night of His birth, all is silent until the eighth day when the rite of circumcision was performed. Silence is so often our portion in reading the Gospels that it is easy to simply advance our meditation with the inspired words and not take up our abode in the space of seven days that yawns mysteriously before us. It is as though the brilliant flash of glory on Christmas Day is so luminous that we forget that it indeed wane (at least in its outward manifestation). The angels had left to return to the heavens, the shepherds had left to tell of what they had seen, and Mary and Joseph were left a alone with a newborn.

Doubtless all eyes above were fixed upon those three beating hearts in Bethlehem and their lowly estate, yet no hand reach out to assist, no angels were there to minister to the Babe. How did that first night pass? The hymn tells, “no crying He made”, yet this can hardly be true. As Mary sought some measure of rest next to the manger, she was roused again and again by the voice of her little One as He hungered for nourishment no longer received in the womb. And then the sunrise came

Though Mary and Joseph would later relocate to Bethlehem for a time, it was not yet their home and now they were new parents in an unfamiliar place. Most pressing was the need for more permanent accommodations. What filled their minds as their tired bodies sought a place of refuge where they could rest and care for their boy? The only answer Scripture offers is the notice of Mary pondering ‘these things’ within her heart. The enormity of the events they had experienced, stretching all the way back to the initial visit from Gabriel, surely provided some comfort. Yet likely it did not shield Mary’s muscles from the weariness of labor or prevent fatigue from hanging heavy upon their eyes any more than the magnitude of the identity of Jesus rendered Him immune to the need for sustenance and sleep felt by a newborn. As the three made their way through the narrow alleys of the town, they all felt it fully and completely.

Still there He lay, cradled in His mother’s arms, the Word made flesh and now dwelling among us. Not just in the climactic moment of His birth when the melodies of angels filled the valley below, but in the obscurity of His second day of life outside the womb as His parents roamed through Bethlehem seeking of a place of refuge. God Himself searched for a place of rest in David’s town, and may He find it in our souls in the quietness and normalcy of the days after Christmas.

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