A refugee. An outcast. Homeless. Hunted. Murdered.

This is the life God chose.

His father and mother left the town of Nazareth and traveled to Bethlehem. Because Joseph belonged to the line of David, he had to go to register Mary, who he was pledged to be married to. But she was already pregnant. And about to give birth. Any moment now. Traveling by donkey with the pains of labor.

Who was his father, anyway? Why would Joseph still marry her? A new family beginning their lives together with a blanket of shame, and the whispers of gossip welcoming them at every turn.

This is the life God chose.

He was born in a manger. The son of a carpenter and a 14-year-old virgin. There was no room for them in the inn. Born amongst hay and farm animals. Wrapped in swaddling clothes.

This is the life God chose.

Shortly after giving birth, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to gather Mary and his newborn baby and flee to Egypt. An evil, jealous King Herod who had heard of the birth of Jesus, was going to have every child ages two and under murdered.

Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. Brothers. Grandmothers. Grandfathers. All left to weep as precious, innocent lives were taken before their eyes. I cannot fathom the pain.

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Matthew 2:18

And so they fled. Just after giving birth. A new, first-time mother. Just 14 years old. A father with his virgin wife, who is trusting this child is from God. And a newborn baby, fresh from the womb.

Traveling again. Running for their lives.

This is the life God chose.

He was not born in a palace, surrounded by guards and servants with the softest bedding and best medical care of the time. He was not born in comfort. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

What were Mary and Joseph thinking? Even though they knew this was the Son of God, did thoughts of doubt and frustration creep in. Why, God? Why can’t this be easy?

This is the life God chose.

He did not come with an army conquering all who opposed him. His ministry was on foot, with his disciples – men handpicked by Jesus. Also not the wealthiest, or men of great social status. Tax collectors. Fishermen. A motley crew at that.

This is the life God chose.

He was born knowing His life would be a sacrifice. Knowing He would live to die a horrible death.

He was fully God. And yet fully man.

And now, as we celebrate His birth – surrounded by Christmas music, baked goods, elaborate decorations, parties, gift exchanges, twinkling lights, Christmas cards taped to the walls and elves watching the children from shelves – do we pause to remember the life God chose? Or are we so swept up in the commercialism that the beauty and majesty of his humble beginnings are afterthoughts at the end of a long day?

Yesterday, my husband was backing out of our driveway and hit the mailbox with our new van. The nicest vehicle we ever have ever owned now has a dent and scrapes going all along the back panel.

We prayed that morning, before he left, for peace to reign in our home, and for there not to be anymore chaos after a crazy week.

He came in to ask for my help. As he pulled the mailbox back, I pulled the van forward. The damage was painfully obvious. Our new van didn’t look so shiny and beautiful and new anymore.

And I remembered our prayer and thought, chaos will not reign. It is just a van. It is just a scratch. And a dent.

We talked about having it fixed. It would cost nearly $1,500, and that is more than we can afford to pay right now on aesthetics. For a moment, I felt frustrated. For a moment, I thought about just putting the repairs on a credit card. Why did our beautiful new van have to look this way?

And then my thoughts drifted to the birth of Jesus. To his mother and father walking for miles, only to find there was no room in the inn. To his birth in a stable surrounded by farm animals and hay. I thought of how his parents had to flee from a murderous king, just after he was born.

A refugee. An outcast. Homeless. Hunted. Murdered.

This is the life God chose.

Suddenly, having a fancy van with perfect siding doesn’t seem as important anymore.

As I sit in my kitchen, with Christmas music playing, surrounded by decorations, planning the next couple of days before Santa will arrive – our hours filled with baking and parties and Christmas shows and shopping and movies and more – I am reminded that although we celebrate with twinkle and glamour, and some may even say excess – the life Jesus chose was of humble means.

It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of Christmas, but the real beauty lies in the simplicity.

It is in a hug. And a smile. It is in having everyone together. In a shared meal. In times of worship, as we gather to light candles and sing Christmas songs declaring, “oh come let us adore him.” The memories are found in the relationships. In the time spent in the company of our loved ones.

Christmas is about His birth. And about the life He chose.

And when this is my focus, the stress of the season seems to melt away, joy and gratitude fill my heart, the things of this world lose their luster – and everything else seems to fall beautifully into place.

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