Joseph and Mary must have been exhausted from their journey. The only place for them to take shelter was a stable with smelly livestock. No central heat. No warm, soft beds. No family or friends to help Mary with her first birth.
What a difficult night that must have been!
I imagine it wasn't much fun for Jesus either. Not only the trauma of being born, but the completely foreign experience of being a helpless baby. Jesus, the eternal Son of God - who spoke the world into existence - became an infant. He entered a dark, cold, smelly world - after the glories of heaven.
Definitely not fun.
I'm not sure where the phrase "Merry Christmas" came from, but I don't think it was from that first Christmas. The first Christmas was very REAL. It was a long, hard night, with pain and tears, cold and wet, exhaustion and hunger.
It wasn't anything like Christmas is today. Even during my worst years of illness, I still had food to eat and a place to sleep. I had friends and family who loved me and prayed for me. Though I sometimes lost sight of my many blessings, they were still there.
Now that I'm healthier and able to enjoy the "fun" parts of Christmas again, I'm reminded that the first Christmas also had something we often don't have today. It had wonder and worship.
I'm sure that mixed in with tears of pain were tears of unspeakable joy! The arrival of God's promised Messiah, the fulfillment of thousands of years of waiting, the miracle of God becoming flesh.... I can't even imagine how Mary and Joseph must have celebrated in their hearts!
Then all of heaven sang out declaring the good news! Shepherds rushed to the stable and knelt in worship. And a glorious star shone brighter than ever before.
Ah, the wonder of that night!
No, that first Christmas wasn't fun. But it was profound. And as we celebrate it year after year, we can explore more of the depths of its meaning. We can be reminded of what an awesome God we have!
So whether your Christmas is merry and fun, or not-so-merry and not-so-fun, I pray you'll be filled anew with the wonder and worship of that first Christmas. I pray you'll see the harsh realities of that night (and of your own life) in the light of its glorious significance!
A blessed Christmas to you,