After traveling in the last trimester of pregnancy on a donkey, exhaustion is probably a relatively mild way to describe how Mary was feeling when she and Joseph finally came to Bethlehem. Was their relief more about reaching their destination safely or because Mary did not deliver on the way? With many people traveling for the census, how many mothers did Mary encounter who relayed their birthing experiences to her: the good, the bad and the horrible? How desperate and discouraging was it for them to try to find a place to stay? A place of shelter for the baby to be born was not found with the kinfolk of Joseph in Bethlehem for the census, but rather in a crude shelter for the animals.
And how are we feeling in this third week of Advent with Christmas less than a week away? This year the whole fourth week of Advent is summed up in one day: Christmas eve. Are we looking joyfully towards the wonderful day of celebration? Or are we exhausted from trying to make the rounds of the Christmas parties, the shopping, the baking, the decorating, and all other activities that come this time of the year? Are we already tired of hearing the Christmas music and watching the Christmas shows on TV? I would hazard a guess that very few people would confidently say they are ready for Christmas: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
In many ways our frenzied secular celebration of Christmas leaves us as exhausted as the soon-to-be parents coming into Bethlehem. So what do we do now? Stay up late and wake up early to get everything prepared? Spend three times the cost of the gift for overnight delivery? Or do we seek out the simple, the humble, and the barest of necessities? Do we trust in God to carry us through, to help us to prioritize what needs to get done, knowing that everything we do cannot even begin to compare with the birth of Jesus?
Let us take the time now to find that little quiet place and prepare the stable of our hearts for the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords in the little baby Jesus. Let us seek the help, guidance, and support of Mary and Joseph, who know all too well the exhaustion before Christmas. Let us seek out the peace that only Christ can bestow to those who follow the star to where He lay.