A local farm near us does a reenactment of the Christmas Story every year, loading folks up on wagons and driving them to different stations.
One station replays the Annunciation and then the appearance of the angel to Joseph, reassuring him that he should marry Mary. The next shows Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, complete with a marketplace (goats and horses and little kids included) and an innkeeper who made us laugh. Then we saw the angels appear to the shepherds, out in the middle of a dark field. We were in the inn when the shepherds came running in with their good news.
And then there was the barn.
In that barn, huddled up with my four-year-old, I realized that the barn – or cave – where Mary had her baby must have been cold. Now, as a woman who’s been through labor, I can appreciate that maybe she wasn’t concerned with the cold temperature. Maybe it even felt good.
Bethlehem isn’t as cold as central Ohio in December, and you’re more likely to have rain than snow. Nevertheless, it was an experience that gave me another picture of that young girl at the manger, the girl who was “full of grace” and chosen by God to bear and raise the Messiah.
In the wonder of holding her baby, gazing at His face and marveling at His existence, her hands were probably chilly and her belongings might have been soaked from rain showers. Though the animals must have been sharing their heat, it’s unlikely that the place where Nativity happened was as cozy as the play sets around my house would have me believe.
At the manger, Mary must have felt all the wonder any of us feel when we see a new life. Joseph must have put his arm around her and felt his love for her balloon, his amazement at her blossom, his appreciation for God increase.
And then the visitors came. Shepherds and probably some townspeople, all wanting a glance at the newborn Messiah, probably wondering, as they walked away, how that baby could change the world. Mary must have sensed some of these doubts, even as she saw their amazement and heard about the angel choruses.
Mary at the manger: a young girl with the world in her arms. Mary at the manger: proof that God can overcome odds that men wouldn’t even make. Mary at the manger: hope for each of us as we struggle through our daily life.
Sarah Reinhard is the author of A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy and online at SnoringScholar.com.
This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times.