Ready or not, Christmas is almost here. At my house, it’s mostly not, and the stress is mounting.
Every year I say I want to make Christmas simpler. But so far, I’m batting zero. From its humble beginnings in Bethlehem, this holiday has wandered far from its roots. I think that move started with Joseph. Here’s how I imagine it.
Mary is doing her best to get comfortable on a pile of hay, trying to ignore the smelly goat that’s too close for comfort and the cow bellowing in her ear. Sweat pours from her brow as she labors.
Joseph, feeling helpless or maybe clueless, steps out of the stable for some fresh air. From a side street, a figure emerges from the dark. It’s a scribe from the Bethlehem Star, stylus tucked behind his ear, fresh slate tablet in his messenger bag.
“Psst, hey, are you Joseph?”
Squinting in the dark until the man comes into focus, Joseph replies: “Yes. Do I know you?”
The man extends his hand.
“Yo, I’m Ezekiel, head paparazzo for the Bethlehem Star. Word on the street is there’s a king being born here tonight. I was hoping for the scoop.
Joseph rubs his forehead, pondering the idea, and finally gives Ezekiel a knowing wink. “Wait here while I ask the little woman. You know how it is. She’s the boss.”
Joseph slips back into the barn, asking Mary if she wants to share their story with a local reporter. Mary, in the throes of a hard contraction, rolls her eyes, lets out a hard breath, and yells: “Whatever!!”
Joseph, ever clueless, takes that as yes. Glad to have a respite from the goings on, he spills the beans to Ezekiel. It takes awhile for the story to get out — carving tablets takes time — but within months, every king in the area knows about baby Jesus. Naturally the kings, the 2 percenters of their day, find out first.
A gift is given to the world. The kings respond. The Magi — of “We Three Kings” fame — are sent by Herod the Great to find out more about this baby king.
Herod senses a threat. The wise men follow a star, give their simple gifts, and in the presence of holiness are awed by the wonder of it all. They decide not to inform on the little family, allowing Mary and Joseph to high-tail it to Egypt, baby Jesus safely in tow.
King Herod’s not happy. He’s a selfish man, filled with anger. Not keen for competition to his throne, he orders all the babies in Judea murdered, figuring he’ll get rid of Jesus, one way or another.
So, my imagination’s run wild. I shouldn’t put the blame on Joseph for being a blabbermouth. The nativity story was bound to get out and change the world, tabloid reporter or not.
But what do we do with the story today? Year after year, we’re reminded of this remarkable gift, and like the ancient kings, we have a choice on how to respond.
Am I so wrapped up in my own agendas that I respond like Herod? When I focus on marathon shopping, more presents, fancier decorations, being over-scheduled and full of stress, who am I kidding? I’d rather be a Magi, awed by the wonder.
Maybe this Christmas is the year I’ll keep it real. Enjoy the miracle. I’ll rock my first grandchild, baby Lillian Ruth, look up at the stars and be thankful for life’s simple pleasures. It’s not just a choice I can make on Christmas. Every day’s a miracle if you’re not too busy to miss the blessing.
Sharon Mangas is a community columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.