Daily Bread Dec. 24

Time Stood Still
By Deb Crowley of Urbandale, IA, USA

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.  —Luke 1:78–79 NRSV

Sharp, intense pains raced through my abdomen as I sat on the couch, impatiently waiting for my husband to finish showering so he could drive us to the hospital. It was the longest six-mile journey I ever remember. With gritted teeth, I wanted to shout—speed up! Slow down! Watch the bumps in the road! Are we there yet? An hour later, the doctor uttered the most beautiful four-letter word in the English language—push—and our son lay peacefully sleeping in my arms. Reveling in that precious miracle of new life, for us, time stood still.

My journey was nothing compared to what Mary must have experienced. Meditating on the Christmas story as found in Luke, I marvel at her courage facing a long, arduous journey on the back of a donkey while “being great with child.” I wondered if she, too, muttered words of frustration under her breath with each uneven step or asked the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?”  Did she hold back tears as they neared crowded Bethlehem and could not find a room to rent? Did the cacophony of sounds in the busy city assault her ears compounding her stress?

Soft hay in a smelly stable is not an ideal place to give birth, but when a baby is ready to enter the world, surroundings melt away and all concentration is centered on freeing that little life from the confines of the womb. Surely, on that night so many years ago, someone uttered the beautiful word “push,” and a baby that would change the world forever was born. For Mary and Joseph, reveling in the wonder and miracle of new life after a long, seemingly endless journey, time stood still.

Christmas is a celebration of that babe born so many years ago. The days of preparation are endless with activities. Sometimes, like Mary, we face the hecticness with gritted teeth and sheer fortitude, yet understand there is an endpoint, the final “push.” Christmas morning dawns, presents are under the tree, and celebrations begin. I wonder, though, if most of us cherish anew the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Do we, just for a moment, bask in the magnificence of the birth of a baby that grew to manhood, and at the young age of 33 died a cruel death on a cross and was resurrected three days later? Do we, as did Mary, ponder these events in our hearts? Mary could only watch and wonder; we have the advantage of hindsight. We know the significance of Jesus’ life and how it continues to bring hope, peace, love, and joy into a world that so desperately needs those gifts shared on Christmas morning.

We are there. Christmas has arrived, the final push exerted. Now it is time to bask in the miracle of the gift of Jesus, the greatest gift any will ever receive! Hold closely the babe in swaddling clothes, revel in the miracle of what his life means for you, and, for just a few moments, let time stand still.

Advent Prayer Phrase

Anticipation deepens within.

Invitation to Spiritual Practice

Spend a few moments dwelling in God’s presence. Pay attention to where your heart feels drawn into prayer. What words, images, or themes in this story lead you to reflect on your own faith journey? What is God’s invitation to you this day?

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