Have you ever wondered what it would look like if the people who write Christmas movies wrote the story of Jesus' birth?
Well, I've been thinking about it, and I think it would go something like this:
Mary and Joseph are strolling on a clear moonlit road, and Mary sweetly says, "Oh Joseph, isn't it wonderful that God arranged for us to have this time together before the baby comes? It's like our own babymoon."
Joseph says, "Yes, dear, it's so awesome to travel over 90 miles on foot so that I can support the government and pay my taxes. Just you and me experiencing nature. It's the abstinent honeymoon I always imagined. The only thing that would make it better would be a little snow."
Then in cue, it would snow—but miraculously, they wouldn't be cold at all.
Of course, this isn't the way it happened at all. Instead, the first Christmas was far from perfect.
It starts with an angel telling a young girl—between 14 and 16–that she is pregnant. Talk about a surprise! Her first question: "How??"
The angel explains that the Holy Spirit put the baby inside of her, and she believes, but her fiancé is a different story. When he hears the news, he decides he won't have her stoned (which was Jewish law in those days), but he's putting her away quietly. After an angel visits him and explains that Mary hasn't been unfaithful, but she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, Joseph agrees with God and marries her.
But we must remember that even though they believed the angel and knew the baby was God's Son, they lived in a small town that didn't have an angelic visit.
I don't know about you, but I live in a tiny rural community where everyone knows everything about everybody. And they love to talk! They make up what they don't know to have something to say. Here's a young couple in a rushed wedding. She's showing, and it's obvious she was pregnant before they were married. You can surmise what Mary and Joseph went through from people who didn't understand what God was doing.
Then in her third trimester—right near the end—a government mandate interrupts her pregnancy, and they must make the long journey to be taxed. The government doesn't care how this affects people's lives—everyone has to travel to their ancestors' hometown to register to pay more taxes.
For Mary and Joseph, this meant they had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
They didn't have a plane or minivan. It is doubtful whether or not there was even a donkey.
So they are traveling on foot—90 miles and the journey took about 4-7 days if you weren't nine months pregnant. Their trip was probably longer because of her condition.
That's when it starts to get real. Because no matter what you've heard, Mary and Joseph weren't perfect. They were human, and they acted like it.
While most Christmas plays try to put the old "Christmas movie" spin on it, that's not what happened because this isn't a cheesy Christmas movie. They were real people.
Because she was a real woman who was really pregnant and hormonal, I'm betting there was a point in the trip where Mary lost it and snapped.
Maybe she was a crier and burst into overwhelmed tears because she just couldn't take anymore.
Maybe her hormones made her angry, and she lashed out at Joseph for something that probably wasn't even his fault. Perhaps he breathed wrong, and it worked on her last nerve, and she just couldn't take it anymore.
Maybe they argued about where to stop and eat on the way.
Just like other couples, they'd be:
Mary: "What do you want to eat?"
Joseph: "I don't know. Anything you want."
Mary: "How about this?"
Joseph, "No, not that."
We've all been there.
Of course, Joseph wasn't perfect either. Maybe he was hangry, and they were miles away from food. Perhaps a bag with their belongings broke, and he kicked it out of frustration. Perhaps he snapped back, reminding her that NONE of this was his fault.
Thank God, the Bible doesn't tell us every detail of the trip. (Would you want God recording and telling everyone about your worst moments?)
Still, it was a long trip. The circumstances weren't ideal, and Mary and Joseph were very real, very imperfect people.
As we read in the Bible, things didn't get better when they arrived in Bethlehem. They got there, and they had no place to stay.
It's important to remember that the problem wasn't just that Joseph forgot to make reservations or that there was overcrowding. Jewish tradition was that when a family came into town, the relatives were supposed to invite them into their home, show hospitality, and be welcoming.
This didn't happen for Mary and Joseph because people knew there was something fishy about this pregnancy. The months didn't add up. They assumed the worst and rejected Mary and Joseph. That's why they had to go to an inn.
So more than just the inconvenience, they were dealing with the shame and the rejection put on them by family and friends who didn't believe their story or God's plan. What a hard, lonely thing to go through at nine months pregnant!
While they are looking for a place to stay, Mary goes into labor.
There's no hospital with doctors and nurses.
No painkillers. No epidural.
Their family has rejected them, so there's no warm bed, no older women or midwives to help with the birth…not even any YouTube videos to see what to do.
It's just Mary and Joseph—a carpenter- delivering a baby in a cave filled with loud, stinky smelly animals.
It was so ridiculously far from perfect. Nothing about this night was calm, bright, or perfect. It was messy. It was noisy. It was imperfect.
That's how Jesus entered the world—so far from perfect.
And yet, it was perfect in that the perfect God sent His Perfect Son to earth to have an imperfect birth, to live with imperfect people in an imperfect world, and yet never sin. All of this took place so that 33 years later, this perfect One could go to Calvary and pay the price for the sins of all of us imperfect people.
Because Jesus died for our sins and rose again, all of us imperfect people have hope.
Jesus' life and death offer us the gift of forgiveness for every sin we've ever committed.
Jesus' life and death allow us to spend all of eternity in Heaven with Him rather than in Hell, paying the price for our sins.
Jesus' gift offers us the opportunity to have a personal relationship with the God Who created us.
Because Jesus came and lived and died and rose again, we have the promise that if we choose to accept Jesus as our Saviour, we don't have to walk through this life alone. Through good times and bad, highs and lows, victories and challenges, we always have Jesus' promise that He will never leave or forsake.
This is the true gift of Christmas—it isn't about everything being perfect. It's about God stepping into our imperfections and providing a path to salvation, healing, and restoration to God.
As 1 John 4:9-10 says,
"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."
That is the beautiful miracle of Christmas.
Salvation. Healing. Eternal life. A personal relationship with Jesus.
That's what it's all about.
It's remembering that the God of the Universe loves you so much—He cares about you so much—that Jesus left Heaven with all of its perfection, glory, and grandeur to come and live on imperfect earth.
He did it for you, and He did it for me.
That is worth celebrating 365 days a year.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
Adessa absolutely loves Christmas!!! Her favorite things are decorating the Christmas trees (yeah, she puts up four in early November), watching Christmas movies, and driving around looking at lights. You can read more from her at adessaholden.com or listen to the "Girl, That'll Preach" Christmas Spectacular wherever you get your podcasts.