Around two thousand years ago, a girl called Mary gave birth to a baby. According to the story, she knew He was special. Joseph did, too. But nobody else did, not until after. (Even the shepherds showed up post-birth.)
I’ve heard and read several things this season that have changed my visual image of the story. Internally, I always pictured things a lot like a Nativity scene—quiet barn, peaceful animals, Joseph, Mary, baby. Peaceful isolation. But of course, that’s not a reflection of the culture of the time. There would have been midwives, extended family, neighbors. If nothing else, given the crowds we’re told had descended on Bethlehem, there would have been strangers in tents nearby. And birth isn’t generally quiet, so this must have been a community affair. Mary likely had too little privacy, not too much.
In whatever crowd had gathered—and I’m not a Biblical scholar, so this is me wondering, not stating anything as fact—most folks probably thought this was a perfectly normal baby. There might have been a little judgey-ness, given that Mary and Joseph weren’t married. And older women offering advice on breastfeeding. Toddler cousins running around underfoot (after all, this was Joseph’s place of ancestry, right?) Men indulging in some equivalent of cigars, since Jesus was a first-born son.
But I think it’s unlikely that anyone, except for those who had personally seen the angels, would have thought that Jesus would still be talked about today. A miracle, yes, but no more so than any other baby. How many were born in Bethlehem that week?
Now, we anticipate the His birth so much that many Christians devote a whole month to it. Advent lasts twenty-four days, which is nearly 7% of the year—every year.
So if the people gathered around Mary had no idea what they were witnessing, it makes me wonder: do we?
Would we notice if something happened in our barn that people would still be talking about in a couple of thousand years? We’ve got a twenty-four hour news cycle and a whole Internet brimming with cat videos. We know so much more about what’s happening than our ancestors did, so much more than they even could have imagined, at least if you’re tracking by breadth and not depth. Does that mean we recognize the birth of true miracles? The Herald of the New and Holy? It might be a sound that’s commonplace. Back then, it was a baby’s cry.
While we can celebrate God’s miracles every day, and many of us do, the holiest, most world-altering event of my life, or yours, or anyone else’s might be something we never recognize. We might have no idea that this is the thing creation will celebrate in two thousand years. And we might even take an active role in it. We might midwife the miracle. We might smile at a stranger, or stop a child from stepping into the street, or even say a prayer at just the right time, and somehow that results in the thing that brings joy to the world and all of its people.
You might have done it yesterday.
You might do it tomorrow.
And in that way, every day is Christmas Eve.