Manger Scene

It is Christmas time again
With the many manger scenes.
Both shepherds poor and wise men
Who were all of wealthy means.

The cattle are all healthy
And the donkey is well fed.
And little baby Jesus
Has a halo ‘round his head.

Everything is so spotless,
Mary’s clothes all look so clean.
It looks like they have just come
From a laundromat machine.

The scene is oh so cozy
With admirers gathered there.
The odor of Christmas trees
And fresh hay are in the air.

And on Joseph’s face a smile,
Their future so bright and clear.
The wise men’s gold for their tax
And soft Christmas tunes to hear.

God would pick a perfect place
For the birth of his one son,
An atmosphere filled with joy
And people all having fun.

The manger scenes that we buy,
And then view with such delight,
May not be too accurate
Of what happened late that night.

History says that Mary,
At the most, was just fifteen.
So there were really two babes
At that early manger scene.

The inn where they sought shelter,
At least as we have been told,
Was a bunch of empty stalls,
Uncomfortable, damp and cold

But even this stark shelter,
Denied to Jesus’ mother;
All filled with early travelers,
They’d have to seek some other.

With no way to phone ahead
And certainly late at night.
All the inns already filled,
Irregardless of their plight.

A donkey, her limousine
On the day that she gave birth.
No beds with sheets and blankets,
With just straw to cover earth.

They finally found shelter,
Some say just a cold dank cave.
A place for feeding cattle
And with rats and mice to brave.

Some think the birth was easy
For God could have made it so,
And given an advantage,
Others moms would never know.

We know she had no doctor
And probably no midwife.
Had Joseph birthed a baby?
Never once in his whole life.

So now you get the picture,
It was not a pretty sight.
Our Savior born in the dark,
They had no electric light.

When at last the baby came,
Little time to count his toes.
He was cleaned as best they could
And then wrapped in swaddling clothes.

No friends there to gather ‘round,
No one to send her flowers.
No parents to show her love,
Of course no baby showers.

He wore no paper diapers,
As a modern baby would.
No way to wash his clothing,
So he didn’t smell so good.

The shepherds that gathered ‘round
Were, for sure, a smelly lot
As they pushed close to Mary
Just to see the tiny tot.

The wise men, with their rich gifts,
Would not come ‘til later years.
Mary had one special gift,
She had heard the angels’ cheers.

But she had no time for rest,
To sleep late, or to relax.
They had to get up early,
To go pay their income tax.

So Jesus, used to splendor
That’s unrivaled here on earth,
Was cast out in an instant
To a very lowly birth.

When you see the manger scene
That is spread beneath your tree,
Think about the sacrifice
Jesus made for you and me.

Ruth handed me an article from a church magazine and said, “This would make a great poem.” I had never stopped to think just how horrifying things must have been for the young mother of our Savior, Mary, that night. Only a mother could imagine the misery of riding a donkey for days right up to the time of delivery. Think of Joseph’s frustration. It was probably late at night when they arrived in Bethlehem and all of the inns were full. The only place he could find for his wife to give birth was a dark smelly cave that was used to shelter farm animals.

Mary was probably already experiencing labor pains as they neared Bethlehem and Joseph had no idea where to turn for help. What kind of supplies had Mary packed in anticipation of the birth? At thirteen, how much did she know about what would be needed? Did Joseph even have a place to build a fire and warm some water?

Having a baby while traveling today would be tough but Mary didn’t have access to Laundromats and disposable diapers. How often could she wash swaddling clothes in the cold of winter? Jesus was probably a stinky little baby. He could probably have used some of that frankincense and myrrh!

I hope that I didn’t ruin manger scenes for you all together, but it probably wasn’t the warm, clean, peaceful, romantic atmosphere we so often see portrayed.


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