This drawing was, many years ago now, the first of my four Christmas drawings, sent to friends and family as my "official Christmas card." (If you still have my old "Nativity" card, you'll notice I made a couple of changes - Mary has hair, and only Jesus has a halo. I think they're happy with my revisions.)

If you don't know the story, Joseph was a good Jewish man who was pledged to be married to Mary, a young Jewish virgin. In the book of Matthew, the first chapter, we read of his dilemma, followed by God's reassurance to him: "...but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'"

This was some big news. Joseph had probably lived a pretty ordinary life up to that point, and now he is told that his soon-to-be wife is pregnant with a baby, given by the Spirit of God, who will grow up to save the Jewish people from their sins. While his confusion likely remained, he was reassured that God was behind it and had a special plan for the child Joseph would raise.

Taking part in a Roman-issued census, Joseph and his betrothed, now nine months pregnant, traveled to his family's hometown, Bethlehem, near Jerusalem. Many other visitors were also in Bethlehem so that when they arrived, there was nowhere "nice" for them to stay. They ended up in a stranger's home, and Mary gave birth there. There were no cribs or cushiony beds for the little one, so the new parents laid their baby in a manger, a sort of feeding trough normally used for the animals.

christmas nativity

Here, Joseph and Mary pause to stare in wonder at their tiny baby, Jesus, prophesied to be the rescuer of their people. How did they feel? Excited? Amazed? Terrified? Did they just sort of laugh and stare at him, then back at each other, like we might, wondering what just happened and what they would do next? In my drawing, I tried to capture their reverence, as they raise their hands in a quiet prayer of thankfulness and supplication to Yahweh, their people's God, who had given them such a unique gift and weighty responsibility.

Little did they know that a special star shone above them, which would lead some Magi (the star experts of their time), carrying gifts for the young Jesus, to this humble birthplace. And next week, I'll share my Christmas drawing of a small group of lowly and unassuming shepherds, not too far away, who would see and hear an incredible announcement of this baby's birth.

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