You are Elizabeth and not able to have children and people whisper about what you have done wrong for this to be so.
You are Mary: pregnant and not married, in a small town where people whisper behind your back and pretend to be your friend.
You are despised shepherds scraping by watching your flocks and sleeping in the fields at night, with the dampness of dew and the smell of dirty sheep permeating your filthy clothes.
You are on a long journey in the last days of pregnancy with no place to stay and no place to deliver your baby except a stable with animals and a feed trough for a bassinet.
You are a homeless little family with a maniacal and genocidal King trying to kill your baby, so you have to take a long journey, with no money, to foreign place to protect your son.
Yes, the story of Jesus' birth has a gritty, real world feel we recognize. We know these places and problems. This is our world! It helps to know that our God knows our troubles and our struggles of our world firsthand — to know that in our troubles, we can go to him and receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
But the reason for the season is JOY! Joy to the world, the Lord has come! This is our story of JOY! The power in Jesus' coming is that he faced the toughness of our world in a myriad of ways and into each tough situation, his coming brought JOY! And still can!
In the years of repeated disappointment, Jesus coming brought the laughter of a child for Elizabeth and her friends.
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy (Luke 1:57-58 TNIV).
In Mary's embarrassment at being pregnant outside of marriage, Jesus' coming brought a deep joy in sharing in God's work of bringing salvation.
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! (Luke 1:46-47).
Despite the harshness of their existence, the fields and flocks become the Temple for angelic celebration and the place of good news for shepherds, and for us.
[The angels said] "I bring you good news of great joy ... Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord ... You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:10-11).
In the earthiness of stables, mangers, and hard journeys, Mary treasured the joy of her child's birth, the loyalty of Joseph, and the grace of God!
Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen (Luke 2:19).
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:10-11).
Jesus is the gift of joy for all people. Thank God for this gift, his gift.
No language can praise it enough! (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Jesus is the great reminder that God has come to our world and changed everything, and left behind a doorway in every heartbreak for Jesus to come and bring fresh hope and the gift of joy.
And if we are willing, the voices of children, the challenges of our journeys, and even the disappointments in this season can provide us that doorway where Jesus stands and knocks just waiting for us to invite him in.