Behind the scenes of the Christmas creche

Lorraine Murray

caption arrowCaption
Lorraine Murray

I love the peacefulness of the Christmas creche. Mary and Joseph gaze sweetly at the baby, while the magi look on respectfully.

Still, despite the calm facade, these people figure prominently in a huge adventure story — and to truly understand them, we must look behind the scenes.

There, we discover Mary stands for every woman whose plans are shaken up by a pregnancy. In a surprise visit, an angel tells her, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

She’s a virginal girl betrothed to Joseph, when suddenly her life shifts radically. Mary knows the facts of life, so asks the obvious question. How can this happen? The short answer is God will work a miracle.

Mary didn’t fret about this upheaval in her life or ask the angel to wait, until she talked with Joseph. Like many women today facing a sudden change of direction, she quietly surrenders to God.

I long to be like Mary and learn to bow to God’s will, even when it is incredibly hard.

When Joseph heard about the pregnancy, he was ready to divorce Mary, until an angel assured him in a dream the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit.

He had to choose between believing the angel’s words or ignoring the dream entirely. It’s easy to imagine the excuse: “I had too much wine last night.”

Joseph is the strong, silent type, who doesn’t say one word throughout the Gospels. Still, he was a man of great faith, who heeded the angel’s words about his beloved Mary’s pregnancy.

It’s tempting to believe Joseph taking Mary and the unborn baby into his home was an easy decision. But he surely had to struggle against doubts that she had been unfaithful to him.

After the baby’s birth, Joseph learned in a second dream about King Herod’s plan to kill Jesus. Once again, this strong, silent fellow recognized the dream as divinely inspired — and took the family to Egypt, thereby averting disaster.

I yearn to be like Joseph and have the wisdom to recognize God’s messages to me.

The wise men play a crucial role in the drama, because King Herod sent them to locate Jesus and report back to him.

They were warned in a dream he’d kill the child, so they didn’t keep their end of the deal. It’s highly likely they suspected Herod would seek revenge on them, but they risked their lives to do the right thing.

No one told Mary accepting God’s plan would be easy. No one promised Joseph a safe life when he became her protector. No one guaranteed the magi refuge from the king.

The Christmas message rings clear and true today. The birth of Jesus depended on the faith, wisdom and courage of the figures in the creche. His infancy would’ve ended tragically without continued protection from these people.

This Christmas, let’s pray for the grace to trust God fully, when he points us in an unexpected direction. Let’s beg for the wisdom to recognize God’s voice — and the courage to do what’s right. Dear readers, I wish you a holy and happy Christmas!

Lorraine’s email address is