A grueling journey. Cramped sleeping spaces. Inadequate lodging. Boorish house guests. A steady stream of visitors.

This isn’t a narrative of a modern day holiday celebration, but rather a snapshot of the first Christmas two thousand years ago in Bethlehem.

There we see Mary and Joseph, exhausted after traveling to their hometown at the request of the Roman government.  To complicate matters, Mary is pregnant with God’s Son, a startling fact revealed to her by an angel nine months earlier.  When Mary goes into labor, the only housing available for her and her husband is a dirty stable.

It is there, nestled in between the animals and her child’s newborn cry, where we find Mary taking note.  Luke 2:19 observes, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary, who had experienced earth-shattering twists and turns during this past year of her life, pauses and finds peace.

The culmination of the angels’ announcement, the shepherds who spread good news, and the miraculous birth of the world’s Savior is not lost on Mary.  The momentary upheaval in her own life served a greater purpose.  She didn’t complain about her surroundings.  She didn’t turn the shepherds away when they came to visit her newborn.  She didn’t grumble or wallow in her own discomfort.  Instead, she cherished the moment.

Perhaps in our struggle to orchestrate a “Merry Christmas” we’ve lost the vision to simply celebrate a “Mary Christmas.”  It reminds us when life doesn’t go smoothly, we can still step back and see God at work just the same.

Consider this: bunking with the cows and sheep wasn’t part of Mary’s plan.  Yet years before mankind turned its back on God, this was part of His plan.

Giving birth in a stable wasn’t Mary’s ideal birth scenario, but this humble beginning had God’s fingerprints all over it.

Replacing celebrations with family in exchange for shepherds stopping by probably wasn’t Mary’s first choice for her firstborn.  However, revealing this good news to these lowly outcasts fit perfectly with God’s Holy strategy.

Watching her Son die a criminal’s death on a cross decades later was not part of Mary’s dreams for her son.  But it was God’s idea from the beginning. It’s because of that plan that we can find true hope and peace in the middle of our modern day Christmas frenzy.

Each Christmas brings its own set of challenges.  It can be noisy, unpredictable, and sometimes annoying.  More often than not, there are a few bumps along the road to lasting holiday memories.  The first Christmas was no exception.  In the midst of it all, Mary let peace fill her heart.  While children’s choirs would sing of this silent night years later, she let that first silent night reign in her spirit.

Having Mary’s reflective spirit can lead us past our own version of “the way things are supposed to be” and ponder what God is doing in the midst of the chaos.  Only then can we have the hope of a “Mary Christmas.”