• Brian Lindner

Nativity Stress

Updated: Mar 3

Copyright: ivonnewierink / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright: ivonnewierink / 123RF Stock Photo


Despite the misleading “all is calm” nativity scene, conflict has always been a part of the Christmas season. In the Biblical passages containing the Christmas story (Luke 1-2) you can see plenty of relationship conflict. We tend to concentrate only on the nice parts of the story, when the stars shine and angels sing. I’m guessing Mary and Joseph remember the first Christmas as pretty stressful.

I get stressed when getting ready for holiday travel. I pack the car perfectly and then I have to add another “just one more thing” and finally, I’m expected to top it off by cramming in the gift bags without crushing the delicate tissue paper. Tension and conflict overcome my peace and joy.

Mary and Joseph were familiar with stressful travel. Before the first Christmas they traveled to his hometown of Bethlehem. Joseph had to pack the family donkey for the trip. I have no experience with donkeys or packing one for a trip with a pregnant wife, but I know at some point he was thinking “there is no way I can fit anything else on this poor donkey” and then he heard Mary say “just one more thing.”

Then after traveling to Bethlehem they had no place to stay and she was “great with child.” That would be a huge problem in our family. When our first child was due we planned for the birth for months including birthing classes and tours of the neonatal wing of the hospital. Joseph ended up taking Mary to a stable last minute. I’m not sure of the Hebrew word for procrastinator, but I’m sure Joseph heard it.

Somehow it helps me to think of Mary and Joseph as imperfect and stressed during the first Christmas. If Jesus was born into a chaotic scene like that, then the chaos I feel at Christmas time is ok too.

Not everything religious has to be orderly and stern, relationships are complex, loud, and stressful at times. My house is ok, even with my imperfect efforts and our imperfect marriage.

The miracle of Christmas is Jesus is here with us.

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