Lee Carter Maynard wrote this rather straightforward retelling of the Luke 2 Christmas narrative. No biographical description is provided for Maynard other than a notation beneath his byline that he was from Astoria, Ill. Of course, longtime readers of Christian Standard will recognize Maynard as being the person who wrote “Memories of the Master,” a weekly Communion meditation feature that ran from Dec. 22, 1951, through the writer’s death in 1985. As editor Sam E. Stone wrote in the first issue of 1986, “For thirty-four years, brother Maynard’s insights brought information and inspiration to a host of grateful readers.”
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‘Good Tidings of Great Joy’
December 22, 1956; p. 5
By Lee Carter Maynard, Astoria, Ill.
Luke takes us to Bethlehem and gives us a glimpse of the events that transpired on that memorable night when Jesus was born. No other message in all literature has so blessed men, women, and children as this account of the birth of Jesus as recorded by Luke, the physician. To me, it is the narrative of the first transfiguration. It is the revelation of God’s becoming flesh and dwelling among men. The other transfiguration is the story of a man becoming God for a moment. The marvel of all marvels is this recorded fact of the mighty Creator, God, becoming a baby. We are on holy ground.
Behind every good work there is much needed preparation. Things done in a haphazard way are never done right. Throughout the centuries, preparation was being made for the coming of Jesus Christ.
In compliance with a decree from Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary went to the city of David to be included in the census and to be taxed. Because of the distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem, more than one day was required to make the journey. No doubt Joseph led a little donkey on which Mary rode. In her arms she must have held a bundle of clothing that had been carefully prepared for the baby.
In these days of housing shortages, people know what it means to “house hunt.” Joseph and Mary knew its meaning, too. A young Puerto Rican college student brought his Spanish wife, whom he had married while serving in the United States Army, to my office and asked me to help them find an apartment. . . . We finally located [one]. The happiness . . . was short-lived, for the landlady said, “I want it understood that children aren’t allowed here.” I could not understand Spanish, but I could understand the disappointment in the young woman’s eyes when her husband explained what the landlady had said.
Something like this must have happened to Joseph and Mary. No doubt they had tried several times to get a place for the night, but to no avail. As a last resort they went to the hotel, but “there was no room for them in the inn.” Joseph probably explained why it was so necessary for them to have a place to spend the night, but the innkeeper could do nothing, for every room was full. Disappointment must have been evidenced in Mary’s face as Joseph told her of the sad conditions. Perhaps the wife of the innkeeper saw that disappointment and offered them the stable. No doubt she said, “You are welcome to spend the night in our barn.” (I wonder what they charged Joseph.)
Joseph made a pallet of clean straw on the stable floor. Nearby, cattle munched their hay. Water dripped from the soggy straw piled on the sagging rafters. In that setting, our Lord was born. Isn’t that just like God? I have never known an American mother so poor that her babies were born in a barn. Mary, the virgin mother, wrapped her baby in swaddling clothes and gently placed Him in the manger of clean straw.
Now, I know better the meaning of the Scriptures, “He humbled himself and became a man.” What a transfiguration it was!
THE JOYOUS MESSAGE
Angels were near our Lord all the way from Bethlehem to the ascension. He knew there were twelve legions standing by at Calvary, but He did not use them. We know that angels will always be where Jesus is. On the night He was born, an angelic messenger brought to shepherds the good news that the Lamb of God was born in the city of David. It was the Good Shepherd who was born under such strange circumstances. As the glory of the Lord shone round about these simple hill people, they were frightened. The angel said, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” What a message! “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Just as the angel finished his message, a multitude of the heavenly host swept down into the view of the shepherds. What a scene on the Judaean hills! We wonder how many angels were in the choir that night? The incarnation was a part of God’s plan and way, and His ways are as far above our ways as the heavens are above the earth. Only God could have planned the event that transpired this night. The heavenly host delivered a message that has been sung by choirs for two thousand years. The message was brief: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Look at the balance: heaven—earth; God—man; glory—peace.
THE SEEKING SHEPHERD
The great messages from the angel and the heavenly host gave the shepherds assurance, peace, hope, and joy. After the messengers left, “The shepherds said one to another, Let us go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” I try to imagine their conversation as they went to the city of David. I can also imagine their silence. I have tried to imagine what they thought about as they saw the baby in the manger and the mother. “Why was He not born in some great palace of the rich? Why not in some religious rabbi’s temple? Why not in the home of a mighty Roman, or a Greek philosopher? Why in a common stable?” I have wondered about these things, too. I would not change the details in that event in any way, even if I could. It is the sweetest story ever told. It is just as God wanted it, and it is exactly right.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” As they went back, they told everyone the marvelous events of the night. The whole community was stirred by this message of the shepherds. Mary and Joseph, too, were amazed at the events of the night. Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Elizabeth must have shouted for joy at the good news. Blessed Mary, the mother of our Lord—all generations have called her blessed! What a pure, precious person this handmaid of the Lord must have been to have been chosen to be the mother of the Christ child.
I wonder if all the shepherds went and told the story, or if some of them were too busy? I cannot help but wonder about the innkeeper? I am sure that if he could relive his life he would vacate the best room for Joseph and Mary.
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” When the shepherds came back to their flocks on the Judaean hills, they were changed persons. They praised and glorified God as they tended their flocks. They would never recover from the experiences of the night. They had found Jesus and had worshiped Him. They had heard the sweetest story ever told. Little did they dream that forever they would be famous.
May the experiences of those men belong to us also. May we have the praise and the glory in our hearts as they did on that night when Jesus was born. May the message of the heavenly host thrill our souls. May the message of the angels bring us close to the Christ child. May our hearts never be so full that there is not enough room for Jesus. May our God help us to go out and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and His saving grace.