If you are past the age of finding out whom Santa Claus really is, then you probably have heard all the Christmas stories ever told, or so you thought. Allow me to provide you with one more.
Somewhere beyond the heavenly stars dwells a Being that made His presence known on this earth in the form of a Savior. You say, well, that is the same old story I have heard for years. This is a twist on that story.
The old carpenter spent many hours trying to finish his project. He had a deadline to meet and the hour was growing late. It did not seem as though he would be able to complete it. He had started in plenty of time he thought, back when he first learned of the impending arrival. He had scoured the sparsely wooded perimeter of his home looking for just the right tree from which to chisel and perform his gifted talent of carpentry. He finally found a cedar tree just about the right size for his purpose. So, he cut the tree and brought it back to his workshop. It was green and would have to season a bit, but he could deal with that. He laid out the wood for the sun and the air to dry it. It would take thirty to forty-five days of seasoning to be just right. If it dried too fast, it would check and crack. He would sprinkle water on it to slow the process, but if it did not become dry enough for his work then he would be unable to hew and chisel the material.
The days fast disappeared and he began to spend longer hours late at night on his personal project, as he still had work to complete for others as well. After all, he was well known throughout the community, having crafted pieces of furniture for some of the most renowned citizens of his village and in the city not too far away. But he busied himself and continued on his task. He would finish it in time, he vowed as well as the other pieces.
His tools were shopworn but one could see the care he gave them. After all these were tools of his trade. A man without good tools usually does not take pride his product and you could tell the quality of his work just from looking at his tools.
His work of art began to take shape and it was evident of his love for this piece. Perhaps he had insight as to what he was preparing. If it appeared that if wasn’t just right, he would have to start over. This is something he did not want to do. But that would not be the case for it was going very smoothly.
Then unexpected news arrived. He and his family were about to take a forced journey. It could not be delayed. Severe consequences would apply should they not make this trip.
The notice arrived declaring that all residents would have to appear in person with their family members to be counted. He must make his way to his place of birth. He was taken aback. If he disobeyed this government order, he could be prosecuted. If he complied with the order, then he may be unable to finish his project on time. It was a dilemma.
Thoroughly discouraged, he had no choice. He must go with his family to be counted. He would not be able to finish. Feverishly he worked but it appeared that the project would have to wait. Then he thought, I have just a day or two before we must go, so worriedly he worked through the night. By noon the next day he completed the project. Giving thanks, he then set about procuring the animals for the journey to his hometown.
His betrothed asked if they could bring the completed piece, but was told there wasn’t any room. Don’t worry, he said, it would be here when we return. So, they loaded their belongings for the trip and started out. They had to make their way about ninety miles.
They could only go about fifteen miles a day, so it would take them about six days to reach their destination. His bride, you see, was pregnant with child and their movement was trudgingly slow. The donkey was not very cooperative either and had to be led.
On the evening of the sixth day, they arrived. It was late and as they begin inquiring for places to stay, they were turned away. It seems perhaps they should have come earlier. The town was full of others who were coming for the census. They were exhausted and desperate. They tried one more place and again were told there was no room. However, the innkeeper felt sorry for them and offered to let them stay in the barn. It wasn’t very clean and the animals had to be shooed about, but they made their bed for the evening.
Before morning would come, she would deliver a baby boy. Right away, he thought of the piece he had made. You see it was a cradle. It was made with loving care for this occasion. But it was not here. It was back home. And he was terribly unnerved. Knowing that she was about to deliver, he searched for a place for the infant.
He did not see anything that could be used. Then he noticed the feed trough, a manger! We could use this if I put some hay in it and perhaps a blanket.
Then he thought, perhaps it was supposed to be. He had heard from those who said that a baby would be born like this and laid in a manger. His cradle would have to wait.
Before the night was over, others would hear of the birth and want to see the Child. But in a manger? Was this right? He wanted so much for this child to have his own bed. But the cradle would have to wait.
Then as the visitors, shepherds from the fields, came in, Joseph heard them talking. It is as the angel has said. He is lying in a manger. Then it came to him. This method, this journey, the manger, the visitors, all of this had been orchestrated by God, just as He said it would be. Joseph saw this for what it really was. The purpose of God was fulfilled. And suddenly, the cradle did not mean nearly as much as before. For God had provided a bed for His Child. A special cradle! A manger! It was a sign to the shepherds that God cared for them too.