With apologies to traditionalists, we’re embracing a modern-day take on the nativity account as we end the year… 

The winter night was dark and biting. For the heavily pregnant teen, the unanticipated journey back to her fiance’s hometown was taking its toll. She was cold, tired and hungry. Many hours before, they left on foot the small place they now called home. Judgemental stares and sly whispers followed in the wake of their departure. Joe’s work as a carpenter brought in barely a liveable wage so the weary couple hitchhiked the rest of their journey. 

Joe’s hometown was heaving, thanks to it being census night – the night when all citizens had to return to their place of birth. The motels were full. Many were sheltering families in need of emergency housing, refugees of the tough economic times. 

Place after place, the story was the same – No Vacancy. In desperation, Joe asked the last motelier in town if they could rest in the lean-to he’d noticed at the back of the property. Eyeing the exhausted couple, the motelier figured that it may as well be him that takes the little cash they had. It wasn’t the cleanest of spaces, but, well, there was nowhere else they could go. 

Out in the lean-to, Joe and Mary made themselves as comfortable as they could. Not before time. Amidst the dust and dirt, with no mother, sister, aunt or friend for support, Mary gave birth to a baby boy. Joe found a crate and packaging straw. 

Carefully, wrapping the baby in cloths she had in her backpack, Mary settled the infant and the couple huddled for warmth to rest until day dawned. 

The quiet was short lived. An eerie glow descended over the lean-to. Joe and Mary were suddenly aware of eyes blinking back at them in the half-light: nightshift cleaners, drawn from a nearby office block by the light. They recounted the tale of a messenger interrupting their humble labours and speaking of the arrival of a special child, one who would change the course of history. So intrigued by the mysterious messenger and what he said, the cleaners immediately left their work, determined to seek out this infant. 

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 

Though liveable wages, hitchhiking, and emergency housing are more features of our current-day narrative, the social issues of our times still resonate in the poverty of Joseph and Mary, the humility of Christ’s entry to the world and God’s constancy in choosing the lowly in his grand plan of reconciliation and restoration.