It’s a time where we remember a child in an itchy manger in a smelly stable surrounded by noisy animals being visited by complete strangers.

His poor mother, who has just given birth (not the most comfortable of things) probably looks like a mess and feels even worse. And here come a bunch of shepherds who smell like the sheep they tend telling a story of a bunch of angels and so eager for a glimpse of the child.

Graciously, she extends a welcome to them, believing the story that would have had them locked away today, and knowing, deep inside, just how special this child of hers is.

Who knows what Joseph is doing then. I always imagine that he’s proud, like a new father should be, but a little confused because he knows the child isn’t really his – that the child is, in fact, God’s Son. I imagine him being worried about Mary and the baby and a little upset because the only thing he could give her was a stable. I imagine him being a little frazzled and constantly running his hands through his hair and pacing around. I picture him trying to shelter Mary and the child from the shepherds when they first come in with their story, but then accepting them and letting them see and worship.

The story’s usually really cute and sweet, but I imagine it was a little rough around the edges back then. They were probably a little (a lot) stressed out. Mary and Joseph were probably exhausted.

I really don’t believe the Christmas carols that say that Jesus didn’t cry. Babies cry. And scream. And smell funny. And look like strange, mutant lizards.

It probably wasn’t as peaceful as we’d like it to be, but, in that moment, God became fully man and salvation was on its way. That makes it beautiful.

I wonder if Mary knew that.

Fast forward a couple of years to when the wise men show up. They come wearing funny clothes, talking in strange accents, bringing magnificent gifts, and telling an unlikely story about a star and King Herod wanting to know where the child is. Once again, she believes them and understands and welcomes them and lets them worship the Son of  God.

The kinds of people who came to see Jesus after he was born tell a lot about who he would be serving later.

The shepherds were poor. They were social outcasts. They weren’t normally accepted into people’s homes. They kept to themselves and did their own thing.

The wise men were Gentiles. In fact, they came from the East, where most of Israel’s enemies had come from throughout the years. They were pagans and, to the Jews, salvation for them was unattainable.

These were the people the Jesus was going to open doors for. These were the people he was going to bring the light of salvation to. These were the people he died for. He came for the poor, the outcast, the pagan, the Gentile, the rich, and the enemies of God. Jesus was God’s gift to the world. The whole world. No exceptions. He was the gift for all of us.

Christmas is a time to remember the child, the manger, the hope, and the gift. We should be humbled and so extremely thankful.