“How did I get here?”

I wonder what Mary was thinking, lying there in a stall for animals, about to give birth. The birthing story we have imagined might not be perfectly accurate, but this westerner has always envisioned it thus: No helping women around, no doula, no midwife. Just Joseph. And the smell of fresh hay mixed with the pungent aroma of cows.

No vacancy at the hotels. Not one!

I wonder was she thinking back to the wonder of that angel’s visit and how, during the months afterward, she held the secret he shared close and quiet. Months where she endured the looks of her former friends, the questions in the eyes of those who loved her.

There was the encouragement from Elizabeth that helped—a lot, I imagine. Testimonies always help me, so maybe remembering Elizabeth’s story helped her now as she lay looking around that stall. But it had been such a long ride on that donkey, uncomfortable. Her back probably hurting with every step. I wonder if she was thinking, “Was it all real? Was it true? Wouldn’t the Most High arrange at least a hotel room for this baby to be born? Surely he could, so why didn’t he? What has gone wrong? Why is this happening? I don’t feel very highly favored at this moment!”

She wouldn’t have known that angels were getting ready to visit some shepherds nearby, to give them the best news the earth had ever heard. Or that, far away, wise men were searching for information about the new king who was to be born. Rich wise men who would bring gifts that would provide for the baby for some time.

Part of me would like to think she never wavered in her faith through it all. That the shepherds who brought news that she “pondered in her heart” for years to come weren’t really necessary for her peace of mind as she looked with love at the little king in the manger.

But another part of me would like to think she was just like me. That every once in a while she needed something, someone, to help her keep her eyes on the promise.

I think it might have been the latter. Maybe that’s why all those fingerprints of God showed up: the shepherds, Simeon with his prophecy, Anna, Zacharias’ prophecy, and later, the wise men who came with provision for the trip to Egypt. All evidence of the faithfulness of the Promise Maker.

Today, if you’re like me, holding fast to a promise, let’s both remember the fingerprints we’ve seen in our own lives.

And have a Merry Christmas!