It was probably in a cave in the spring.
And it probably stunk.
The heavy odor of urine and ripe manure, the musky perspiration of draft animals and the steady hum of flies. But it was someplace, in out of the elements, and in that filth she bore her child.
Not at home, or with her family, but in her husband’s ancestral village. A strenuous walk for a pregnant woman, come to be tallied and taxed, the only respite on the bony and swaying back of an ass.
And angels sang.
It’s an ugly country, then and now. Barren and dry without natural beauty, adequate certainly, but not the best. Not compared to the beauty of this whole wide world, where waterfalls and flowers and grand canyons abound. Where the grace and glory of the Creator’s touch is freely seen.
No, he wasn’t born in a garden. He was born in Palestine. In Bethlehem of Judea. Where they kept their animals in caves, penned in against the night, a God in the gutter, a new baby born.
And an old promise kept.
To redeem and to justify, to deliver and delight. Born beneath all to reign over all. Suffering more than all to better comfort all.
A God and king ushered in with a mother’s travails and laid in a manger.
And 30 years later he put down his carpenter’s tools and set about the salvation of man. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked.
The chained soul soared and the afflicted heart found peace. He forgave and loved as none had done before and he commanded us to do likewise, to be our brother’s keeper, to give without thought of receiving, to nurse the sick and comfort the tormented.
He unlocked the gates of prison and turned us sinners free.
And they plotted against him for it. They conspired and set traps and finally took him in the night.
But not before he knelt in Gethsemane and sweat red drops of blood. Not before the sacrificial process of atonement had begun. Not before the evil of the world rested on the only man who had not contributed to it. Without spot or blemish, led like a lamb to the slaughter.
Beaten and humiliated, spat upon and whipped, lifted by spikes through his flesh and left to hang in torturous agony.
It was probably on a hill in the spring.
And it probably stunk.
The putrid stench of flesh and blood and the sickening sense that mankind was killing its God. The same mother, come now to weep and mourn. The same baby, dying as he was born to do. Pain to pain, travail to travail, eternity to eternity.
And life to life. Life to all.
Victory over death, and victory over sin. The grand turning point of the eternities, the coming together of the plan, the reason this earth and these people were made. To be born and to die and to be born again. As themselves better and as themselves forever.
Like he was.
Like we are to be, if his birth is to mean anything to us.
Toby Benoit — a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America.