"While they were there the days of her confinement were completed. She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged." (Luke 2:6)
Some years ago this Christmas story was retold by the pastor of the parish in which a grandmother named Martha gave the Christmas sermon. She was over seventy and lived most of her life as a farmer.What follows is an account of her Christmas sermon written up in the Pastoral News letter by the pastor of the parish.
Martha was married to a poor farmer. They lived in a rented room of a farm house. Martha was pregnant and coincidentally, so also was the woman of the house. They were both to give birth the same month. Superstitiously, if two babies were born in the same house it was believed that one would die so the owner of the house asked Martha to leave until the baby was born. It was the month of December and very cold. Her unfortunate circumstances were for her almost too hard to accept. Embarrassed, and not able to find another house she found a shabby stable and that is where the child was born without the help of a midwife. The labor pains were such that she lost consciousness.
After some time,when she regained control of her senses, she felt something leaning on her and turned around to see an ox. She pushed the ox away but it came back leaning on Martha's back, and giving her heat. Martha thought that the ox was commiserating with her condition. The baby not able to overcome the cold seemed to be dead and she blamed her poverty. She took the baby and went back to her rented room. The heat of the house was enough to bring the baby back to consciousness. This is the story that Martha gave on that Christmas Evening. (This account happened after the Korean War when life was quite different from the Korea of today)
The baby grew up and has become a mother she is the director of the parish kindergarten. She sang that evening in the choir. Her daughter, Martha's grand daughter, was the accompanist and her grandson, the altar boy at Mass.
The priest mentioned in the recounting of the Christmas Story he doesn't feel moved by the events of the first Christmas because of the rich life style that we are living. Poverty is hard to understand unless you have lived it. The story of Martha was helpful in seeing the first Christmas in a new light. Yes, Jesus was born in a stable 2000 years ago.