One of the advantages of living five minutes from Conner Prairie is I can visit frequently. My first stop is always the barn. I enjoy petting the animals and seeing the babies born throughout the year.
When I went to the animal barn back in the spring, I noticed a mother sheep resting in a corner of the barn almost buried in straw.
"Why does that sheep have so much straw around her?" I asked the volunteer.
"She is preparing to give birth. The straw keeps the dust settled so when the lambs are born, they do not aspirate dust which could lead to difficulty breathing and possibly death."
Reflecting on this lesson from the barn, I remembered Mary, the night Jesus was born. I believe there were more preparations and care for the sheep about to deliver than there were for Mary.
Mary's preparation for Jesus' birth seemingly looks rather sloppy and haphazard - riding on a donkey during the ninth month of pregnancy, walking around Bethlehem trying to find a place to stay, eventually settling in a stable where animals lived.
Jesus' birth was really the culmination of Mary and Joseph's whole lives. Both knew God, both had hearts that were open to God's leading in confusing circumstances, and both embraced with faith and trust God's design for their lives. Jesus' birth was not completely a beginning, but an ending and a beginning of two persons who intimately knew God.
The workers in the barn at Conner Prairie prepared the area so the mother sheep could safely birth her lambs. The preparation that brought Mary and Joseph to a similar place - a barn and stable - came from years of spending time with God, seeking God and celebrating, even in confusion and uncertainty about what the future would bring - God in person.