In the season of Advent, it is fitting to think on and celebrate the birth of Christ. God’s message is woven through the story of Christmas, even down to the details of Christ’s birth in a stable. The story of Christ’s humble and unassuming birth paints a masterful painting of God’s love for the outcast and underprivileged. The story of the manger is much more than a yearly Bible reading or focus of a play,
it is a call to action for all of those who claim to be followers of Christ.
A little over two thousand years ago, the King of Kings was born in a stable. We know this as the Bible mentions that Mary placed Jesus in a manger (Luke 2:12). Some modern scholars have pointed out that in Jesus’ time families would often bring their animals inside and house them in a separate area of the house similar to what we would think of as a garage or an outside addition to the house. Regardless of the particular structure, one thing is sure–Jesus was placed in a manger. But why was he placed there?
The answer is that there was not any room at the inn or house (the Greek word is the same here). But this exclusion from the inn or house is curious given the fact that Mary was pregnant and clearly ready to have a child. Wouldn’t people want to help out someone who was about ready to deliver a child? Why were Mary and Joseph treated so poorly when Mary was clearly very pregnant and had just come from a long and arduous three-day journey from Nazareth? Was it because people knew that Jesus was conceived prior to the marriage of Joseph and Mary (conceived of the Holy Spirit of course)? Or was it because God was trying to send a message even in the location of Jesus’ birth? The answer is both.
What then is the message of the stable? First, the world does not have room for the King of Kings whenever and however he comes. We just never seem to be able to figure out how and when he is coming (and we aren’t really supposed too). Second, there is a message in what it means to be born in a stable environment. What do we mean by stable environment? Jesus is born in a stable where a manger is close by for animals to eat their food. But the stable in which Jesus was born also begs the question of a stable environment for a child to be raised in.
You see, not everyone is born to nice parents and live in nice homes. Some people are born outside the houses of fine tradition and culture. Some of our boys that I see at Anchor House (a ministry and home for boys) have lived in sheds, in boxes under bridges, or squalor inside of a small home. Some people are born to teenage parents who do not have anyone to care for them. Or, to put it metaphorically, some people are just born in a barn–like Jesus.
Perhaps God knew what he was doing when he purposely coordinated events to have Jesus born in an impoverished and aesthetically challenged location.
In fact, I am quite sure that every event surrounding Jesus’ introduction into earth was not a coincidence. Each movement to earth was carefully coordinated to maximize the one moment when God would send his biggest and best message. But that is the point.
The message of Christ’s birth is pregnant (so to speak) with meaning. The message of God is interwoven and carefully coordinated throughout the entire Christmas story. God is calling us out through the location of Christ’s birth to see and care about those who are not born in a “stable environment.” Jesus’ birth is a remark by God to remember those born outside in the barn, or the shed or under a bridge. It is a cry to remember those who may not have had the nicest of receptions when they came into this world.
How then should we celebrate Christmas? By remembering the circumstances of Christ’s birth in every way and by doing something to eliminate the poverty and misery of those who have barn-like experiences. Wouldn’t it be great this Christmas to do something for someone other than our families and friends? Wouldn’t it be like Christ to care for those who cannot pay us back or give us a gift in return? This is the command Christ gave, not only in his birth, but in his life, his death, and his resurrection.
Merry Christmas from the manger of Christ to all those who are helping to build a “stable” environment.