|An actual manger|
As you visualize in your mind the scene in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth, what picture comes immediately to mind?
A clear, starry night, filled with heavenly peace?
A holy couple, perhaps with halos, gazing at peacefully sleeping baby lying in a spotless manger filled with clean hay?
To me, two words that best describe the scene are filth and humiliation. You don’t usually hear Christmas messages with this theme, but Christmas in the New Testament is not a pretty picture.
The Son of God comes to the broken, hurting earth as a helpless infant. The only way he could communicate his human needs would be by crying, like any infant. (“The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes” occurs only in our songs.) The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus who humbles himself by taking the form of a servant.
If (as most scholars recognize) the so-called “inn” in Bethlehem was actually a guest room of a home of one of Joseph’s Davidic relatives, then our Lord came to those who were his own family, and his own did not receive him.
Have you ever thought about the conditions under which Jesus was born? Most likely Jesus was born in filth with the scent of urine strongly filling the stable area. I doubt if Joseph had sterile gloves to deliver the baby Jesus; perhaps he didn’t even know how to serve as a midwife, but there was no one else around. What utter humiliation!
Just imagine you were a fly on the wall observing the birth scene—yes, I am positive there were flies, lots of them.
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