If someone insults you by asking, “Were you born in a barn?” they’re making it clear that they think you have no manners and are behaving like an animal. Or perhaps a friend rudely remarks that, “You’re from the other side of the tracks,” (meaning that you originate from the poor section of town). Our Saviour and his parents felt the sting of that sort of humiliation.
Jesus was literally born in a barn, and the Bethlehem Drive-Inn was probably on the wrong side of the tracks anyway. By leading Joseph and Mary to a hotel with a flashing sign so that they could initially be rejected, God seemed to be propelling their shameful and humbling journey into the climax of a risky labor in a questionable birthing place; and then on into a painful and finger-pointing parenthood.
That stable was no scrubbed and hygienic maternity ward; no palace fit for the introduction of the Creator of the Universe into his domain. Just imagine the stink of dung and urine. Infant mortality in those days must have been high, maybe 30-40% of children died by the age of five. Today there is far better health care; plus of course, we have a convenient solution for those ‘inconvenient’ pregnancies.
If Jesus was born today, imagine the pressure on Mary to have an abortion in order to save her reputation . . . but we know she wouldn’t have bowed to that way out; she had already responded to God’s angel who brought her the startling news of her impending virgin birth, “For no word from God will ever fail. I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” [Luke 1:37-38 TMB]
So, Jesus was born of no reputation. When the time came, . . . “He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process . . .” [Phil 2:7-8 TMB]
And then along came the shepherds to worship the newborn King. Gayle Erwin, who taught in our DTSes years ago, used to say about those unsavoury characters, “When the shepherds came to town, everyone locked their doors!”
Scruffy and unsavory men Of low reputation . . .
meet innocent baby Jesus Of no reputation.
That's our humble, pure and servant King, worthy of all worship!
The first Christmas: “God, a timeless reality, enters our time-bound history as an artist would enter his own painting,” suggests C.S. Lewis
Our first DTS teacher was Reona Peterson—a single Kiwi, who seemed to be content to remain in the blissful state of spinsterhood (or so I thought!) A few years later I had the great pleasure of witnessing her wedding to Albert Joly, a very eligible Swiss bachelor. Last Christmas we received the following thoughts from Reona & Albert, and I have saved them for 12 months to share with you . . .
“Have you ever wondered why God announced the greatest birth in human history to a handful of shepherds on a hillside, and a few wise men from the East?
Perhaps it was because they were
Quiet enough to listen
Eager enough to know
Available enough to follow
It seems that like the wise men of old, mankind is searching desperately for a ‘star’ to follow that will bring:
Meaning and Purpose to life; Joy in living; and Hope in dying.
So, as we consider again the birth of a baby in Bethlehem . . .
May we be quiet, then eager, then available—and humble enough to know our continuing need of the Saviour.
To which, Donna and I pray that the Blessings of this Season will remain with you throughout 2017—and beyond,
Till next time,
The fine Print
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