“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
One of the items not high on the agenda of a woman nine months pregnant is to take a trip on a donkey from one town to another. Mary would have been uncomfortable, exhausted, with a sore back, and nervous of the birth itself particularly if it would take place away from home and family. She could have been forgiven for wondering why the God who had caused her to be pregnant could not have timed it all better, or at least arranged for a proper room to be available for her.
And yet. There is always an ‘and yet’ with God. He is not like an anxious and hard-working father desperately trying to finish his work so that the family can leave for their holiday –and then finding he had forgotten to book accommodation. God is God, sovereign and almighty. He knew then, as He knows now, exactly what He was about and He had timed everything perfectly in terms of His own plans and purposes.
Our Christian walk with God will contain times of bewilderment, discomfort, darkness and even concerns about His presence and love. Some of them will be caused by our own actions, where we have taken off like the Prodigal Son or a lost sheep. Others will arise from the activities of those around us – both Christians and unbelievers – because of the fallen world in which we live. Still others will alarm us when God does not appear to be working the way that we would like or expect Him to. In fact, where is He today – there does not seem to be room for Jesus in so many places…..
But, a manger in a stable? Not a particularly pleasant, sweet -smelling or hygienic place. But then isn’t a stable rather like the condition of our hearts and lives at times. Very earthy, dung and other bodily discharges staining and tramped into the floor, noisy with the shoving and baying presence of animal-like lusts and desires and the food to feed them, untidy, dark and generally unattractive – to us, to others who might catch a glimpse of them, and certainly to God.
And yet it is here that God chose for Jesus to be born – not in a king’s palace or under the sparkling stars on a fresh-smelling and wind-cleansed mountainside. Here in a stable – because His real ministry would be in the stables of our lives and not in the guest-prepared sitting rooms. And, as He is born into our stables, there is a transformation – light, life, love and beauty enter into our darkness – not with the brutal scrubbing brushes and nose-wrinkling disinfectants of harsh criticism, but with the gentle, smiling, understanding, and loving tears of acceptance, healing and salvation. Don’t keep Him out of your stable – that was His destination and purpose from the beginning!
Come Lord Jesus – thank You so very much!
Lord Jesus, be born in me this day and fill me with Your love, light and life now and forever, Amen.