Many ideas have invaded my thoughts this Christmas season concerning the significance of the holiday and what he’s done for us. If my son was a little older, they’d be things that I’d like to pass along to him. So for now, I’ll just write them here and in a few years, Titus and I can have this conversation.
It’s funny how we idealize the Christmas story and focus on specific parts. Watching the video story by James reminded me of this truth. In our mind we see a beautiful scene of Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloth in that little manger… asleep in the hay. It’s a perfect scene we recreate in all of our homes with our little Christmas nativity sets and teach our kids. But I think we glaze over the disgusting factor.
Here’s what I mean about the disgusting factor. I really don’t enjoy being dirty. I’ve rarely ever gone camping for more than two days because the buildup of grime on my body kind of bothers me. I spent two months in India when I was 17 and it really stretched me. On a village trip, I went 7 days without a shower and I remember waking up one morning with my sleeping pad all wet from some liquid that had starting flowing through the space where we were all sleeping on the floor. God gave me grace to survive that week… and an nearly endless supply of baby wipes.
When you sit an think about the nature of Christ’s birth, disgusting is probably a little tame. Now, I’m sure that the people of the time were used to an less-hygienic friendly environment than we are today, but I’m sure Mary and Joseph were a little grossed out too. If the Inn was full, it’s likely that the stable they were staying in was pretty full too. Also, I’m probably not imaging a spacious stable either, it was probably sufficient for the guests of the inn and with the “no vacancy” situation, it was probably a tight squeeze.
I imagine aromatic sensations that would be displeasing… downright gross. I’m also picturing nosey and irritating animals. You know how it is with animals. They come over and sniff and like and get all up in your business. From chickens, to goats to whatever else they might have in that stable, they were all getting in the way. If I picture myself in that situation, I think I’d be consoling my wife because she’s be so upset to be giving birth in a freaking barn.
Now, I’ve witnessed the birth of my son. It was beautiful… but also disgusting. I’m glad there were nurses and doctors to help. I was especially glad for nurses and doctors to clean up. I was thankful for modern conveniences to clean and “freshen things up.” Mary and Joseph didn’t have all of this. If they had been home, they probably could have been prepared with water and towels or whatever they usually had, but they were miles form home and in a stinky barn. Not ideal.
I’m sure they were absolutely thrilled with the birth of their son, but I’m sure that in their mind they were thinking, “Seriously, did this just happen? In a barn? With an audience of farm animals?”
So, I think it’s helpful for me to remember all of this. God knew what he was thinking his son was born. In fact, God let his son be born in the worst of circumstances so that there would be no one he couldn’t identify with. More importantly, I think is’t absolutely beautiful what Jesus did. I have a sense of pride, giving up my luxuries for one summer to go to a developing nation and giving myself away to show love to people who didn’t feel love. Jesus did this in a way I never could. He gave up the perfection of heaven to wallow in the filth of humanity. He gave up far more than I have. It makes me sad that I struggle so much with giving up things that I should when Christ did so much more.
His birth in the stable was just a symbol of an even more significant action. His birth in a disgusting barn was a reflection of God entering the messiness of a world we corrupted. How amazing is his love that he would go to such great lengths to save us?