Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen"1 (Lyrics)
As I carefully place the pieces of the nativity set in their traditional places atop the desk, I try to find a quiet time to think about the characters and give thanks for the part that each played on that miraculous day.
I place the stable along with Mary and Joseph on a gold scarf that came with the set. Of course, I recount how Mary was told by an angel that she would have a Baby and she was to call Him Jesus. Next to Mary, I see poor Joseph, who had his world turned upside down with the news that his wife-to-be was already with child. I remember Scripture that tells of the angel who came to calm his fears with news that this was God's plan.
Close by, I place the shepherd with a lamb in his arms who gazes at the Baby. Off at a distance the three wise men make their way with their gifts. The donkey, cow, and sheep lie nearby to help make the scene complete. Lastly, I place the beautiful Baby Jesus in the manger overflowing with golden hay. My heart is greatly warmed at the sight of the sweet Baby Who came to be our Saviour.
Luke 2:6-7 – 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. (NIV)
As I stand back and gaze at this beautiful scene, I am suddenly checked by the Lord. I begin to see the scene in a different way.
The King of kings was born in a stable, not the one that my nativity set portrayed on its glimmering, gold scarf. It was a stinky place where animals lived, and since the inn was full, so probably was the stable. This weary couple may have shivered from the cold as the winds blew through the cracks of the rickety old barn. Mary and Joseph lay down, not on a bed of clean hay but probably on a hard dirt floor that was hardly a place to give birth to a baby, let alone our Saviour. The manger was a dirty trough that was used to feed the livestock. How Mary must have winced at laying her precious Baby there. The angels didn't go to the religious leaders of that time but sang of the good news to lowly shepherds, who quickly joined this scene, not smelling all that good either.
Why, everyone is all cleaned up and looks so good on my gold scarf that I can practically hear Silent Night playing in the background. Why couldn't He at least be born inside the inn? Why not a warm cradle to lay Him in? I guess if the world had been the clean, perfect one that sat upon my gold scarf, there would have been no need for Him to come. If humankind were perfect, there would have been no need for a Saviour. Jesus was born of a lowly maiden in a dirty stable and would die to save us from our dirty sins. As Mary wrapped her newborn baby in swaddling clothes, she wrapped God's plan to save the world.
Don't worry, my nativity scene still sits on the gold scarf. I haven't brought in stable "dirt" to make it look realistic, but I will never look at it in the same way. Let's thank God that this perfect Baby came down to an imperfect world to die for our sins. Why? Because He loved us so!
Prayer: Praise You, Father, for sending Your one and only Son into this dirty world. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for our sins and loving us in spite of our dirty world. We love You, Lord, for letting us celebrate Your love letter of the birthing of hope with shiny bulbs and cheery songs. Amen.