Christmas is a beautiful time of year. We clear our schedules and seek out the love of family and friends in warm, time-honored traditions that help us feel like there is a consistency to our lives year after year. In part, we seek joy and peace when we celebrate Christmas. Maybe it’s because the object of celebration is caricatured as an innocent, fleshy, puddle-of-skin infant that is guarded by centurions of likeable livestock, and sought after by gift-giving magi. There is an air of comfort and confidence that if our savior was ushered into this work in this cushy manner, then we are on a winning team.
The Other Part of the Christmas Story
Allow me to adjust our perspective on this. Not to put a damper on the festive mood of the season, but to share what I have wrestled with recently and that has led to a deeper appreciation for this historic event. Not by providing anything new to the story, but by highlighting elements that may change the way we set the scene for Christ’s coming.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7
The image of baby Jesus laying in a manger is one we’ve come to regard with warmth and peace. But there is very little reason to think the situation into which Jesus was born was anything but desperate. A manger is a feeding trough for barn animals, either made of wood or stone. That there was “no place for them in the inn,” is a scary predicament. The stable that they settled in was probably the only place available that had a roof!
Then there are the terrifying events that followed shortly after Christ’s arrival. A genocide was ordered. And Jesus was the sole target.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” – Matthew 2:13
We don’t often get this far in the Christmas story. We settle on the scene of a sleeping babe in a bed of hay, surrounded by ornate gifts and miraculously sanitary farm animals. But IF there was any peaceful part of the actual story, it was short-lived. Jesus and his family soon after became refugees seeking asylum.
Jesus came to earth as a vulnerable baby during a time of crisis.
Beyond all our heart-warming visions of a plump infant, smiling cows, comfortable and clean accommodations, and an overall lack of stress and discomfort, lies a meaningful story of Christmas that is incredibly relevant and impactful for our daily lives and worldview.
Yes, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in the macro sense that our savior came to earth to save us from our sins. We NEED to celebrate this! But we must acknowledge that the Lord of the universe could have arrived in any fashion he desired. But he chose this humble, vulnerable story. This story is essential for the true message he had for the world.
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40