While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the inn. Luke 2:6-7
Why the stable? And a manger? Could a more unlikely place exist for the Savior of the world to make His entrance? Because we have some chickens out back, and if I were to stick my nose in their coop, I would find it smells. Bad.
And if I were to walk through their pen, I would definitely come out with poop on the soles of my shoes. And these are just chickens. What about horse and cow manure? Or worse yet, a pig pen. Can anything smell worse than pigs?
So, in contemplating the nativity sets, I wonder if they perhaps give a false idea of what it was really like on the night of our Savior’s birth. Because the treasured scenes we place around our homes make our hearts glad… but they leave all the ugliness out.
Come December, you won’t find any little cow pies as you unbox your stable, manger, shepherds, and cows. And so, we have this nice, sterile image of what it was like the night of Christ’s birth.
And carols enhance the image.
Like Silent Night.
Oh, it’s one of my favorites. Absolutely beautiful. But was it really silent? And calm? For a young, virgin gave birth. No, I’d venture to say it was not silent at all. Loud, no doubt.
But see, an idea forms as I contemplate who may have been present at the birth of Jesus. There was Joseph and Mary and some lowly animals. But were there others? I just don’t know. I don’t think any of us can really know.
Surely when Mary’s time came, Joseph went to find a woman to help. Maybe even a couple. But I don’t find this in Scripture. The 2nd chapter of Luke simply states, “she gave birth to her first Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough…”
Because there was no room for them at the inn. No, it mattered naught who Mary was. Or more importantly, who she was carrying. Plainly, there just was no room.
And so my theory is this. Perhaps the stable was the very best location for Christ’s birth. Because there, everything was silent that should be silent. Oh, there were likely groans and cries coming from the young virgin. And words of comfort surely slipped from Joseph’s terse mouth.
And the animals? Oh, the animals had to have lowed and neighed and brayed. So likely, it wasn’t silent at all. BUT, the voices and sounds that went forth on that first Christmas long ago were authentic. Sincere. For there was no room for pomp and circumstance in a stable.
Naturally, my next thought is this…
Where were all the religious people of the day? God’s select? Because God had come near. Immanuel. And the elect had been waiting for this very moment.
But they were nowhere in sight.
God didn’t orchestrate Christ’s birth to take place amongst the priests and Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes even though they were the ones who knew the most about Him. And were looking forward to Him. Yet, not one little figurine we pull out of our nativity boxes depicts a Pharisee.
So I deduce the following. The religious leaders of the day must have been too busy. Their tight schedules were intricately woven with feasts, and traditions, and ritual washings. Quite simply, they left no room for the unexpected. Not another thing could be squeezed into their hectic schedules.
But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, “Rabbi, Rabbi.” Matthew 23:5-6
Pharisees were of the strictest order and every single thing had its place. And sadly, all the rules and regulations left no room for something out of the ordinary…
Not even if it were extraordinary.
Like a miracle to behold. Something grand to see. Thus, when God graced the earth with His very presence in the form of a newborn infant, the ultra-religious folks missed the whole thing.
Despite all their knowledge and religion, they missed the first Christmas.
They just didn’t see Him.
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15
I’ll tell you what I know. Knowledge puffs up. And good deeds can do the same. In fact, a girl can become downright prideful regarding the things she knows and the things she does. So activity drives her. And saturates her schedule. And acknowledgement only fuels the fire.
Hear what I say.
And see what I do.
But inevitably, the downfall comes. Just like with the religious leaders of old who missed it all. Because they didn’t even see the miracle of that first Christmas. And because her schedule is so crammed full, she does the same.
For she simply has no room.
Her intricately woven schedule cannot allow for one more thing. Not even when it’s something extraordinary. Like a miracle to behold.
Because for a girl become Pharisee, silent nights are few and far in between. Calmness evasive. And it’s just too darn hard to hear God above the din of her own stuff. No, when a girl is overflowing with her own noise, she can’t hear when He speaks.
Not even when He’s near. If He comes near. For the uncomfortable truth is God does not reside with the proud. For His dwelling place is with the humble.
And this is what I know to be true. Personally.
See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God with us.” Matthew 1:23
Why the stable for the birth of our Savior? Perhaps it’s because within the walls of a humble cow shed there was no pomp and circumstance. And only the pure of heart were there. Those are the ones who see God, anyway.
The pure of heart…
As for the ultra religious folks bound by their mile long to-do lists, they were absent that day. Nowhere near the Nativity. As such, God’s Spirit wasn’t hindered by rules and tradition and the noise of a thousand voices.
And because only a hand-full of people were present, and some animals, the most beautiful thing happened…
There was silence.
Oh, there may have been moans accompanying Mary’s labor. And Joseph may have spoken softly. But noisy, knowledgeable souls busy about a thousand tasks were no where to be found.
So, in its own way, I guess it was a silent night after all.
And the blessed silence allowed the one most crucial sound to be heard. For in the calmness of a holy hush, God’s voice was magnified. Those present heard it…
It was a newborn babe’s cry.