AWAY IN A MANGER (LUKE 2:1-21)
The second last day of our 2003 summer vacation in Canada was a disaster. Our plan was to visit Doris’ alma mater in Kingston and then head to Montreal and Quebec, but we had no hotel reservations beyond Toronto. My wife had said, “Let’s not plan. Let’s make it an adventure. Worse come to worst, we can stay at my best friend’s house in Toronto.” And what an adventure it was.
After staying in Toronto for a few days, we headed to Kingston where we bedded at Comfort Inn for $45. After Kingston, we headed to Montreal where we stayed in a local motel for $65. Everything was perfect up till then. The next day in the Quebec island we refused a motel for $120 but even that was gone when we returned after a futile search elsewhere; so we stay the night in a mainland motel for $120.
Our plan was to stop by at the same motel in Kingston on the return trip to Toronto, but the motel was full. So we decided to take the hour and a half drive to Toronto and find motels near Toronto, so that we can leave for the airport the next day. To our disappointment, the motels before and after reaching Toronto were occupied because of a convention in town that Thursday. When we were turned down even for suites, we realized that we have to call her best friend to end the saga. We were tired, hungry, and frustrated. That night I said to Doris, “Now I know how Joseph and Mary must have felt.”
The next day (8/16) the Toronto and East Coast blackout occurred and we had to lengthen our stay to another two more nights at the friend’s place.
Jesus’ birth was not a series of unfortunate events, but a series of unforeseen events. Jesus came on his own terms, in the right fashion, with a timeless message. The Jewish nation expected the arrival of a Conquering King, but He came as a Suffering Servant. People expected Him to testify of himself, but angels and shepherds testified to Him. Israel expected freedom from Rome, but not forgiveness of sins. They wanted prosperity, and not peace and pardon.
What kind of a Savior was He? What kind of gift did He offer? Who are the beneficiaries?
Jesus is Meek and Lowly
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 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. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 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. (Luke 2:1-7)
My wife has a Sunday school version of the first Christmas. She imagined the horses, the cows, the pigs, the sheep, the dogs, the cats, and the chickens all bending their limbs, belting a number and bowing in worship. The real version, however, was not as pleasant, peaceful or picturesque. Spiders, mice, lizards, flies, and other creepy crawlies were the real part and parcel of the barn experience.
The real story of Christmas is captured in the first two verses of the Christmas hymn “Away in a Manger”:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.
Jesus was born of royalty, but he was born meek and lowly. Meekness is not weakness in response or failure to respond, but strength under control. A friend quipped that meekness means you are a tough person so you can afford to look soft (M Wu). Jesus was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth and he did not come from money. True, he was a descendant of King David, but he was born in a stable, and not a palace or a castle. His delivery was not in a hospital, but a barn. The parents needed to do a lot of work before the baby was born. Joseph and Mary had to sweep the floor, wipe the dust and clean the place. They had to do with what they had, including enduring the noise and smell of animals and coping without the benefit of a kitchen or a bathroom. Even our present-day garages are cleaner than the horse stable, pig-sty or chicken coop that was Jesus’ shelter. No disinfectant or deodorant could sanitize or freshen the place enough.