Unwed teenage mother? Homeless? Manger of hay crib? Shepherds? Cows? Donkeys? NOT a perfect place for the Savior of the world to be born.
The King of the Universe left the throne room of Heaven to become a helpless baby sleeping in the rough, wooden feeding trough for animals called a “manger”. That King, Jesus of Nazareth, was born to a young mother who was not married when Jesus was conceived in her. Joseph, her fiancée, was poised to break off the engagement because he thought Mary had slept with another man. When Herod the king heard that Jesus was born, he ordered the death of all infants in the town, so Jesus’ family fled to Egypt until it seemed safe to return. When He grew up, Jesus never married. This was not a picture-perfect family!
Of course, the Bible is full of non-standard family situations. Lazarus and Mary and Martha were three grown siblings living together. In the Old Testament we read of Abraham’s sleeping with a servant girl because he and Sarah couldn’t wait on God to give them a child. In the house of King David, we read of a son raping his half-sister, son killing son, son rebelling against father. None of these families were picture-perfect by a long shot, which is precisely the point: Jesus didn’t come to bring redemption to perfect people; He came to heal imperfect us.
Christmas is not for picture-perfect families, because there are none. Some of us this Christmas are homeless or with a broken family or with problems of health, unemployment or addiction. Jesus knows and cares and understands. We sing each Christmas about the beginning of Jesus’ life: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.” And near the end of his life, when people said they wanted to follow him, Jesus would respond: “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man [me, Jesus!] has no place to lay his head.” In other words, Jesus was homeless.
Religious leaders criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners”, prostitutes and tax collectors – the people society shunned. Jesus didn’t deny it, in fact he embraced that criticism, saying “I came not for those who are healthy but for those who acknowledge they need a doctor.” The reality is that we are all “sin sick”: allergic to God, the only one who can actually cure us. But the promise of Christmas is that Jesus came and died upon the cross, paid the penalty that we should have paid, so that God could begin to heal us of our allergy to Him and once again be in a relationship with Him, as we were in the Garden of Eden. Jesus rose again after three days and lives today in Heaven and will one day return to this world in glory. Do you know Him? If not, why not open your heart to Him this Christmas and thereby celebrate the reason behind the holiday. He awaits you with open arms.
author Wallace L Larson, Jr