And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him snugly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.Luke 2:4-7 (NLT)
This year has brought unprecedented challenges to our lives, particularly the terrifying experience of a global pandemic. For months we have feared for our wellbeing and for the health of our family and friends. Finances were hit hard, kids had to be homeschooled, and facemasks became part of everyday fashion. So, after all of the ups and downs of 2020, it’s probably not surprising that many of us are hoping and searching for more stability during the upcoming Christmas season.
Unfortunately, Christmastime rarely seems to be all that stable. No matter how much effort we put into preparing for our holiday celebrations, problems invariably arise. For instance, someone gets sick. Grandpa is cranky. The cat goes missing. That special gift you ordered never arrives. The gravy is lumpy. A pipe upstairs breaks, sending water into the kitchen. The list of challenges could go on and on.
Far too often our plans for a holiday filled with peace and calm have fallen short of our expectations. Many of us also have sad experiences that occurred at Christmastime—like in 1992 when my dad died on December 22nd. That kind of loss and any other trauma hits us hard, especially when it happens during a celebratory season.
Maybe we shouldn’t be so astonished that the holidays aren’t the most stable of times since the first Christmas was rather chaotic too. The verses in Luke above remind us that Joseph and a very-pregnant Mary had to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. No doubt because other travelers impacted local lodging, the couple couldn’t find a single room available after their long trip. Instead, they were offered a stable—a place where animals were sheltered and fed. This messy, noisy, and fetid environment would become the delivery room for God’s Son, Jesus. A manger, or feeding trough, became Jesus’ crib after Mary had wrapped Him in some simple strips of cloth.
As if these unstable circumstances weren’t challenging enough, some unexpected guests decided to stop by. Angels had appeared nearby to tell a group of shepherds about Jesus’ birth. Then “when the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” They did just that: “They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger” (Luke 2:15-16). Whatever private moments the new parents had together were suddenly interrupted by visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the precious gift they’d just received. Although Scripture doesn’t record the details, it’s possible other people may have popped by too since “after seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child” (verses 17).
That first Christmas was far from a calm, peaceful experience—and it probably didn’t live up to either of the parents’ expectations. Whatever vision Mary might have had for labor and delivery, we can assume it didn’t include a dingy, dirty environment that would soon be invaded by total strangers. If Joseph had planned for a safe, secure setting to temporarily house his new family, that idea went right out the stable door. But this wasn’t about them, was it? God had a plan for His Son—one that would be real and raw and inclusive of people who needed His presence. To God, that chaotic scene was the perfect place to showcase Jesus. Actually, this “stable” Christmas served as the commencement of Jesus’ mission, as Philippians 2:6-7 aptly points out:
Though He was God, He did not
think of equality with God
as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being when He appeared in human form.
This is the message of Christmas: Jesus came to serve and sacrifice. There’s no clearer picture of that than His leaving the wonders of Heaven in order to take on human form. Perfection decided to live among imperfection, starting with that first night spent in a stable.
Like Jesus, we are called to serve and sacrifice too. This isn’t always easy, but as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8:17). As members of God’s forever family, we have the privilege to live and work among the very people Jesus came to save. And there is no better time than Christmas to “tell others about Christ . . . (because) we want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ” (Colossians 1:28).
As you prepare for the upcoming holy days, would you consider what your version of a “stable” Christmas could look like in 2020? It might be quite different than what you initially envisioned, but this is a year of different, so why not go with that theme? Whatever your plans, make sure Jesus is in the midst of the mess and mayhem. That way you can stay focused on the Savior who provides stability during every season of life.
Everyone at Sonkist Ministries wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas season—and many blessings in the New Year! If you’d like to connect with us, please visit www.sonkist.com.
Thought for the Season
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today…” Luke 2:10-11