Dave Brisbin 12.10.23
What do we really know about the birth of Jesus? There’s so little information in the gospels, just a few scant paragraphs in Matthew and Luke. Only Luke gives us details of the birth itself and the shepherds’ vision and visit, while Matthew tells of the Magi after Jesus’ birth. All we’re told of Jesus’ birth is that he was wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn. That’s it.

Early Christians didn’t consider Jesus’ birth very important compared to his death and resurrection; it would be over 800 years before Christmas was widely celebrated in the church. Probably why the gospels didn’t record much, but the details that survive are important because they emphasize an absolutely ordinary and unremarkable first century birth. The relatives or friends with whom Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem didn’t even make room for them in the living space of their home—the word inn is a mistranslation here—they had to stay in the part of the house reserved for the animals.

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Ordinary? Unremarkable? You’re thinking the shepherds and Magi saw something pretty spectacular, right? Yes, but why are they the only ones recorded as having a significant experience with this birth? Why didn’t the people in the same house as Mary and Joseph see anything special? Why didn’t king Herod or his court see the star? Jesus was born as any poor Galilean: washed, rubbed with salt, tightly wrapped in spare strips of cloth, but also laid in a livestock feeding trough because no room was made for him in the house.

We say seeing is believing, but some things must be believed to be seen. The deep truth the gospels are telling about this birth is that only those who were prepared to see beyond their expectations could see the significance of what was right before their eyes. True then, true now. Our God is an unassuming God. Humble, vulnerable, unremarkable to those set on power and wealth. Only when we become humble and vulnerable enough, begin to reflect and value what God values, will we see that God really is Immanuel—with us, right here and now, perfect love in human form. And always has been.

 

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