As we are all engaged now in the pressures and busyness of Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to think back on what happened on that first “Silent Night.”
Along with every other aspect of Christmas, we have romanticized the story of Christ’s birth. We envision a scene in which he is draped in fine satin while a smiling Joseph and Mary look on.
Everyone has a halo, including the animals.
The fact of the matter is the birth of Christ took place in a cold, damp and dark environment. It was an undesirable place to sleep, much less to have a baby.
If you’re a parent, think about when you had your own children. You wanted them to be born in the most secure and sanitary environment possible. Can you think of a place that would be worse than where animals are kept? It was about the least desirable place to have a child.
Yet this setting symbolizes the entire ministry of Jesus and his life on earth, from the cradle to the cross. The Bible sums it up for us this way: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV).
Jesus went from a heavenly throne to an earthly feeding trough, presumably the very area where he was born. He went from the presence of angels to a cave filled with animals. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. He who sustains the world with a word was dependent on the nourishment of a young girl.
It is an amazing thought to consider that God Almighty became a helpless little baby, unable to do anything more than lie there, wiggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed like any other child.
Because Jesus was God, we might imagine him being born with all of his faculties intact: Hello, Mary and Joseph. I am Jesus, the creator of the universe. I have work to do. … But that isn’t how it was. He still was a baby, like any other baby.
He grew up, in many ways, like any other child but without a sin nature. He grew in physical strength, and he grew in wisdom. We are told in Luke 2, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him” (verse 40 NIV).
Then we read that Mary and Joseph found him, at the age of 12, sitting in the Temple. He was speaking to the scribes, both listening to them and asking them questions.
Later in Luke 2 it says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (verse 52 NIV).
These verses would appear to be saying that Jesus went through a learning process like anyone else. But at the same time, he didn’t have the limitations of sin in his life.
Being God, Jesus may have known a lot more than we may realize. We won’t know for certain until we get to heaven. It is an interesting thing to consider, however, that he left the glory of heaven, and as he took his first breath on earth, he awoke to the smell of a cave on a cold night. Against his skin was the pricking of the straw and the coarseness of the rags he was wrapped in. What a rude awakening that must have been. And as sad as it is to think about all this, it is the reality of how Jesus came to this world.
And for the most part, the world he came to save rejected him. Sure, he had Mary and Joseph and his family. They loved him. But the Bible says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11 NIV).
Jesus even was hated in his hometown. In Nazareth, when it happened to be his turn to read from the Scriptures on the Sabbath, he read from Isaiah 61 with an authority like the people had never seen before. Then he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 NIV).
They fully understood what he was implying. He was saying, “I am the fulfillment of this Scripture. I am the very Messiah of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
What did they do? Did they give him a round of applause? Did they treat him as a hometown hero? No, they turned against him. In fact, they hated him and even wanted to kill him.
We might say that at least he had a home with Mary and Joseph, and later on, his half brothers and half sisters. But the fact is that at least on one occasion, his siblings came to take him away from where he was because they thought he’d taken leave of his senses. In fact, the Bible tells us that his brothers didn’t believe in him. It wasn’t until his death and resurrection from the dead that his own family fully understood who he really was.
When Jesus arrived at a place known as the Gadarenes, he cast demons out of two men. How did the people treat him? They drove him out of town.
On another occasion when he drove demons out of someone else, the Pharisees had the audacity to suggest that it was by the power of Satan.
Then we remember at least one joyful day in Jesus’ life when he made the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The crowd laid palm branches at his feet and shouted, “Hosanna!” The religious rulers wanted it stopped. They couldn’t stand the idea that people were saying that about him.
As he got closer to the day of his crucifixion, even his moments of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane were interrupted as soldiers came to arrest him, hauling him away on trumped-up charges to their kangaroo court.
Then they took him to the cross and pounded nails through his hands and feet. There he was, in unimaginable pain, and all he asked for personally was a sip of water to cool his raging thirst. Even then, they gave him vinegar and gall instead of water.
It never stopped. There never was any room for Jesus. And as sad as that was, it is a statement that still could be made today.
Is there room in your life for him?
Taken from my weekly column at World Net Daily.