Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A No Frills Birth

Jesus was not born in what we call a barn, with a metal roof and a concrete floor, and a place for cars, tractors, and tools. It wouldn’t have looked like one of those red barns we see in rustic paintings. It also wouldn’t have been a small structure made with rough hewn wood.

In fact, you know the pictures we’ve seen of the stable with the gentle farm animals, sweet hay, and the warm glow from an oil lantern?

None of that is in scripture.

The innkeeper that’s in all our skits about Jesus birth? There’s no mention of him either.

We are told only that there was no place for this family to stay inside at night. All available rooms were occupied.

Perhaps they had a lean-to. Or perhaps they stayed in a small cave on the edge of town. But they could have been completely exposed to the outside elements and they probably slept on the ground.

These were truly poor people, just on the edge of existence. There was no government assistance program to give them a roof over their heads. There was no medical care available. There was no food being distributed. Plus, they were out of town far from their own community.

People like Mary and Joseph are not even seen by the world.

In this poverty stricken state, a baby was born. And no one noticed.

He was given the name, Jesus. A common name for a common baby. But this pitiful baby born to these desperately poor parents also carried a title that was given to him before he was born:

Emmanuel. Which means, “God with us.”

And his name, which was very ordinary back then, is actually a powerful statement when we translate it. It means, “The Lord saves.”

Today, we celebrate the life of a child who meant nothing to his society, but is everything to the world.


  1. I think this is a powerful observation, "God With Us" because that was really what the birth of Christ meant to Hebrew people - that they didn't have to go through rabbis to have a conduit to God. The most wonderful gift, aside from the acceptance of our sins, is that the ordinary, humble person could have a relationship with God aside from that of the temple.
    My understanding is that is was a new era in spiritualism when ritualistic bathing in the temple did not have to be undergone and paid for - so that God was available to each of us.
    To me, that is a powerful message.

  2. Yes, and a powerful gift. I think one of the hardest lessons we have to keep learning in institutionalized religion is that we are not gatekeepers to God. Jesus said, "I am the gate."

    As a professional religious guy, I see our role as helping to make Christ clear and aiding his followers serve Him as effectively and creatively as they can. Not always an easy task.