The women’s Bible study at my church doesn’t meet in December, so a group of us has joined an online Bible study on Ann Spangler’s Immanuel. (Excellent, if you haven’t done it.) Today she focused on Luke’s retelling of Jesus’ birth, and it got me thinking.
We read that story, but do we ever stop to picture it? We’re so used to sweet nativity scenes with quiet animals and fresh hay in a newly-made manger. But think about it… this was a scared teenager, far from home, with a new husband (whom it’s possible she didn’t know very well), and she is in labor. Can you imagine their desperation when there was nowhere to stay? Did they stop in front of that smelly, nasty animal barn and look at it, then glance around praying for somewhere else? Only there was literally nowhere else? How panicked was Mary? Did she long for her mother? Her cousin Elizabeth?
The Bible doesn’t mention another woman around. Was it Joseph who clumsily delivered that amazing baby, terrified of breaking the tiny Messiah? (I’d have been scared of that!) I’m sure the cloths were not fine, freshly-bleached linen and that the manger was far from antiseptic. How did the animals feel about having their food encroached upon? How many times did Joseph have to shoo away curious creatures who might nip at the infant?
Think about it. And then ask yourself how the picture in your mind lines up with what was probably the reality of the Son of God’s birth. He gave up a throne in heaven, you know, and abundant everything. To be laid in a filthy stable.