Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of the most famous person who has ever lived in the world. It was a humble birth; a “home” birth, if you can call being born in a barn “home.” We don’t know much about this birth — not even the day or the time of year (the Christmas tradition was begun several centuries after the birth of Christ; and there is no direct evidence from the Bible of when it happened). Was Mary completely alone as she gave birth? Did Joseph attend her? Did he allow her to have privacy during labor? Did he go out to get a midwife? Even though he was a stranger in Bethlehem, he could have enquired at the inn where a local midwife might be found. It is possible there were other people crowded into the stable as well — Bethlehem was a small town and all the Israelites had to go to their ancestral home, so it’s possible every square foot of livable space was filled with people. It may have been cold outside (but then again, He may have been born in July!), but it was probably warm in the barn. And smelly. Perhaps there was a sweet smell of the hay… mingled with the foul odor of manure. There may have been a light…but it may have been too much of a fire hazard, so the only lights available were from the moon and stars.

In this “Christmas Season” we think a lot about presents and giving and receiving; I like to turn my thoughts to the humbler aspects of the occasion. I enjoy giving my children gifts for Christmas; but the best Gift of all was born in a lowly stable, with a feed trough for his first bed. His birth was wonderful; but far more miraculous what was accomplished through His death. In the Bible, there is never an injunction to remember Christ’s birth, although I don’t see anything in particular wrong with doing so; however, it is said to “remember His death.” So even while the world at large celebrates the birth of Christ (all the while marginalizing the religious aspects of the holy-day more and more every year), I think of His death, and what it accomplished for me. His birth was the beginning of a life of humility — there could hardly have been a more humble birth than that of Jesus; His life was equally humble; and His death more than humble, but infamous. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.