Luke 2-3, Psalm 113
Tradition holds that Francis of Assisi created the very first nativity scene in 1223 AD after a trip to the Holy Land and Christ's birthplace. Many of us continue with this tradition around Christmas. But as we have often done with the cross we have sanitized the reality of the manger scene also. Surely God's Son deserved a high profile birth, born in elegance and luxury. Yet consider what a cave or stable or holding area for animals would truly look like and smell like. Full of animals, their waste, flies, etc consider just how unsanitary this birth scene truly was. This is what we should think of when we read the familiar verse in Luke 2:7, "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn." I consider the thousands of babies I have had the pleasure of delivering: clean environment, joyous atmosphere with the hope of making it such a pleasurable experience that they will never forget it. Yet the Savior of the world was born in total meekness which should make us realize just how approachable, accessible, and available our Savior truly is.
We know from Luke 2:24, "and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons", for the rite of purification after childbirth that Joseph and Mary were poor. The suggested sacrifice for this was a lamb, unless they could not afford this in which case the 2 doves or pigeons were acceptable. Consider the first witnesses to this miraculous event, shepherds. We read the familiar lines in Luke 2:8-9, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid." We see their response in Luke 2:16-17, "And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child." We don't encounter many shepherds now. Realize in Biblical times they were not respected or admired. Consider what Joseph told his father in Genesis 46:34, "that you shall say, 'Your servants' occupation has been from our youth even till now, both we and our fathers,' that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians." This view continued during Jesus' time in the view of the Orthodox Jews. Due to their occupation they were unable to fulfill the traditions of ceremonial law and were considered unclean and loathsome in their eyes. Though the wise men are often added to this scene which would elevate it in the world's eyes, we know from Matthew 2:11, that when they visited Jesus and His family they were already living in a house and this would have taken place over a year later.
So as we even attempt to visualize the reality of the events surrounding Christ's birth, let us never forget that He is so much higher than us and therefore this level of humble beginnings is even that much more dramatic than if it happened to us. We read in Philippians 2:5-8, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." As we choose to follow Jesus, we have a Savior who modeled humility and meekness. Once we repent of our sins and accept the truth and power of His sacrifice, we are to make Him the Lord of our lives. Unlike so many other leaders who dictate how to live but never do it themselves, we have a Savior and Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) who both understands and has gone before us showing us the true way to peace and security.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: