Most renditions of the Christmas story start here, in this world.
The angel visits Mary in her humble abode on planet earth, probably Nazareth, and Joseph has his dream in the same place. And nine months later they travel to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. It’s all based on earth and in time.
That’s how we tell it, anyway, but the story really begins a long time before and in a very different place. The details were scripted in heaven. They were prophesied in the Old Testament.
A lot of forethought went into this event and for good reason. This was more than just another birth. It was a birth-slash-transformation. It transitioned the God who is Spirit – and, therefore, everywhere – to the God who was bound by flesh. That’s why we call it an incarnation. Jesus’ conception was not His beginning.
But understanding that raises a lot of questions. If the event was well organized before hand why was Jesus born in a barn? Was that detail not considered? Was something left out?
Or did God mean it to happen that way?
Well, since we are talking about God and He has the power to control the details – and we have no reason to think He forgets anything – we have to believe He planned it this way. That means the only logical question to ask is, “why did He do this?” Why did He plan for Jesus to be born in such a lowly, out of the way and insignificant spot.
Before I try to answer that question, let me ask one.
If you were God and you planned this event how would you do it?
Would your Jesus be born to kings? If so, which king would you choose? Which one do you think had enough faith to follow God’s leadership without interference from outside influence? The reigning King, Herod the Great, was known for executing disloyal family members, so he wouldn’t be a good choice. None of the others were much better.
That rules out reigning monarchs.
In your plan, would Jesus be born to a prosperous family and be publicly celebrated? If so, how would He eventually become accessible to common people, particularly the lowest levels: the outcasts.
Rulers and the most wealthy maintain isolation from common people especially in Bible days. They weren’t comfortable entertaining commoners and the feeling was mutual.
Lazarus would tell you they liked dogs better than people.
There was a natural separation and an inherent dislike between the ruling class and everyone else. Moses spent forty years in a desert place overcoming the stigma associated with his royal status.
Jesus didn’t have that much time so His approach had to be different. He was born in a barn to poor parents, nobodies. He learned His father’s trade and that made Him a common laborer. He was treated condescendingly by family and neighbors. And this position was assumed intentionally. It was strategic.
Jesus gave up the form and appearance of royalty to make Himself appealing and accessible to the least desirable. When you think about it, a barn really works. People may fail to connect with Jesus but they can never blame His status for that. He became the peoples’ Savior and that was all the status He wanted or needed.
The next time you see a manger, remember that you are looking up in a downward sort of way.