by Desiree Bustamante
The Real Nativity Was No Hallmark Christmas Movie.
You can listen to today’s devotion by clicking on this SoundCloud link.
“Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.”
Philippians 2:5-7 New International Version
Nativity scenes are a wonderful custom that tell the story of Jesus’ birth, but they often leave out some important truths about what Jesus and his parents faced. We sing hymns whose words tell us that Jesus was born on a peaceful, cold, winter’s night in quiet solitude. Heavenly light shines in the barn and donkeys, and sheep, reflect thoughtfully on the baby. The kings are already there.
Yet it doesn’t tell the real story.
The Roman Empire called for a census, requiring everyone to go to their place of birth and register to be taxed. Since Joseph was born in Bethlehem, he and Mary were forced to make the 80-mile desert journey from Nazareth, when Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy. They likely traveled only 10 miles a day, because of Mary’s imminent delivery, south along the flat lands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. A grueling trip!
An overcrowded Bethlehem forced Joseph and Mary to seek lodging at a modest inn, but they were turned away because Bethlehem was packed with 10,000 other people registering for the census. Yet God provided a place, a stable, a most inglorious dwelling for a baby’s birth. It was unclean, uncomfortable, cold, and lonely. It must have smelled of urine, manure, moldy hay, and animals.
Here Jesus was born, wrapped in rags and laid in a feeding trough. Soon his life would be threatened by Herod and his family would flee to Egypt, living in exile for years.
Every year finds us in a different place in life. We might be missing loved ones or celebrating new family members, reuniting with old friends or estranged family, in good health or facing a crisis, looking forward to making Christmas memories or anxious about rifts in the family. Wherever you find yourself this Christmas season, know that Jesus left His heavenly throne and faced dire conditions, from his humble beginnings as an infant and throughout His entire life, because He loves you and wants you to live with Him in heaven for eternity. In that hope you can experience joy this year!
Copyright Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO