Following Jesus

‘To us a child is born … Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. (Is 9:6)

Have you noticed there is no reference in the Gospels to Jesus’ birth in a stable? Nor does it say Jesus was born the night Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem. Rather, Luke records Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register, Mary was expecting, and: ‘While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born’. (Luke 2:6)

There is no suggestion of a breathless arrival in the village, with baby Jesus born that night! And, it would have been unthinkable for Mary to be left without care, to give birth alone, or with a man (Joseph) present. It is true: Bethlehem was crowded, but no Middle Eastern family would neglect a pregnant wife – and there is no suggestion this was the case. Just the opposite! The family guest rooms – called an inn, but not the same as a commercial inn – were occupied. So what does the story suggest?

Imagine the excitement: ‘the time came for the baby to be born’. (Luke 2:6) The women cleared the family living area where the cooking and baking was done, where the family slept each night. This space was adjacent to a lower area (maybe even a cave, from which the home extended) where domestic animals stood and rested during the night, with their feeding troughs or ‘mangers’ in the floor of the living space – the presence of the animals providing warmth for the family during the winter months. The men would have been banished, the baby was born, wrapped and placed in the perfect crib, ‘a manger’ in the heart of the home.

Meanwhile, the shepherds – rough and poor men – received the good news: ‘Christ the Lord’ had been born, ‘wrapped … and lying in a manger’. (Luke 2:12) Their being out in the fields at that time rules out the winter months (December to February) as his birth time. Although poor, these men understood the value of life – and babies. They went, found the baby as they had been told and ‘spread the word’ – ‘glorifying and praising God’. (Luke 2:20) Jesus was born in poverty, and welcomed by the poorest.

— from Following Jesus: disciple making & movement building.