And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn [Luke 2:7]
The real Christmas was nothing like the Christmas as we know it today. It does not look anything like the manger scenes and illustrated books of our childhood. The original Advent is a disturbing scene of sad and desperate homelessness – more like a scene we might find under a Kolkata fly-over or basti than what we depict under our Christmas tree. The only detail Luke’s Spirit-inspired writing gives us about the actual birth of Jesus is that Mary had to lay him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. We have known this truth in our heads all our lives, but when you pause to consider what it was like…
A young peasant girl, asleep on the ground, bits of straw in her hair, wrapped in dirty cloaks and a blanket. Beside her a small, crude and dirty feeding trough in which lies a sleeping newborn, wrapped in unsanitary, blood-smeared cloths. Mary is not well-dressed or rested – she’s bone weary. No divine, heavenly glow emanates from her or the child. In fact, there is nothing about this child that points to his unique identity as the image of the invisible God, the one and only Son through whom all things were created [Col 1:15; John 1:3,18]. John states the tragedy of the very first Christmas: He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him [John 1:10].
There was no room for them in the inn…the incredible irony – when the Creator of the universe decides to arrive on planet earth, the best lodging place we can offer him is a dirty feeding trough! Let this serve as a reality check for us in the midst of our Christmas celebrations today. Bustling and bursting Bethlehem had no room for the advent of Jesus. In the midst of the Christmas lists, shopping for gifts, baking goodies, decorations and partying…will we make room? Let every heart prepare him room…and heav’n and nature sing!