Many people around the world are remembering the birth of Jesus. He was the most extraordinary person the world has ever seen but the circumstances of his birth were amazingly ordinary. To comply with a Roman census, Mary and Joseph, a newly married couple, had travelled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem. The town was crowded and there was no room for them in the inn, so their baby son was born in a stable and laid in a manager. A well-known carol expresses it well, “Once in royal David’s city, stood a lowly cattle-shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed. Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child.”
Mary had conceived Jesus when she was betrothed to Joseph and before they were married. She was a virgin when she conceived Jesus and was told by the angel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” The same carol says, “He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all;
and his shelter was a stable
and his cradle was a stall. With the poor, and mean, and lowly
lived on earth our Saviour holy.” The word “mean” is used in the sense of people thought to be unimportant.
Jesus’ life was lived amongst ordinary people. He lived most of his life in the small village of Nazareth working as a carpenter with his father. During his ministry he travelled to remote towns and villages to teach ordinary people who were glad to listen to him because he spoke to their hearts. He identified with those who were social outcasts and helped them. He touched and healed lepers. He shared meals with people who were notorious because of their sinful lives and enabled them to have a second chance and a new beginning. He would not have felt comfortable with the image of some contemporary church leaders with their fine robes, vast cathedrals, and privileged position in society.
Jesus came into this world so that everyone who receives him as their Saviour might one day be with him in heaven. The last verses of the carol say, “And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love,
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing by,
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God’s right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned all in white shall wait around.”