We’re eleven days into the New Year so this is an unusual time to meditate on these verses, they are after all closely associated with Christmas. In another way, perhaps it’s the perfect time to look at them without the distractions of tinsel, turkey and Santa. “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” (Galatians 4:4).
As always, the passage can be read online here.
It’s just seven verses and four of them explain why Joseph from Nazareth ended up in Bethlehem 70-80 miles away. Only three verses describe Mary and the birth of Jesus. There is no mention of a donkey, a stable, an inn keeper or animals. We are not told when the journey was made, why there was no room or whether they were alone when the baby was born.
We are however given a number of details. Luke does not begin with ‘long ago in a land far away’. We are told when the event took place. Luke, the great historian, has carefully investigated and can say when Jesus was born. The one who made the universe, who was there in the beginning, before the universe was formed, became a tiny baby and took a first gasp of air. We are told where; he who could not be contained became a human being and was laid in a feeding trough. This is a real history in a real place at a real time.
It had to be Bethlehem. Micah, the Old Testament prophet had spoken hundreds of years earlier: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2) It’s just one of many prophesies fulfilled by Jesus. This is the promised Messiah.
As we shall see in the following passages, some were eager to see the day when Messiah would come but most people missed the event completely. There was no room at the inn; does that mean that Bethlehem was crowded, perhaps with the census? Were there people all around, oblivious to the momentous event taking place a stone’s throw away?
There was no fanfare, no palace or national holiday. The Son of God was born in poverty and obscurity. Laid in a manger, was there even a stable? If there was, it probably looked nothing like the picture book images we see on Christmas cards. It could just as easily been a crude lean-to or even in the open air.
Most parents never forget the first time they see their children, most acknowledge that new life is a miracle and most shed tears. What was it like for the Father? What was it like for Mary and Joseph? The responsibility of a child is daunting, imagine being charged with caring for the Messiah.
We thank you Lord that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’
Help us to live with that truth daily we pray.