We tend to have romantic notions about the birth of Christ that don’t fit the facts of the actual circumstances involved. For example, when we see a nativity scene at Christmastime we probably find them beautiful. After all, people do use them for decorations, don’t they?
While the nativity should certainly remind us of the love of God in Christ Jesus (which is beautiful, to say the least), there is really nothing outwardly beautiful or attractive about the nativity. If we gave the scene much thought at all, we would be shocked and appalled. We would be outraged to hear of a baby being born in such conditions today, and rightly so. And how much more so when the baby being born was the Messiah -the Son of God Himself!
J.I. Packer writes,
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us in some detail how the Son of God came to this world. He was born outside a small hotel in an obscure Jewish village in the great days of the Roman Empire. The story is usually prettied up when we tell it Christmas by Christmas, but it is really rather beastly and cruel. The reason why Jesus was born outside the hotel is that it was full and nobody would offer a bed to a woman in labor, so that she had to have her baby in the stables and cradle him in a cattle trough. The story is told dispassionately and without comment, but no thoughtful reader can help shuddering at the picture of callousness and degradation that it draws.” (Knowing God, p.54).
One can’t help but think that this was the last kind of circumstance that Mary or Joseph would have imagined the Son of God would be born into – you could forgive them for wondering what might have gone wrong. This was the polar opposite of the glory He deserved.
The Son of God, the Savior of all mankind, the King of Kings was born not in a palace, but in a barn of sorts. As the Christmas song goes, he had “no crib for a bed.” His bed was a “manger” (Luke 2:7). In other words, his bed was a dirty food trough that was used to feed likestock. Not exactly the kind of thing one shops for at Babies-r-us.
So when you consider the birth of Jesus, remember the humility of the Son of God in His incarnation. Consider what Christ did and suffered in order to save sinners.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)