In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2: 1 – 7
If there is a visual image of the Christmas story that stands out among all the rest, it would most likely be the manger scene in the stable where the newborn Christ child lay. And the first words that probably come to mind are the ones in which we imagine the innkeeper saying to Mary and Joseph, “There is no room for you in the inn!”
Imagine how many times we have heard these words through the years and been humbled by the thought of baby Jesus lying in a manger – the king of kings, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of all creation, the long-awaited Messiah – in a wooden manger filled with hay and with animals all around. Could there be a more simple or humble beginning for the Son of God?
Scripture passages in Luke tell us that Mary and Joseph were required to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which was a distance of about 80 miles, to register for the census. We can only imagine how long and difficult a journey this must have been during the cold, winter months, especially for Mary in her condition. Normally the journey would have taken 4 days by donkey, but, it could have taken up to a week, depending on how much Mary needed to stop and rest.
To go so far and then to be told there was no lodging must have been difficult for Mary and Joseph to hear. Surely they must have wondered why God would not have provided for them. Even though the inn itself would have been very primitive with dirt floors, at least it would have been a place for them to lie down with a blanket on the floor with shelter from the cold. But without a room, they were sent to the stables and when it came time for her baby to be born, Mary improvised the best way she could.
She wrapped her newborn in swaddling clothes and lay him in a manger, a feeding trough lined with hay. There is no doubt that as frightened and alone as she must have felt without the presence of her mother or another relative, she trusted God and knew that this was where they were supposed to be. She knew they would be safe and under His care. She brought her newborn infant into the world knowing that God’s grace was upon them both and all would be well.
God in His sovereignty brought His Son into the world – not with power and majesty – but with humble beginnings. The stable, the manger, and the harsh surroundings were symbolic of a Savior who came to earth poor, weak, vulnerable, even small, but who took His place in a manger so we might have a home in heaven. He came to live among us, to give us a more abundant life, and to give us eternal life.
What a beautiful story of grace. God gave us His best. He gave us His Son, and He did so out of His great love for us. What a gift and one we so often take for granted.
God would have us to ask ourselves, “Have we made room for Him in our lives?” Or do we push Him aside and place Him in small corners until He is needed? God wants more than just a small space in our hearts. He wants all of us, fully committed to Him. As we think of the Christ child lying in a manger who came to earth to live among us, may we open our hearts to Him and make room for all the love He has to give.
Dear God, as we approach this special day and time that Christ came into the world, may our hearts be opened to Him. May we make room for Him, show His love to others, and tell of His saving grace. Amen