Many of us have manger scenes, or “creches” -either alone or near a Christmas tree for Christmas, yet as beautiful as these are to keep our hearts focused on the real meaning of Christmas, even our manger scenes don’t accurately depict the harsh conditions in which our King in Exile was born into this physical realm. When the first Adam was created, He was created as a full grown man, but when Jesus came to this Realm, He was born the hard way- as a totally defenseless infant. The One in Whom we need to place our trust, found Himself at the mercy of man as a vulnerable infant.
While Jesus was still in Mary’s womb, Mary and Joseph were required by Roman law to return to Bethlehem for the Roman census. It was not a joy ride for Mary to have to ride such a trip on mule-back while she was in pain from her pregnancy. Riding many miles on bumpy terrain when you are almost ready to give birth is something most of us modern women have never had to suffer. No doubt, it was not an easy pregnancy for her either- as I am sure satan and demonic entities made it a point to afflict her body more than usual, maybe in hope of creating a natural abortion so that Jesus’s birth would be prevented. I would not be surprised to learn that Mary’s pregnancy was a very painful one- and yet I believe she was so united to the Holy Spirit, that she gracefully accepted this without complaint.
When Joseph and Mary entered Bethlehem, it was already understood that no Inn or Lodge would accept them- as only the well-to-do were permitted lodging. Everyone else needed to find alternative places to stay. One look at Mary and Joseph, and it was obvious to all that they had no money to offer an Innkeeper.
Years later, Jesus mentioned to one man who pledged to follow Him wherever He went, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” How true this was – starting as an infant, – and throughout His entire earthly life before His crucifixion. The cross was the only place permitted for Him to lay His head- and when He knew it was the Father’s Time for Him to give up His spirit, He – out of great Love to the Father, lowered His head with sincere submission from that cross as He cried, “It is finished”.
Mary- who found favor in the Father’s sight as He searched for the right young woman to carry His son- came from the despised town of Nazareth. Nazareth was basically considered a “ghetto” by the entire Jewish nation. We get an idea of this after reading how Nathaniel bluntlly commented, “What good could ever come out of Nazareth!” after James mentioned to him how He was excited that He possibly found the Messiah from Nazareth.
Some years ago, I was eating a soggy submarine sandwich one damp rainy day in my car at lunch. After a quick hypocritical prayer of “thanks” I complained out loud in my car, “Jesus wouldn’t have even eaten this crap in Nazer…! but before I could get the word “Nazareth” out of my mouth, our Lord interrupted me -and I heard Him say very calmly and clearly in my mind, “I ate worse than that.” I was taken off guard as I am not used to hearing or Lord speak to me- let alone speak so clearly! It was something He knew I needed to hear and I never forgot.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there were no midwives to help deliver Him- Probably Joseph had to deliver Him out of Mary’s womb. Also, He shared this “manger” which was a shelter made of rough cut stones where livestock, mules and horses were kept. A stone feeding trough was his cradle. Even this seems symbolic –as Jesus was destined to be our spiritual Bread- broken for us so that we would have Eternal Life. It was no coincidence His cradle was a feeding trough for the animals. Bethlehem is known as “The House of Bread”. and this stone cut crude shelter literally housed the Bread of Life that would be broken for all mankind- Jesus of Nazareth.
When Mary and Joseph found this shelter- no doubt, other poor people were also squeezed inside with their own mules as well- so it was probably very cramped- and Mary did not have the luxury of privacy when she went into Labor. A young lamb was the usual sacrifice after a Jewish child was born- but Mary and Joseph did not have money for this- even though it was a typical common sacrifice that was’nt incredibly expensive. Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus would be a special Child that came directly from the Father Whom they both loved- but they had only enough money for a turtle dove sacrifice. -which was the typical sacrifice the very poor were only able to afford. No doubt, this afflicted their hearts, and from things like this, they knew Jesus was being prepared right from Infancy for the Mission of sacrifice. Even the fact that only a dove was His birth sacrifice was no coincidence as Jesus would grow to be a very humble Man– with an inner nature as gentle as a Dove , and the Holy Spirit appeared as a Dove flying over Him when He was baptized by John years after His birth. He is also a Lamb, but a lamb would not be sacrificed for Him. He, the Lamb of God, would be the Sacrifice for us instead.
What is also a striking parallel in Jesus’s birth- is how the rough stone cut manger in which He was born was -in it’s own way, and especially compared to the beautiful exquisite buildings of Heaven- a Tomb. Jesus was born into a type of Tomb and some decades later, after He gave His life- He rose from a similar stone cut tomb. His cradle was a stone feeding trough in a manger in Bethlehem. The manger itself was prophetic of where His body would temporarily rest His head- the only two places He ever got to rest His head were in the Tomb-like shelter for livestock at His birth, and a dark stone slab in a stone cut tomb upon His burial. Nevertheless, Death could not keep Him from being born and death could not keep Him dead. He is alive right now as I type this.
May Yeshua be honored!