As I’ve continued to read, pray and meditate on Advent this past week, I’ve been struck by the sheer humbleness of Jesus’ entry into the world.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NKJV)
Jesus, the Bible tells us, was born in a manger.
What’s a manger?
I’ve grown up with the classic Sunday school nativity scene picture of the cute wooden cot-like construction filled with hay or whatever making it appear pretty standard for babies born in those times.
A manger is a feeding trough for livestock.
The most important person to have ever lived was born in a feeding trough. Was Joseph able to wash it out before Mary laid Jesus in it?
Even if he had, I expect it still would have stunk after many years of use.
“There is no power, no hierarchy, no sense that God only springs from influence and respectability but, instead, from the margins.”1
But is this not another example of Jesus’ mission?
Or as Ann Voskamp so wonderfully states:
“He meets us in our sinful places. He meets us in our stench. We need Him.”
The cleanest of clean, the holiest of holy, entered into our mess from the very moment He was born.
In the last three years of His life that the Gospels document, we see Jesus continue where He started. Sure, He can relate to the kings and leaders of His time, but it is with the lowly, the outcast, the poor, the needy, in all of their stench, we see Him caress.
Most days I grapple with my mess, maybe only for five minutes, but sometimes for much longer. As I’ve reflected this week on Jesus’ entry into the world, I’m able to better appreciate that He stands with us in our mess. Always holding His Hand out ready to pull us out. He understands our grime, whatever form that takes.
We just need to take His hand.
Ann Voskamp’s quote above I took from a podcast I listened to titled, “The Cross-Centred Christmas”. It’s an interview Ann did recently with Tony Reinke of the Desiring God organisation led by John Piper. As evidenced by its title, Tony questions Ann on how she keeps the Cross central in her life at Christmas. It’s a tad over 20 minutes and I found it to be of tremendous encouragement.
Notes: 1. “Choosing Church at Christmas”, Julia Baird, Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media, 21-23 December 2012.