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Why a Stable?by Duane Mabee on December 15, 2021
You probably know something about the Biblical Christmas story, but that’s not a given. Some of us recently shared the Christmas story with a group of children. They all have some affiliation with a church, but we were surprised by how little they knew. I suspect most of you know about Mary and Joseph and the surprising, miraculous pregnancy. You probably know about their long trip to Bethlehem to register for Roman taxation. But have you ever wondered why some of the events of the Christmas story took place the way they did?
It is very different from what we would have expected for the birth of the Son of God. It is different from what we would have written if we made this story up.
Mary and Joseph were poor – the poorest of the poor. They were basically homeless. They had to leave Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem for the registration, but they should have been able to return home fairly soon. They didn’t. They left Nazareth behind for several years. Why?
When they arrived in Bethlehem, there was nowhere for them to stay. Why? Sure, it was crowded. Lots of people just like them were returning to a town they may have moved away from many years ago. It makes sense that the inns or “hotels” were overbooked, but Joseph must have had relatives in town. Why wasn’t there any place for them to stay, especially given Mary’s condition?
Why was the Son of God born in an unsanitary stable? Why was His first crib an animal’s feeding trough? Why was He born amid the stench of animals and “animal by-products”? The God Who created the earth and sent His Son into it surely could have dictated different circumstances. Why didn’t He?
Because love demands proximity and identification. Love longs to be with the one loved and understand what the loved one is going through. God wanted to be with us and understand what it is like to be us. God didn’t know what it’s like to be poor, homeless, oppressed, unwanted, uncared for, and concerned about how to meet the basic needs of life – but we do. That describes our story. So, God’s love moved Him to join us in our story. God chose to experience the worst of what we face because He loves us and wants to be with us. And He wants us to be with Him – forever.
Why did the birth of Jesus play out the way it did? Because God loves you.