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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“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 guest room available for them.”—Luke 2:4–7 (NIV)
Do you remember your first family vacation? I do! Ours was a trip to North Carolina for a wedding. It was also the first time we had taken my 17-month-old son on an airplane. As you can expect, sitcom-style insanity ensued. To say it was not a perfect weekend would be an understatement. But it was also a lot of fun and a beautiful time with amazing memories we still look back on and remember fondly.
I imagine this is what it was like for Mary and Joseph—extremely crazy and hectic, long and arduous, and full of surprises, but ultimately one of the most amazing memories of their lives. Think about it: Mary was very pregnant (not the ideal time to travel), but because of the census decreed by the Roman Emperor, they had to load up a donkey and head for Bethlehem where their ancestors were from—a town they had never lived in and where only a few of their distant relatives lived. No doubt they were hoping that at least one of their relatives would have enough room for them to stay. But, by the time they arrived, none of their relatives had room for them. Luckily, one relative let them stay in the lower room where the animals were kept at night. Imagine something like a basement or garage where you keep your dog or cat . . . or your cows and donkeys!
Isn’t that insane? But it gets even crazier . . . Do you know where Jesus, the Savior of mankind and Son of God slept His first night on Earth? He wasn’t laid in a pure gold crib or a state-of-the-art baby basket. He didn’t even have a run-of-the-mill crib. Instead, the Savior was placed in a humble manger, a feeding trough out of which the livestock would eat. Now, often His manger is depicted in a traditional nativity scene as a wooden bassinet, but the reality is that it was more like a big rectangular stone farm sink sitting on a pair of cinder blocks!
This is what the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world slept in . . . and not just for a night. Remember, Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem until Jesus was around two years old, so who knows how long He slept in the place where the cows ate out of. So, from the humblest of women (Luke 1:26–55), to the humblest of towns, in the humblest of places (basically a barn), the Lord was born and laid to rest each night in the humblest of cribs.
I think if we could have asked Mary beforehand to describe her perfect first family trip, she probably wouldn’t have described it this way. But God did. To God, this was the perfect way for Jesus to make His arrival. Why? Because it so perfectly conveys the picture of what He was doing. In the lowliest of places from the lowliest of people, in the midst of the chaos, God stepped out of heaven and brought heaven to us. In that moment, all the noise ceased to matter because King Jesus had arrived. All the chaos was replaced by the magnificent song of angels who filled the night sky with the praise, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased" (Luke 2:14 NASB). Darkness gave way as a miraculous star shone bright and brilliant above the brightest and most brilliant Light of the World!
So, this Christmas season, I encourage you to shift your focus from the holiday hustle of trying to make sure everything is perfect and everyone gets everything they want to being intentional about resting in the wonder and beauty of what we’re celebrating. Amidst the festivities, don’t forget or forsake a few moments of peace and reflection. Be at rest and rejoice in the fact that our King has come, our salvation has been secured, and our joy is in Jesus, the real reason for the season!
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.