Luke’s account of the actual birth of Jesus is very short. He simply writes that Mary gave birth to her first born, wrapped him up and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them at the inn.
It’s not a very auspicious start for the saviour of the world! True, the Gospel accounts give us some happenings after Jesus’ birth, like the shepherds and the Magi coming to adore him, which are unusual and significant. But the birth itself – stated in a very matter of fact way: what is special about that?
Well, firstly, it is not special. That is the whole specialness of it! The Magi went to Herod’s palace because future kings are not usually born in obscurity –imagine if the Queen’s great granddaughter, Princess Charlotte had been born in a cowshed because there was nowhere else to go! Jesus’ birth is such that God takes a lowly place amongst ordinary people, from the very start. And so Jesus’ life continues – often in places and with people who Kings, Princes, palace officials, important religious people and others shun, he walks and talks with people who the Authorities are shocked and offended by. Reassuringly that means that however humble or unworthy we feel ourselves to be, God meets us where we are.
Secondly, Jesus, saviour of the world, enters the world in an unexpectedly simple and raw place – a stable – the cattle have eaten out of the manger where he is laid. So, it is not in the expensive and exclusive places or products that Jesus is to be found this Christmas (despite what advertisers might suggest) but in humble, simple, poor and unexpected places. Here, the miracle of Christ’s birth can be discovered. Jesus’ birth takes place in a very humble place, somewhere very familiar to the ordinary people of his day. A stable place – where the animals were kept and cared for by the people who worked amongst them.
Is it possible that the one who Mary wrapped in bands of cloth will be discovered, this year, not under the wrappings of presents, but in the love of those who have sent them, and even more, perhaps, in places where ordinary life, work and caring happens in our community?
Finally, a prayer for this season: Dear Lord, this Christmas, open my heart to discover you in my everyday places.