It wasn’t really a silent night. The town was full of irritated, tired, hungry travelers, all jockeying for position at the local motels. It wasn’t an easy road trip. Those twenty miles may have taken them nearly a week to cover on foot. They didn’t want to go to Bethlehem, but there they were – homeless and jobless. Alone in a strange, crowded, noisy town. She didn’t have her mother there to help with the baby’s birth. We don’t even know if her mom was still speaking to her, a young unwed mother. Though she was full term, she had no cute baby clothes with her. No one gave her a baby shower. There weren’t any gifts waiting under a tree. There was no tree. The original Christmas didn’t look much like mine.
Then the baby came, as babies do. Back in the corner of a shelter that smelled like sheep and sweaty donkeys, a teenage girl wrapped up her newborn son in rags and laid him in a feed trough that would have to serve as a bassinet. The nativity scenes all show kings with expensive presents worshiping around the baby, but those guys took another two years to show up. Either they had the same sense of direction I do or camels are crazy slow transportation.
Jesus came under difficult circumstances. He lived a humble life under the radar for thirty years and then under the scrutiny of public opinion for three more. His homeless arrival mirrored his homeless departure. Even his final resting place was a borrowed grave. I guess that was appropriate, though. He wasn’t planning to use it for very long.
I love the romantic version of Christmas. I prefer it. The glowing lights that imitate Bethlehem’s stars two thousand years ago. The traditions that connect me to my past and bring comforting memories. The music inspired by an angelic ‘Hallelujah Flash Mob.’ All that and more is what I enjoy about this season. The thing is, sometimes I lose sight of what it really meant for Jesus to come to earth. There’s a lot of heartbreak this time of year. Sad events seem worse when they happen at Christmas. Somehow I think sorrow should take a vacation every December and give us all a break.
But Jesus always identified with people. He experienced the same limitations we do. He hung out with those the rest of society was too good to make eye contact with. He touched the untouchables. And in doing so, he himself became an outcast. Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected and forsaken by men, a Man of sorrows and pains, and acquainted with grief and sickness . . . and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him.”
I’m thinking tonight that the best part of Christmas is that, from the first breath he took on earth to the breaths I’m taking while I write this, Jesus came to win my heart. To win my trust. He knows how to comfort me because he has suffered, too. “The fact is, it was our pains He carried . . . all the things wrong with us. We thought He brought it on Himself . . . but it was our sins that did that to Him. . . He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through His bruises we get healed.” (Isaiah 53, The Message)
The helpless baby became my Healer. “For to us a child is born . . . and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9)
Joy to the world.