Wednesday 24 December 2014

Advent Day 24: Story time...

The stars shine bright tonight, and the air is humid. The lone couple take their time as they trudge slowly into Bethlehem. One footstep after another. Breathing through the contractions that are picking up pace. They need to find somewhere.


Bethlehem is heaving. People everywhere. Market sellers calling their last wares of the day as the evening closes in. The stench of animal waste... sweaty bodies... temple incense... all mixed together. Not easy when your trying to hold it together... awaiting each new contraction with a sense of dread. No sterile surroundings. No friendly midwife. No Mother to call on. A city full of strangers and a brand new husband. Not the situation you'd find on most people's birth plans.

Joseph knocks on a nearby door.
"Somewhere to stay? We'll pay good money... my wife's in labour..."
"Sorry Sir... No can do... we've already got two families staying with us tonight. Your best bet is to head further out of town. The city's pretty packed."

Out of town? Joseph takes a look at his wife. Biting her lip. Holding in that cry. He doesn't know if he can get her 5 metres, never mind to the other side of town. He keeps knocking, desperately... every house they pass. They don't need much space... its only the two of them.

No luck.

Contractions are getting more frequent. This baby's on its way. He prays...
"Lord... this is your child... your precious baby. Please, let me find somewhere suitable for him to be born... please"

He knocks at the next house. After a wait, the door opens. The mans looks uncomfortable... he knows what's coming and Joseph can see past him that this house too is full. Nervously looking at Joseph's wife, the man steps to the side...

"I have no room here, but I have a place out back you could stay. It's not great... its the animal shelter... but its fairly clean, and dry. I put some clean straw in this afternoon. It's yours if you want it"

Joseph takes it. What choice does he have? Hardly the birth he'd envisioned for God's baby King...
The man leads them to a stone out-building. Fresh hay lines one side and looks inviting, but the stench is anything but. To the right animals gather round an old wooden trough piled high with hay and vegetable scraps. They stare as the couple enter. They are not happy about being disturbed.

Joseph edges nervously towards them and tips the contents of their dinner on the floor. As Mary reaches the end of her labour, he drags the manger over and rushes to her aid.

Minutes pass, and slowly but surely, the Saviour enters the world.

Mary cries out. And he is born.

Awestruck, Joseph lifts the tiny person and wraps him warm in some clean cloths they brought with them. Tears rolling down his cheeks, he stuffs a load of hay in the manger, flattens it down, and lays the bundle into the feeding trough.

He laughs through his tears. The irony. God's baby King. Born in an old barn on a humid night in Bethlehem to a backwoods couple who were rejected from pretty much every house they sought shelter in.

God's baby King. Not presented to the world in glory and honour, not written about in the tabloids, not shouted across the headlines of the news channel, not even given a press release; but placed into the arms of a creaking, wooden food trough with only a bunch of disgruntled animals looking on.

Yet in that very action, God had answered Joseph's prayer...

"Lord... this is your child... your precious baby. Please, let me find somewhere suitable for him to be born... please"

Because that feeding trough in that animal shelter was exactly the right place for that baby King to come. He came to be the lowest of the low. He was born to a backwoods couple to be celebrated by a bunch of Shepherd misfits and foreign star-gazers. He came for people who were messed up, mixed up, misfits. He didn't come for sorted people. He came for the broken, the hurting, the confused and the "everything's good in my life but something's missing..." people too.

He came for normal everyday people like you and I.

And he grew up familiar with suffering - a refugee, a reject, a child surrounded by rumours about his mother's fidelity... a poor boy from backwoods Nazareth. A man who would be loved and hated... cherished and chided... rejoiced in and jeered at. Without money. Without a home. He would spend his adult life wandering from town to town, sometimes followed by huge crowds of supporters, sometimes chased out of towns.

But always taking the side of the weak. The vulnerable. The poor. 

Challenging and changing them so they'd never be the same again, but loving them and accepting them like they'd never dreamed possible.

And then he was brutally captured, tortured and murdered, and as he hung on that cross... he cried out the words that he had come to say...

"It is finished!"

Mission completed. The baby laid in that feeding trough had done it. He had paid the price. Lived the human life. Lived it perfectly. And taken all the mess ups, mix ups, brokenness, hurts, confusions and lostness on himself. And paid the ultimate price for them.


You see, that night, while Bethlehem was sleeping, the most incredible moment of history happened. The Saviour entered a broken world to make it right again.

THAT is what Christmas is all about.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the arrival of the Saviour.

God bless you


  1. Beautifully told Claire and such a lovely reminder this morning - it made me a bit emotional! :) Have a lovely Christmas with your beautiful family xxx

  2. Very helpful - thanks, Claire! Merry Christmas and God bless. Xx

  3. Just amazing how well you express the christmasstory, it comes alive and He is alive for evermore! God jul! x x x

  4. This is just beautiful Claire, merry Christmas to you and your family too :)


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