The following reading comes from Word & Craft’s 2016 Advent Devotional. If you would like to download the full devotional, you can do so here.
Read: Luke 2:1-7
Mary and Joseph set out on the long journey from their hometown to the home of Joseph’s ancestors. The Text reminds us again – as if to make it painstakingly clear that the child in Mary’s womb is the Messiah – that Joseph is from the bloodline of King David, the line through which the Christ was promised to come. After miles of travel, likely by foot or mule, they finally arrive in Bethlehem. And Mary’s time comes.
Can you imagine the fear that accompanied her – this new, young, inexperienced mother? Can you imagine the anxiety that throbbed in Joseph’s heart? Entrusted with such a sacred task, bearing the King of the world, and they couldn’t even find a sanitary room for His delivery. They were invited to play a central role in the redemptive narrative of God, and couldn’t even find a room in an inn.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
And then in the simplest and most sacred terms, we read that the Christ is born. Just as the angel promised, the child is a boy. Mary swaddles her Son in strips of torn cloth that bound His little body tightly and securely. That Mary wrapped Him herself shows that this was a lonely delivery; there was no midwife nearby to assist her, no experienced mother to show her how to nurse the first time. But with the bravery of a woman of God and by the comfort of the Spirit of God, Mary births her first Son, alone in a stable. And she lays Him to sleep in a feeding trough.
This is the glory of God, dear sister! For all the hustle and bustle going on outside that stable, for all the Israelites who were awaiting a king to come and overthrow their political enemies, for all the pious Jews in the temple speculating about the savior who would restore their lost territory to them, the Messiah arrives unnoticed, in quiet humility. And in the midst of the straw and animal stench, we see the majesty of our King! Our God did not come to thrones or royalty, palaces or piety, but He came to a virgin teen mother, in a stable, lying in a manger. He came while we were all preoccupied with other things, too busy to notice, and too occupied to grant Him room in our inn – and He still came!
The glory of our King is not found despite His lowly birth, but precisely because of it. No other God would come in such humility, no other King would proclaim strength in weakness, no other Savior would see redemption of the world in such loneliness. There was no cohort to welcome Him, no entourage awaiting His arrival. But as He lay in that manger, and was tenderly cared for and nursed by an inexperienced mother, we behold our King!
When Eve reached her fingers to take the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, and she and Adam disobeyed God causing sin to enter the world, God handed down promised consequences. Adam and Eve would be banished from God’s immediate presence, and the world of blessing that they lived in would be broken. For Eve, this meant she would have great pain in childbirth. As Mary delivered the promised Son of God, through the toil and pain of birth, she experienced the reality of this fallen world. As her body contorted and writhed with pain, she intimately knew the nearness of the fall. But as she held the Christ Child in her arms, she experienced the beginning of God’s undoing of the fall as well. Though by human disobedience man could not be in the presence of God, God had come near. As Mary held that Child to her chest, she simultaneously experienced the reality of sin and the nearness of redemption. Though the fabric of creation is laced with sin and brokenness, in the coming of the Messiah, a single thread has been pulled, and the whole thing is started to unravel.
This is the way of the Gospel, sister! This is the way of our God! As followers of Christ we know the depth of our sin, but because of Christ – because of this very Child – we also know the extent of God’s great redemption. Let your heart today swell with the paradox that is life in Christ; see the majesty of your God in His humility, and see within yourself the simultaneous reality of the fall and of God’s redemption. And know this: He is just getting started.
Spend some time reflecting on the birth narrative of Christ. Thank God that He came in such humility to reveal His glory. Thank God that He is undoing the fall even now by the power of Christ.