The throne of God:
A cow’s trough in a dirty stable.
Christmas is the beginning of His story in the flesh.
It seems most people stop at that story. It’s comfortable. It ends well. A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, held in His mother’s arms. And, given our sweet Christmas lullabies, I wonder if the grit of that first night is truly understood.
I’ve birthed babies, and as most mother’s will profess, it ain’t easy. Even with the medical staff hovering ’round, ready to respond at any sign of crisis, it can be a scary process. Of course, given their lack of hospitals, surely Mary was used to seeing births on the gritty side. But, when it’s happening to you, it’s a whole other story! And furthermore, she had just travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem on the back of donkey! The car ride from Olathe, KS to St Joseph’s Medical Center on the Missouri line was enough for me. I barely made it that second time! I can’t imagine what she endured.
But, they did it. She and Joseph, in solemn passivity, walked the path set before them. Or, so it seems…
Do you think they were solemn? They may have been passive — you can’t stop the process once it’s started — but, I imagine emotions were running rampant. The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was not a straight shot. It would take a healthy man about four days, perhaps travelling 20 miles a day. But, many believe Joseph was an older man and he was bringing his wife, round and ready, on the trip. A woman ready to give birth is not at her best, to say the least. It would have been very difficult to remain above the tense moments without uttering exasperations. Donchathink?
So. Here they are in a little town overflowing with travellers and they can’t find a room. The innkeeper points them to a barn, a stable, perhaps a cave, used to house animals. He sees their predicament. We hope he would be kind enough to put out some fresh straw and maybe give them a clean blanket. But, nothing of the sort is described in any of the Gospels. So. Let’s assume kindness on the innkeeper’s part, and Mary and Joseph are made as comfortable as possible.
Until…the birth pangs set in.
What a curse!
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children.”
Revelation tells us:
She was pregnant,
She cried out in the pain of labor
As she awaited her delivery.
From the outset of His life on earth, Jesus experienced the curse of being a man. Yes. It said the woman would have the pains, but anyone who has ever witnessed a child being born knows that child is NOT comfortable! And to squeeze through the birth canal is not always a success. Thankfully, a surgeon helped when my first got stuck. And tragically, many babies do not make it. It’s not an easy process for mother OR child. Cone-headed babies tell the story.
But, that’s not all…Revelation says:
Then the dragon stood before the woman
Who was about to give birth,
So that he might devour her child
As soon as it was born.
Not many of us have that worry. At least, we don’t think we do.
The Serpent of Old,
To whom God said:
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
From the beginning.
From the outset.
From His moment of birth,
Satan was out to get Him.
A very gritty time, indeed.
Not at all the comfortable story we tell, the melodious carol we sing.
This was war. And the God who would win it for us,
Lay on His throne, in a cow’s trough.
God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise,
And God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong.
This second week of Advent,
can you imagine the increased longing within Mary
as she awaits the birth of her son and her Messiah?