Sunday, December 21, 2014

Humble Beginnings

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.      
Luke 2:7  NKJV

Many times over the years I have seen or looked at many paintings which depict Biblical events and enjoyed seeing how the artists used their imagination to envision and portray scenes which the Bible tells us occurred.  Truth be told, most of them are quite elaborate and in truth probably stray just a bit from what the actual event might well have looked like.  While looking at scenes of the nativity, I came across this one whose history is completely unknown.   Which in a way I find very curious because although close to impossible, it looks to me like it could have been painted by an actual witness who was there. 

If you look closely you will see what I mean.  An inn, which would be large enough to accommodate one or more groups of travelers, would also need to have a stable big enough to hold all of their animals.  Most every nativity scene I have seen depicts a rather small, cramped building with just enough room to hold a manger.  This painting shows a large stable capable of holding many animals, and Mary and Joseph along with Jesus take up but a small corner of it.  I also like the expression on Joseph’s face because the artist seems to have captured a look that could mean just about anything.  My first impression is that he is relieved that the birth went well, but as he is looking at the shepherds I also think he could be wondering how they knew to come there in the first place.

Regardless, I can’t look at this painting without thinking of the circumstances that put the birth of our Savior in such a humble location.  Although we understand the prophecies which foretold that He would be rejected by men, how often do we think about His rejection beginning at His very birth?  He was relegated to birth in a stable because the inn rejected His presence.  When He began His ministry on earth, he was, by all accounts, a homeless person.  He had no job, no money, no food, no home, and was dependent on the generosity of others for His very existence, and when He failed to live up to the Jews’ expectations of a King, He was rejected and killed.

It almost seems to me that the humble circumstances of Jesus entire life were orchestrated with the intent that others would focus on the message rather than the messenger.  After all, by looking at appearances, just what could this homeless son of a carpenter give anyone?  Unless of course, you believed He was the Son of God.  Those who did were rewarded for their faith, just as we can be today.  So today read the account of Jesus’ birth and consider the idea of His humility, and just how low the Son of God was willing to put Himself for us.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.          Luke 2:1-16 NKJV

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I hope we remember that He was born to die, so that we can live. While we celebrate His birth by giving gifts to one another, may we never forget that it was His gift to us, the ultimate sacrifice, which allows us to make the choice to accept Him as our Savior and become one of His own.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to allow Jesus Christ to come into your heart, and accept the free gift of eternal life He has offered you, I urge you to do so right now. You can do that by simply praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered all of us by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.