Luke, a middle-aged physician hired by a wealthy Roman to document the story of Jesus, sat down on a bench next to an aging Jewish woman somewhere in the Roman province of Judea.
Luke’s task was to put together the story– in order– the story of Jesus and his followers. People in Rome were talking about this Jewish Messiah but what they knew about him was in bits and pieces, stories told from Jews.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2:6-7
The incarnation of Jesus is messy business. Like, the physical act of it. Not pretty. As we approach the sterile corporate approved holiday of Christmas that we celebrate today, maybe we need a step back to remember just how messy Jesus coming to earth really was?
I don’t know if you’ve witnessed child-birth personally. But I’ve seen it and it isn’t beautiful.It’s popular to say child-birth is beautiful… it isn’t! I don’t know where this notion comes from. It’s interesting, it’s miraculous, I’d even call it cool– but it is not beautiful in the sense of a Monet painting or the Christmas display at Marshall Fields or the Cubs winning the pennant. Child birth is anything but beautiful.
And modern birth is a lot safer than it was back 2000 years ago. Even in today’s modern hospitals child-birth is still bloody, agonizing, stinky, and otherwise unpleasant. I can’t imagine child-birth outside of a hospital. Maybe you can. But to me it just seems really scary.
Now put yourself in the shoes of a teenage girl. Away from home, pregnant for the first time… and your water breaks. Wonderful. Labor and delivery of Jesus was not in a hospital, hooked up to monitors, comforted by nurses and a lovely drug man offering pain management. Jesus was born outside of the inn. The text just highlights that there was no room for them in the inn, so Jesus could have been born in a barn or a cave or just outside.
And who can blame the innkeeper? If you showed up at my house with a woman in labor– I’m not about to give you a room in my house so your wife can drop all that stink and nastiness in one of my rooms for a couple bucks. Would you let them into your place of business? I think not.
We think of Jesus’ physical arrival in such clean modern medicine ways, don’t we? Let’s not lose sight of the blood and agony of Mary so quickly.
A young woman in a lot of pain.
Since she was traveling for the census, her mom probably wasn’t with her.
It’s reasonable to think that Joseph and Mary traveled with his family. So maybe Jesus was born within the presence of his grandmother or aunts? The text doesn’t say. Either alone completely– or this virgin was bearing her goods to her husbands relatives. Talk about awkward.
She sits down or squats to deliver a baby. No birthing suite. In the ancient world they let gravity do much of the work.
If modern child-birth feels touch and go, imagine child-birth in the ancient world? Hell on earth. It’s not like they had the option of a C-section.
As Jesus’ little head pops out we have no idea how scary that moment was for everyone there. But I will guarantee you no one pulled out a little suction thing and sucked the fluid out of Jesus’ nose.
No one felt safe enough to ask Joseph, “Would you like to help deliver your child?” I will guarantee you that. Joseph probably wasn’t even allowed to be present.
After delivery, no nurses took the baby to wash him and wrap him up to lay him warmly on mom’s belly while a doctor uses sterile instruments to clean up. How did they get that cottage cheese stuff off of him?
If Jesus was born in a stable or barn, let’s hope there wasnt’ a dog. They like to lick stuff like that. My dogs runs around and licks when the kids spill cereal. Yeah, let’s hope there wasn’t a dog present. There probably was.
No big moment when the doctor asks Joseph if he’d like to cut the cord.
The “it’s a boy” moment was just a confirmation of what the angels already told Mary & Joseph.
No one pulled a sterilized Jesus aside to check his Apgar score.
No balloon bouquet or digital pictures of the infant fly around the world so that family can instantly know the baby is healthy and mom is OK. Word probably traveled fast back to Mary’s family… but a couple of days at the very least.
The act of Jesus coming to earth– slimy at best. Death defying to say the least.
And yet, on December 25th, the entire world pauses to remember this moment. Messy, bloody, gross, and scary. The act of remembering, symbolized by the exchange of gifts and family celebrations, is celebrated in almost every country in the world! Even people who are diametrically opposed to Jesus celebrate Christmas.
Black Friday. Mall parking lots. Santa Claus. Candy canes. Shopping lists. Ham. Credit card debt. Somehow God is in all of that, too? Something like 30% of retailers cash flow comes in the 30 days surrounding Christmas.
That’s a lot of cash spent remembering a baby people don’t believe is the Savior of the world.
The act of incarnation. God becoming flesh. 2,000 years later it is still sending shock waves, isn’t it?