It’s hard to me to imagine the stable in Bethlehem minus the snow. But I’m pretty sure that the Mediterranean (yep, just looked it up on wikipedia. no shame in that) climate would make that highly unlikely. Good for Mary. A stable would be enough of a discomfort while having a baby, without frigid temperatures and frozen precipitation.
This morning, I was going to keep reading in Psalms as I have been, but when I initially opened my Bible, it was to Esther chapter 3. I normally would keep flipping til I got to my ribbon bookmark, but today I was drawn to that story. Quick recap: Esther is Jewish. Esther becomes the queen of Persia when King Xerxes decides to marry her (she’s gorgeous, apparently). Haman is a highly ranked palace official, and Mordecai is Esther’s cousin-turned-adoptive-father who also “sits at the king’s gates” by occupation.
Since Mordecai is Jewish and worships God alone, he won’t bow to Haman. Haman gets mad and decides to kill all the Jews. (little overreaction, huh?) So he sets up a decree with the King. Mordecai hears about this and convinces Esther that she needs to intervene. So – long story short – Esther risks her life to convince the King to issue a decree that reverses the Jews’ fate. Then Haman is killed instead of all of the Jews. (Questions? read the book of Esther.)
There was a point to telling you all of that. I promise.
That was a story of redemption. It was a story of God using Esther to save His chosen people from destruction. He used royalty and decrees to save His people from being killed – and to give them an opportunity to clear out the Amalekites (it’s in the story, not the recap).
What a stark contrast to the biggest redemption plan of them all! Queen Esther, Baby Jesus… born in a cattle stall… to an unwed couple… with shepherds as the first visitors (apparently a lot of shepherds in that day were ex-cons, also very low in the social ladder)… and almost as soon as He is born, Herod tried to kill Him.
It’s a humble beginning for Jesus. Every human element in this story is about as humble as it can be. Young girl, with really nothing to recommend her to be Jesus’ mother other than the fact that she was obedient when asked. An undoubtedly dingy and smelly stable where animals witnessed the birth. No room in the inn for the King of the world. Shepherds come with nothing to offer – and the wise men come late since they had such a long distance to travel.
The angels are really the only thing to jazz this event up. They’re definitely not a human element, and they serve to guide the lowly shepherds to meet the baby.
I bet that totally changed the shepherds’ lives. Talk about an encounter with God.
Why come so humbly? Just to shake things up? I suppose if He’d come as people expected, as a king with power and an army, anyone could recognize that He was Lord. If he comes as a baby and is known for preaching the kingdom of God and living it out as he gets older and begins his ministry, it takes a real seeker to acknowledge Him as Lord. Maybe that’s not God’s reasoning. All I know is that it shows great love for the God of the universe to step down from the throne in the perfectness of Heaven to be born in a stable.
What wondrous love is this.