born in a feeding trough

Luke 2: 1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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.

It seems strange to be studying this outside of Christmas – but why should it? Jesus’ advent into the world is not simply for one season.

Luke details here the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. A census was to be taken and Joseph and Mary, like all the others, had to travel to their ‘own town’. Bethlehem had great significance because it was David’s town – their historic King, the shepherd boy who had God’s anointing (although he was by no means perfect). The one from whom would come the king who would reign forever.

And it was here that Mary had her baby. There was ‘no room’ at the inn – in all the hustle and bustle the rooms were filled, presumably with other travellers here for the census. The mention here of the ‘manger’ is the only biblical reference we have to the exact place of Jesus’ birth. It does not specify a stable, but a manger is a feeding trough – where the domestic animals would eat their feed and their hay.

It could not be further from that eternal throne of the heir to David. This is where the animals chewed and slobbered. This is not a carefully constructed crib or a pretty ‘Moses basket’. This is not a travel cot or even a mattress. Nevertheless, the trough shape was good enough to keep a newborn baby safe – wrapped in cloths for warmth. The newborn King was born where the animals lived and fed, born with the other creatures of this world. Mary acted on her initiative to find a resting place for her newborn son.

Ultimately, I think I need reminding that the Son of God came into the world with nothing, and was born in difficult and very humble circumstances. He was born into a busy world, not a tranquil setting but amid all the comings and goings of his people. He was born with no earthly pedigree except for being of David’s line, he had no riches and no throne. He worked among the poor because God cares deeply for those who have little in the eyes of the world. He had ‘no where to lay his head’ – indeed even his birth has a sense of the nomadic.

The nomad King, who needs not look for a home of his own (for he already knows where he belongs), but invites us to find our home in him.

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