This post is part of the weekly series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Image: A woman holds a cup of tea and reads her Bible. Black text on a green background reads, “Weekly Devotion: His Encouragement- Words from Scripture to Strengthen Your Soul.”
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Baby New Year
It the second day of the New Year and, if you follow the liturgical calendar like I do, the ninth day of Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas begin on December 25th and last until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th.
As we ring in the New Year, I still can’t help but meditate on the joy of Christmastide. As such, it seems appropriate to me that popular iconography depicts the previous year as an elderly man and the New Year as a baby.
Babies Change our Lives
Have you or a family member ever known the joy of a holding a newborn baby in your arms? Babies change our lives. One of my friends can vividly remember the day her son was born. “It was a long and painful process,” she said. “I had labor pains for three long, grueling days and the contractions were so brutal that I thought that I was going to die. I had never known such pain in all my life. But then, when they laid that my new son in my arms, my entire life changed. Up until that point, I had loved my son and anxiously awaited his arrival. But that moment, when I held him, I knew what true love was. Becoming a parent changes your life forever, and it has never been the same.”
The Shepherds and Baby Jesus
It must have been wonderful to be present at the birth of Jesus. Besides Mary and Joseph, the first people to see Jesus were the shepherds, who were tending the flocks in their fields. An angel appeared to them and told them the Good News, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:11). After the angel delivered his message, an entire choir of angels appeared to them, singing the most beautiful song the shepherds had ever heard. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (Luke 2:14).”
What did they see that was so miraculous? The angel had told the shepherds that the sign the shepherds would see was that they would find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).”
Almost all babies at the time were wrapped in cloths or “swaddling clothes,” so this was not much of a sign; however, using a manger for a cradle is highly uncommon.
A barn was an incredibly humble nursery for a baby King.
As much we like to idealize our vision of the first nativity, in the end, a manger is a feeding trough for animals. Livestock such as cows, donkeys, and sheep all eat out of a feeding trough. Remember my friend I mentioned to you earlier? After her first son was born, she didn’t take him into public for three months because she did not want to expose him to any germs, dirt, or diseases. She would have been horrified at putting her precious baby into a feeding trough.
My friend also did not want anyone to come close to her baby. If a bunch of dirty and grimy shepherds had shown up after working in the fields for weeks, she would have told them to go home and get a shower before they could come close to her baby. I’m not saying that my friend is wrong. (If I ever get the chance to be a parent, I’m quite certain that I will be a total helicopter Mom!) I’m simply saying that often we forget just how humble the scene of Christ’s birth truly was.
However, despite the humble setting, the shepherds were “amazed,” by what they saw. The shepherds were so amazed that after they left, they couldn’t stop taking about it. They “spread the word, concerning what had been told to them about this child,” and everyone who heard about it was amazed as well (Luke 2:17-18).
The humble birth of baby Jesus changed the world.
Have you ever spent time in a barn? Even the nicest barns are full of the scents of animals.
We often like to idealize the scene of the nativity, but in reality, barns are not ideal places to give birth to a baby. Growing up, I loved to take horseback riding lessons. As much as I loved spending time with the horses, one thing I didn’t love was the mess that the horses left behind. An important part of my lessons was learning to take care of the horses, and this included mucking out stalls. Have you ever mucked out a stall? Even if you haven’t gotten up close and personal with the special presents a horse can leave behind, I’m sure you can easily imagine that mucking stalls was my least favorite aspect of learning to ride a horse.
This is why the birth of Jesus is so miraculous. God came first to the humble and the lowly. Emmanuel, God with us, is present with us at both the joyous times of our life as well as the darkest times in our lives. That is why sometimes in iconography you will see the nativity scene set in a cave or why we celebrate Christmas during the darkest time of winter: God is with us during the darkest night and will lead us into the dawning of a new day.
As the days slowly begin to lengthen and we move into the dawning of a New Year, it is my hope that God will bless you and keep you. Happy New Year!
From our home to yours, Happy New Year!
This post is part of the series, “His Encouragement: Thursday Thoughts to Strengthen Your Soul.”
Now, it’s your turn! What Scripture verse is inspiring you this week? Let me know in the comments below!
Thursdays are always a really long day of the week for me. As a pastor, Sunday feels like the natural beginning of my week. By the time I get to Thursday, I am tired and drained. That’s why I’m excited to join with a group of blogging friends in order to offer you a weekly devotional which will be posted every Thursday.
Please be sure to check out the other great bloggers involved in the His Encouragement weekly series!