In two days, many of us will be celebrating the Birth of a Child. We will attend church, hear or read the familiar story, sing the familiar hymns, and then go home to open presents and enjoy a holiday dinner. The story is so familiar that even children can recite it.
The events described in that story changed the course of human civilization. Every detail in that story helps us to understand the enormity of the change. But over the centuries the meaning of the details has been lost.
So in preparation for the celebration, let us take a moment and examine a few of those details.
We know He was born in a stable. Did we know that a stable was the only place that was actually accessible to everyone, from shepherds to kings?
In the case of the kings, it didn’t matter. Kings could go anywhere.
But in the case of the shepherds, it was critical. In first century Israel, shepherds were considered unclean because they slept with their sheep. They were not allowed to enter a dwelling.
So if the Child had been born in the famous overly-crowded inn, the shepherds would not have been allowed to visit Him. It was only in a stable that the One Who came to save us all could actually be worshipped by all. The stable was a symbol of the fact that there was no soul too “low” for His love.
On the other hand, the entry to the stables was deliberately small. No one could enter without ducking down, or bowing. Here the situation was reversed. The shepherds were quite used to bowing — they bowed to everyone.
For kings, however, the situation was quite different. Everyone bowed to them. But the kings could only enter that stable if they bowed their heads — a posture that represents humility. So the same stable that welcomed all also required that that all who desired to enter be willing to bow — because the real King was inside.
The stable was not an accident. It was a setting. And like all good settings, it helped to explain the message the Child came to share.
We also know that He was laid in a manger. Did we stop to think about the fact that the first place the One Who described Himself as the “Bread of Life” laid His head was in the very place where the master put food for his creatures?
The manger was also not an accident.
The message of that setting is as real today as it was two millennia ago. Every single one of us is offered a welcome by the Child, no matter who we are or what we have done. To receive that welcome, every single one of us will have to be willing to approach and bow in recognition of His lordship over our lives and hearts. And if we accept the welcome He offers and become His, He promises to feed our souls now and forever.
So this Christmas, let’s recognize the stable as more than a decoration. Let’s recognize it as the setting for our celebration — a setting that changed the world.